After 42 Years, Bid a Fond Farewell to Munch’s Make Believe Band
After 42 years of live performances, Munch's Make Believe Band are being forced into retirement. The group's longtime live residency at Chuck E. Cheese will come to end after the popular pizza restaurant implements a newly announced redesign for its 600-plus locations.
The animatronic quintet — Mr. Munch, Chuck E. Cheese, Helen Henny, Jasper T. Jowls and Pasqually — will be forced to step down at every location nationwide as part of the new design, which includes plans for an interactive dance floor. Rides and games will now include pre-loaded play passes, and tokens will no longer be used.
The band emerged more than four decades ago with its playful pop-rock, including jovial, Chuck-themed covers of hit songs. You can check out their ripping take on the Vapors' 1980 hit "Turning Japanese," re-imagined as "Go to Chuck E. Cheese." Despite their awkwardly stiff stage presence and intensely creepy, dead-eyed stares, their enthusiasm is infectious.
As Vice reported in an extensive profile on the band, Munch's Make Believe originated as "The Pizza Players" in 1977 at the first San Jose, Calif., location of Chuck E. Cheese. But the band's popularity swelled alongside the restaurant's, leading to performances across the country. And they've endured numerous lineup changes over the years, filtering through discontinued members like Crusty the Cat and Madame Oink.
Chuck E. Cheese previously announced plans to phase out the band in 2017, and the following year, the company even plotted a "farewell tour" that turned out to be a cruel April Fool's joke. (On Twitter, the company explained the prank, teased a potential "world tour" and released a Munch's Make Believe Band album as a free download.) In retrospect, the breakup gag stings even more.
After news of the band's potential breakup spread in 2017, fellow musicians eulogized the rat-featured five-piece. One mourner was singer-songwriter Father John Misty, who posted on Facebook about the band's monumental influence and refusal to follow contemporary trends.
"Having been a professional musician for a few years now, I can appreciate firsthand not only the strain of trying to sustain a flow of creativity for so long but the rigorous, pretty un-exotic feat of physical endurance just getting through a few hundred shows a year, plus all the travel, is," he wrote. "When I consider that this motherfucker was playing up to five sets a night all over the country simultaneously, I am reminded that, yes, it can be done, and that just by getting on that stage every night and leaving everything up there, I am part of lineage, of a collective imagination that spans the generations. How he maintained that smile on his face, playing so consistently and with such little flash (even though I’m sure some nights he just wanted to stretch out and make it all about himself) is beyond me.
"None of this, however, has anything to do with why I fell in love with this mans playing," he continued. "Chuck was an interpreter. He didn’t write much, outside of his seminal 'Happy Birthday' but neither did Frank fucking Sinatra. Like Sinatra, Chuck wasn’t 'the best.' But he had a style, and style cannot be taught; something we tend to forget in this era of manufactured pop stars. Max Martin would've had nothing to do with Cheese."