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Chuck E. Cheese to revamp rodent mascot as rock star

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The Chuck E. Cheese rodent mascot is ditching the backward baseball cap and fingerless gloves and reemerging as a rock star with a guitar.

The pizza chain’s parent, CEC Entertainment Inc. of Irvine, Texas, is teasing its new spokesmouse with silhouetted images on its Facebook profile along with signs such as “You’ve never seen Chuck E. rock like this!”

The company, which began publicly discussing the reimage this spring, plans a full reveal of its new national ad campaign Thursday, according to the Associated Press. Jaret Reddick, lead singer of the band Bowling for Soup, will voice the mascot.

This isn’tChuck E. Cheese’s first makeover. Back when the chain wasChuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre, launched by Atari founder Nolan Bushnell in San Jose in 1977, the mascot was a rat in a bowler hat and bow-tie wielding a cane.

But the family-centric chain, known for its mix of pizza, arcade games and amusement rides at more than 500 locations, hasn’t had the best run post-recession.

In its first quarter ended April 1, CEC said same-store sales fell 4.2% while net income slumped 5.2% to $32.3 million compared with the same period in 2011. The company projects sales to be flat to down 2% for the second quarter amid high cheddar cheese prices and rents.

In a conference call with analysts, Chief Executive Michael Magusiak said the company’s target consumer is still facing “a difficult economic environment” with lofty unemployment rates and elevated prices for groceries, fuel and more.

Other restaurant chains have undergone similar image updates to combat the shaky economy. Burger King recently kicked out its monarch mascot and brought in the likes of David Beckham and Salma Hayek as spokespeople. McDonald’s has cut back on visibility of its Ronald McDonald clown.

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As part of its revamp, Chuck E. Cheese is starting to offer gluten-free options and send party invitations via Evite.

The company has also retired the mascot’s longtime voice, actor Duncan Brannan. In a Facebook post picked up by the Dallas Observer earlier this week, Brannan said he spent nearly two decades transforming Chuck E. Cheese “from a joke-telling, sometimes off-color New Jersey rat to a lovable, mainstream mouse who could sing.”

He found out he was being pushed out when he listened to “Chuck’s Hot New Single” – which he didn’t perform – according to his note, which was first republished on fan site Showbizpizza.com. Brannan said he had noticed gradual changes in the mascot for months. He said he had no hard feelings.

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