Crusty was one of the original Pizza Time Players and was present at the original store in San Jose, CA. He was described as the "Cat's Meow" in singing and joke telling, and was Chuck E. Cheese's straight man. He was dressed in a baseball uniform with the name "swingers" and the number 13 on the front. His caricature in the 1977 Pizza Time Theatre Program also shows him wearing a baseball hat and mitt1.
Early promotional material projected Crusty to be a high-profile character, even though he ultimately ended up as a footnote in the Pizza Time Players history. The 1977 PTT Program shows a special pizza on the menu titled "Crusty's Vegetarian Delight"1. A few preliminary newspaper advertisements produced for the grand opening of the 1st PTT restaurant featured Crusty - and in some cases featured him alone, however these particular designs were never published2.
Artist Bob Black's original design templates for Crusty, submitted by Atari for copyright purposes3, laid out the basic guidelines for Crusty's character and personality. He was meant to be a creature of misfortune, thus the black fur and unlucky number 13, and was to be the foil to Chuck E. Cheese. His eyes were to be green and beady, with the appearance of apprehension and nervousness (Black even suggested employing flashing lights behind his eyes for added impact). In further describing Crusty, Black's handwritten notes read "Tall, skinny posture, wearing an old baseball jersey and cap. Whiskers drooping. Typical Crusty stance: dejection, an expression of 'nothing ever goes right,' waiting for his next crises to occur. This creature of misfortune has the word 'swingers' for his team's name, the complete opposite of what his lot really is - misfortune!"4
Also during the early character development, Harold Goldbrandsen suggested that Crusty be situated as a contrast character to Chuck E. Cheese. Whereas, Chuck E. was this dimwitted idiot who thought he was the one in charge, but Crusty was revealed to be the one who was really running the show5. Some early skits reveal this situation between the two characters - while Chuck E. is mispronouncing his lines, Crusty purposefully remains silent and lets Chuck E. look foolish.
Crusty appeared in the first two showtapes for the original store. The first featured Crusty along with the other 'nitwits' and no special guest. The second introduced the Pizza Time Theatre’'s very first guest star Madame Oink. The original demo reel was entirely voiced by the same person, John Widelock, however later versions of Crusty were voiced by a yet unknown actor (or possibly two)6.
In the end, Crusty wound up being the first Pizza Time Player to face retirement, being replaced by Mr. Munch upon the opening the second Pizza Time Theatre store in late 19787. Although he was only ever featured in the original location, Crusty was actually given a brand new animatronic design prior to his removal. The updated Crusty was designed similar to the upgraded Chuck E. Cheese, with enhanced movements that were employed by the more sophisticated guest appearance characters. Since Chuck E. and Crusty were the first two animatronics produced, they had the most simplistic movements, which was corrected in 1978 with the enhanced versions. The most striking difference to Crusty's appearance was the addition of unique yellow cat eyes, making him the only cyberamic to have a completely different looking set of pupils from the other characters.
Crusty's voice lived on for several more years as heard in the “Tribute to Uncle Sam skit” that continued to appear on showtapes up until 1982. The original skit contained only Crusty, Chuck E., Jasper and The Warblettes but was later re-edited to include Pasqually and Mr. Munch. Due to Crusty having a similar Jersey accent to the Big C himself, one of Crusty's lines was left in the show and assigned to Chuck. A close listen reveals that Chuck E.'s voice changes slightly during that line of the skit. Several other original skits from the first two showtapes originally featuring Crusty continued to be used in the early years of Pizza Time Theatre. Most of Crusty's lines were re-done by Mr. Munch and were often slightly re-edited to better fit Munch's personality.
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1 - 1977 Pizza Time Theatre Program
2 - SP.com correspondence with Gene Landrum
3 - US Copyright Records
4 - Crusty - Bob Black character design artwork
5 - SP.com correspondence with Harold Goldbrandsen
6 - SP.com correspondence with John Widelock
7 - 1978 Kooser Store Opening Promotional Materials