For an easy kid’s birthday party, it’s hard to beat Chuck E. Cheese’s. As a parent, you know exactly what you’re getting: passable pizza, a dirty ball pit, and arcade games that are essentially slot machines for kids. The appeal is that you don’t have to think about anything and at the center of it all is titular mouse himself, who manages to steal the show at every party. But after hearing the bananas origin story of the company’s eponymous mascot, we can’t help but wonder if he entertains as an escape from his horrific past.
Siddhartha Mahanta, features editor at Business Insider and Insider, posted a simple screenshot from Chuck E. Cheese the character’s Wikipedia article. It’s a bonkers tale that seems to have been drawn from a book, published online in PDF form, ostensibly for kids but with a story so sad it makes Oliver Twist’s childhood look happy by comparison.
That his full name is Charles Entertainment Cheese ranks low on the list of crazy facts about Chuck E., a music-loving mouse who lived in an orphanage. His favorite song? You guessed it: “Happy Birthday.”
As an orphan, Chuck E. didn’t know his birthday, so he never had a party. Luckily for Chuck E., there were so many kids at the orphanage that there was a birthday party almost every week, which he loved because they all had pizza and he got to sing his favorite song.
Eventually, however, it came time for Chuck E. to leave. He took $50, which he won in a Pong tournament, naturally, and got a bus ticket to New York although, confusingly, the first Chuck E. Cheese’s is in San Jose.
With no place to stay, Chuck E. starting sleeping above the kitchen of a pizzeria with a chef, Pasqually, who liked to sing. All of his favorite things! But when Pasqually found Chuck E., things took a murderous turn. The chef cornered the mouse, but Chuck E. started stress singing.
“A mouse that can sing? My restaurant is saved! I’m a-gonna make you a star!” is a line he actually says in the story.
Pasqually changed the name of his restaurant to Chuck E. Cheese’s, and arranged a big opening concert where Chuck E. caught stage fright and was booed by a bunch of angry adults. The crowd started to leave, and Chuck E. saw a boy with a birthday crowd, inspiring him to sing his favorite song.
In the grand tradition of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, the whole thing feels way too dark for kids. So the next time you’re at a Chuck E. Cheese’s be appreciative: we’re lucky Chuck E. survived his childhood at all.