While he may not get the same respect as Toucan Sam or other food mascots, Chuck E. Cheese might be one of the most recognizable anthropomorphic animals in pop culture. The Chuck E. Cheese family restaurant chain has been serving up pizza and ball pits for children’s parties since the 1980s. But not many people are familiar with Chuck’s origin story, which comes directly from the company itself and details a childhood fraught with abandonment and violence.
Business Insider made an inquiry into Chuck’s backstory and was pointed to an official company page that lays it out. Immediately, the reader understands that the character’s extroverted personality belies incredible hardship. As a little mouse, Chuck was sent to St. Marinara’s orphanage, where he excelled in playing music. It’s here that his love of birthdays is forged. According to the story:
“Because Chuck E. was an orphan, no one knew when his birthday was, so he never had a birthday party of his own. This made Chuck E. sad.”
Fortunately, the sheer number of orphans at the facility meant there was a birthday party every week, which Chuck always attended. He also loved pizza and video games, including Pong—a nod to franchise founder Nolan Bushnell’s popular arcade game. In fact, Chuck won $50 in a Pong tournament, which allowed him to purchase a bus ticket to New York City.
After arriving in New York, Chuck took up residence above a pizza place owned by a man named Pasqually. When he was finally discovered, Pasqually chased the itinerant rodent around with a rolling pin in an apparent murder attempt. Then Chuck burst into song, which prompted Pasqually to spare his life and market his pizzeria with appearances from a singing mouse. A shy Chuck had trouble performing until he discovered it was a boy’s birthday. Inspired, he started singing. The rest is history.
Chuck’s ignorance of his parentage is a likely reason he earned the crass commercial moniker of Charles Entertainment Cheese.
He’s still the company mascot, which was in the news recently when word circulated that parent corporation CEC Entertainment plans to shred 7 billion prize tickets owing to the COVID-19 pandemic and shift to electronic tickets. A sharp drop in revenue forced the company into bankruptcy in June, but a new $200 million loan and tweaks like home delivery (under the name Pasqually's) and mobile ordering—where customers can skip the counter and have food brought to their table after using the restaurant’s app—are expected to keep the chain afloat.