The Day the Music Died: Chuck E. Cheese Plans to Phase out Animatronic Band

RIP to these noble artists / Photo by 

downing.amanda via Flickr

Who still believes in live music? In this era of homogenized radio hits and algorithms, there's less and less respect for the REAL musicians out there. And today, lovers of true tunes and limitless jams were dealt another blow at the hands of one Mr. Chuck E. Cheese himself. I, for one, smell a RAT.

CBS News reports that the pizza and entertainment chain restaurant, one of modern America's last bastions of art and culture, will begin phasing out its signature animatronic bands at seven locations in a pivot toward live performers. "The redesigned locations also feature a dance floor where a live Chuck E. comes out to shake a leg with children. The animatronic bands were shown the door with the new design," CBS News described.


"It's the biggest thing we've done for the look and feel of Chuck E. Cheese for two decades," Tom Leverton, chief executive of Chuck E. Cheese parent company CEC Entertainment, told CBS News. "The kids stopped looking at the animatronics years and years ago, and they would wait for the live Chuck E. to come out." He added, devastatingly, "The animatronics became a side show."

The changes will first appear at four locations in the San Antonio, Texas, market, and three locations in the Kansas City, Missouri, market are also slated for renovation. If successful, the company may extend its brutal mandate to even more innocent animatronic animals at other locations. "For production or ringing up guests, [robotics] is clearly a trend in the industry," Leverton told CBS News. "We have 35 stores where we have full-service kiosks. That's a natural progression." However, the robots of the Chuck E. Cheese bands, like so many real talents before them, may see a sad decommissioning in the face of capitalism's maw. RIP to these noble artists, who were memorialized in one of music's best documentaries.

For lovers of American culture, that's a real tragedy. Arts funding is declining in today's world, and, without the support of institutions like the Cheese family, there may be no hope for the next generation of talents to bring us works like this cover of Usher's "Love in This Club":

Can the culture industry survive this brutal contraction? Will our shortsightedness as a people ever allow us to appreciate genius in its own time? We have heard this sad song one too many times. Today is a dark day for music. But we will persevere. Say it with me: #DenounceChuck #TheChuckStopsHere #ImWithTheBand #BelieveInTheBots. Let's get it trending.

Follow Kyle Kramer on Twitter.