I filed this under celebrities because when I was a kid, the Chuck E. Cheese’s characters were celebrities, dammit! They and their fantastic musical ensemble, Munch’s Make Believe Band, were the hottest thing to hit the kid circuit since Howdy Doody. But I always had a lingering sense that I’d seen those characters somewhere before. But where? Oh, that’s right, it was the other place I spent a lot of time when I was a kid, McDonald’s.
In fact, looking at their cartoon pictures side by side, it’s pretty ridiculous.
There’s the sexy female bird (Birdie the Early Bird/Helen Henny), the big purple dude (Grimace/Mr. Munch), the creepy lead character (a scary clown in one case, a giant rat in the other…P.S. a rat does not make a good food mascot), and, well, I guess that’s where the similarities end. As for the other characters, Chuck E. Cheese’s was smart enough not to have a character who’s a bloodthirsty criminal like the Hamburgler. And this is not to say that McDonald’s didn’t have their share of interesting characters. Mayor McCheese was badass, but those Fry Kids freaked me out. Chuck E. Cheese’s instead opted for characters like the delightful dog Jasper T. Jowls and my personal favorite, Pasqually Pieplate the Italian chef.
And while looking up this story, I discovered that the lion-Elvis character The King was re-outfitted in the 80s to become a Thriller-suit-wearing, Michael Jackson-inspired mountain lion, Michael Katson. What I wouldn’t give for a picture of that!
Nowadays I hear (from Wikipedia) that the show has changed and it now has more of a late night talk show format. Apparently, now only Chuck is onstage and he talks to the other characters via a fake live TV satellite hookup. So basically it’s turned into Space Ghost. What of the Make Believe Band? And the wacky background musicians, like the moose and whatever? Wasn’t there an octopus at some point? And what of Mitzi Mozzarella, whaaat?? That scary female Chuck was too much for me. She was creepy as hell, with her rouge and cheerleader outfit. I guess that was during the Alvin and the Chipmunks days, when every character had to have their opposite sex counterpart. I couldn’t find a good picture of Mitzi, but this should give you a good idea of the creepiness level.
Damn, now I’m hungry for cheap pizza and have a strong urge to play skee-ball.
Update: My bad! Despite her overwhelming resemblance to Chuck E. Cheese, Mitzi Mozzarella was actually a character at Showbiz Pizza Place, and was a part of the gorilla-led mechanical band The Rock-afire Explosion. I had forgotten all about that place until I visited this very handy website.