It's advertised as the place where a kid, no matter what their age, can be a kid, but nobody told the bosses at Chuck E. Cheese that age is just a number.
The parent company of the kid-friendly pizza chain has just given the pink slip to its long-time rodent mascot, trading in the baseball hat and glove-wearing older version for a younger, hipper electric-guitar-playing mouse.
Texas-based CEC Entertainment plans to formally introduce the new mascot in a national ad campaign set to launch Thursday, but teased what's to come on the chain's Facebook page with a shadowed mouse holding a guitar next to the text, "You've Never Seen Chuck Rock Like This Before."
The change has already generated controversy because the voice behind the mascot also got a younger, hipper makeover, to the alleged surprise of the man who had provided the voice for more than 20 years.
Duncan Brannan claims he only learned of his replacement when he ran across "Chuck's Hot New Single" online last week and realized it was definitely not his voice. The voice in the new ad campaign is that of Jaret Reddick, lead singer of the band Bowling for Soup.
Brannan claimed in a statement reproduced on the Chuck E. Cheese fan site showbizpizza.com that a company representative told him he had been replaced.
CEC Entertainment denied that claim, saying in a statement that Brannan was not fired, but "rather, we simply chose to utilize new voice talent for the original music we have written as part of a TV advertising campaign …"
In a Facebook post spotted by the Dallas Observer, Brannon wrote, "Why CEC, Inc. chose to do this, or do it in this manner, one can only speculate and that is not my place. The fact is I am grateful for the time I have had to do this, to be 'Chuck E.' - grateful to God for the appointment and grateful to the people at CEC, Inc. for the opportunity."
The new ads, called "Chuck E. Rocks," feature the guitar-playing mascot dancing around tables and the chain's signature arcade games, according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
The new, child-friendly ads are a far cry from the 500-restaurant chain's first mascot that debuted when the chain first opened in 1977, a rodent in a hat holding a cane.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.