Chuck E. Cheese still uses floppy disks in 2023, but not for long

By | January 11, 2023
Stewart Coonrod holds up an official 2023 Chuck E. Cheese floppy disk in a TikTok video. It contains dance moves for in-store animatronics.
Enlarge / Stewart Coonrod holds up an official 2023 Chuck E. Cheese floppy disk in a TikTok video. It contains dance moves for in-store animatronics.

On Sunday, a Chuck E. Cheese employee named Stewart Coonrod posted a TikTok video that documents the process of installing a new song-and-dance show on an old Chuck E. Cheese animatronics system—a process that involves a 3.5-inch floppy disk and two DVDs. Coonrod says it is the last update before his store undergoes a remodel that will remove the animatronics altogether.

Coonrod’s Chuck E. Cheese location in Darien, Illinois, was originally a Show-Biz Pizza restaurant but changed over to Chuck E. Cheese branding in 1991. It includes a single Chuck E. Cheese animatronics character (called “Cyberamics” in the parlance of the company) surrounded by four video screens in a setup called “Studio C,” first introduced in 1998.

Currently, those 25-year-old setups are being phased out nationwide in favor of a remodel that replaces the animatronics character with a dance floor. It’s the end of the line for Cyberamics, but a few stores still use them, and the parent company ships out updates on floppy and DVD to match the legacy system.

A YouTube fan video showing the Darien, Illinois, Chuck E. Cheese stage show up close.

“Hello everybody, today I’m going to be showing you how to install a new show on our old system,” says Coonrod in the video. “This is going to be the last show we receive before the remodel. So this is my last chance to film and show you how we do it.”

The TikTok video features a tall, black “Cyberstar” rack-mount computer system that dates from around 1998, which is when Chuck E. Cheese transitioned the Studio C video showtape from LaserDisc to DVD. Coonrod inserts a 3.5-inch floppy disk—which can hold 1.44 MB of data—that reads “Chuck E. Cheese Evergreen Show 2023” on a printed label.

As the computer comes to life, a monitor sitting on top of the rack displays a MS-DOS-style text crawl that shows the computer extracting .CEC files from a self-extracting file called EGREEN23.EXE that was compressed using the v2.50 shareware version of PKSFX by PKWARE, copyright 1999. The .CEC file format includes light-timing information and instructions that tell the animatronics figures how to move. (Anyone curious about exploring the CEC format can find a disk image of a 2017 Chuck E. Cheese floppy on the Internet Archive.)

After that, Coonrod inserts two DVDs into twin DVD players that contain show video content of the accessory characters that surround Chuck during the show.

“There it goes,” he says, after entering a password into an archaic backlit LCD panel, and Chuck begins his last dance, the culmination of a robotic legacy that stretches back to 1977. And he’ll keep dancing until they pull the plug later this year.