The Chuck E. Cheese Origin Fact That We Totally Forgot About

Chuck E. Cheese costume
Chuck E. Cheese costume - Michael Gordon/Shutterstock

Chuck E. Cheese is one of those places that, if we weren't already familiar with it, would sound like a fever dream. A combination of video game arcade, pizza place, and play place, all with animatronic animals in the background? It really feels like something out of a movie rather than real life. Nevertheless, it was the favored spot for '90s kids birthday parties, and incredibly, you can actually have an adult birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese even today. Turns out there are a lot of things you probably didn't know about Chuck E. Cheese, but they all eventually come back to the same question: Where did Chuck E. Cheese come from in the first place?

There are all sorts of twists and turns in the chain's legendarily weird origin story, but one key fact that seems truly bizarre in retrospect is who created the chain in the first place: Nolan Bushnell. Though he's the creator of Chuck E. Cheese, Bushnell's even greater mark on society is in another industry entirely -- he co-founded Atari. Yes, that Atari, the one that essentially created the home video games market as it exists today.

Read more: The 101 Best Pizzas In America

Bushnell's Original Concepts Were Different

Chuck E. Cheese storefront
Chuck E. Cheese storefront - Gsheldon/Getty Images

Nolan Bushnell's original inspiration for the chain, as he explained to Fast Company, came from ancient history: "[...] celebration had food, drink, and games, without exception. Whether you were talking about the summer solstice with primitive man to the circuses in Rome. There was always an entertainment element. I always felt that was something that was lacking in restaurants."

But how do you get from pagan solstice rituals to an animatronic mouse? The Disney corporation, apparently, as Bushnell was inspired by the Tiki Room at Disneyland, which already had animatronic parrots. He didn't go straight from parrots to mice, either, as his first idea was to call it "Coyote Pizza." To this end, he ordered a full body costume that he thought was a coyote -- only when it arrived, the costume turned out to be a rat. Bushnell rolled with it, theming his animatronics (which have sadly now come to an end) around the same concept.

The original tone and tenor of the animatronics was also, uh ... different. The first animatronic Chuck E. was a cigar-smoking New Jersey insult comic who made jokes laden with sexual innuendo. Not exactly suitable material for children, but that's not even the strangest thing Bushnell came up with for his signature character.

Chuck E. Cheese's Backstory Is Pretty Grim

Charles Entertainment Cheese costume
Charles Entertainment Cheese costume - Barry King/Getty Images

The backstory for Chuck E. Cheese's signature character is surprisingly dark. Charles Entertainment Cheese (his actual official name) was apparently raised in an orphanage called St. Marinara's and did not know his own birthday. This, we are told, is why he enjoys celebrating other children's birthdays so much. He eventually aged out of the orphanage and wound up homeless on the streets of New York City, where he took refuge in a pizza parlor. The owner eventually caught him, and would have killed him if he hadn't started singing. These are all part of the actual Chuck E. Cheese backstory to this day -- though it's not clear if this story was Nolan Bushnell's, or was created later.

For as odd as Chuck E. Cheese feels now, it's even weirder to think that Bushnell's original ideas for him were even stranger. But, maybe that's what happens when you conceptualize a carnival-themed pizza restaurant at the same time as starting the modern day video game industry.

Read the original article on The Daily Meal