Chuck E. Cheese’s bills itself as a place where a kid can be a kid. The offer, it turns out, has no expiration date.
Matt Rivera grew up visiting the local Chuck E. Cheese's franchise in his native Corpus Christi, Texas. As he recalls in this week's episode of The Fandom Files, Rivera was hooked from an early age — his oldest memory involves a fourth birthday party at the restaurant — and before he even realized that the tuxedoed mouse was just a guy in a suit, he knew he wanted to spend his life immersed in the world of Showbiz Pizza.
In that way, he's achieved his dreams faster than most people; he landed a job playing Chuck E. at the local franchise by 16 (he was well aware that the mouse wasn't real by that time) and eventually moved to Dallas, where the company is based, and continued working in the call center.
Rivera now freelances for Chuck E. Cheese's, but more significantly, he's the founder of the world's biggest convention for people like him who never lost their passion for animatronics and pizza. The first annual Chuck E. Con, held this past summer in Dallas, gathered 65 of the nation's biggest Cheese-heads for two days of fun and stage shows, featuring animatronics and costumes from Rivera's personal collection (watch some video here). His goal is to one day have a full animatronic band in his basement.
The mainstreaming of geek culture has allowed adults to hang on to so many of their childhood favorites, either because they've been given a sheen of maturity and grit or because nostalgia adds just enough irony to render a lifetime of collecting toys based on old cartoons socially acceptable. Some are more popular than others. We don't choose the moments and mementos of our childhood that stick with us. But now, if we're lucky, we can wind up with a basement dedicated to them.
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