That the family lineage of Five Nights at Freddy’s includes family friendly eating establishment Chuck E. Cheese is hardly a secret; as if the presence of animal-themed robot mascots at a fast food restaurant wasn’t enough of a clue, consider the fact that Freddy’s full name, Freddy Fazbear, is unmistakably a parody of 'Chuck E. Cheese.' No surprise, then, that as FNAF has grown in popularity in recent years, Chuck E. Cheese has realized that it has a unique opportunity to jump on a particularly horrific bandwagon that it helped start, however unwittingly.
In many respects, the core FNAF idea comes almost wholesale from Chuck E. Cheese. What adult has not visited one of Charles Cheese’s fun emporiums and not found themselves unsettled by the, to be blunt, horrific sight of those robots trying to convince kids to have a good time? Bonus points are awarded if the Chuck E. Cheese animatronics are in a state of disrepair that only makes them more inherently upsetting, with dirty fur looking tattered and somewhat unworldly despite their clear mundanity. For adults at least, the best Chuck E. Cheeses, arguably, are those in mild states of disrepair; their popularity and age underscoring the feeling that you’ve stepped into an alternate reality where Walt Disney World and Sid and Marty Kroft had a collectively bad trip while remaking reality. It only seems fair that, in light of the mainstream success of Five Nights at Freddy’s, its real life inspiration gets to take an unlikely victory lap and take advantage of things.
Kudos, then, to whoever created the Five Nights of Fun promotion for Chuck E. Cheese this year: a promotion as shameless in its co-opting of the FNAF aesthetic as FNAF was in stealing Chuck E. Cheese’s lunch in the first place. It’s the ideal crime, in so many ways; after all, there’s no way that anyone involved in Five Nights at Freddy’s could truly complain or call foul, given the debt it owes to the culprit in this particular case. Pop will eat itself, as someone once gleefully pointed out.
Of course, it’s not a gimmick that Chuck E. Cheese can maintain indefinitely. It’s a gag, and a short-lived one at that; to extend it out is to ignore the central selling point of Chuck E. Cheese, which is that it’s a safe space offering fun for all the family, in favor of something with a far more niche in terms of target audience. Thankfully for all involved, the current promotion allows Chuck E. Cheese to capitalize on both the FNAF movie’s release and the time of year. That the FNAF movie itself gets to enjoy some free publicity off the back of Chuck E. Cheese’s cheeky paid publicity is merely a happy accident and a reminder that, sometimes, everyone can get what they want.
Let’s not forget that Chuck E. Cheese’s CEO David McKillips offered Popverse a knowing comment about the promotion, saying, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and we wanted in on the fun this Halloween during our annual Boo-Tacular event.” He knows exactly what he’s doing, and this is exactly the kind of thing we need more of in pop culture in general, and from Chuck E. Cheese in particular.
There is, however, an unlikely and wonderful possibility raised by Chuck E. Cheese’s willingness to lean into the buzz surrounding its bastard pop culture offspring. If this year’s [TK] promotion performs really well, might we suggest something even bigger for next Halloween? It’s a big swing, we admit, but… how about Spooky Season 2024 sees the showdown everyone had wanted to years: Chuck E. Cheese versus Freddy Fazbear?
…Nah. It’ll never happen. But, really… it should.
The Five Nights at Freddy's phenomenon is lasting longer than five nights. Get up to speed, with how to stream the movie, details on the characters and lore, getting to know the FNAF animatronics, how it fits in the canon of the games, talks of sequels, how Chuck E. Cheese is responding, and even a guide to how to play all the FNAF games.'
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