Ronald McDonald, McDonald's "Chief Happiness Officer".
|Hair Color:||Bright Red|
|"Chief Happiness Officer", Offical Mascot, and Chief media pitchperson/ambassador for McDonald's restaurants|
|Appeared in:||Has appeared in many TV/print ads for McDonald's from 1965-2017|
Ronald McDonald is a clown character who was used as the primary mascot of the McDonald's all-American restaurant chain for over 50 years. He was the "Chief Happiness Officer" of the company from 2003-2017. In television commercials, the clown inhabits a fantasy world called McDonaldland, and has adventures with his friends Grimace, Hamburglar, Birdie the Early Bird, and more. He was first portrayed on television by Willard Scott in 1963 and various actors afterwards.
The origin of Ronald McDonald involves Willard Scott (at the time, a local radio personality who also played Bozo the Clown from 1959 until 1962), who performed using the name "Ronald McDonald, the Hamburger-Happy Clown" in 1963 on three separate television spots. These were the first three television advertisements featuring the character.
There have been online disputes over Ronald McDonald's original origins with several people claming stories other than Willard Scott's which has a proven reliable source. They started in the late 2000's on several websites.
Willard Scott (a local radio personality who also played Bozo the Clown on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C.
from 1959 until 1962), performed using the moniker "Ronald McDonald, the Hamburger-Happy Clown" in 1963 on three separate television spots. These were the first three television ads featuring the character.
Scott, who went on to become NBC-TV's Today Show weatherman, claims to have "created Ronald McDonald" according to the following excerpt from his book Joy of Living:
“At the time, Bozo was the hottest children's show on the air. You could probably have sent Pluto the Dog or Dumbo the Elephant over and it would have been equally as successful. But I was there, and I was Bozo... There was something about the combination of hamburgers and Bozo that was irresistible to kids... That's why when Bozo went off the air a few years later, the local McDonald's people asked me to come up with a new character to take Bozo's place. So, I sat down and created Ronald McDonald.”
- Main article: Actors who have played Ronald McDonald
Various forms of the name "Ronald McDonald" as well as costume clown face persona, etc. are registered trademarks of McDonald's. McDonald's trains performers to portray Ronald using identical mannerisms and costume, to contribute to the illusion that they are one character.
McDonald's marketing designers and stylists changed elements of the Ronald McDonald character, persona, style, costume and clown face when they adopted the clown as a trademark, possibly in deference to "The Code", the tradition of clowns to scrupulously avoid copying other clowns' appearance or performance style.
In 2010, the Corporate Accountability International in Boston, Massachusetts suggested that the Ronald McDonald should be retired due to childhood obesity in the United States, however then McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner said there are no plans to retire Ronald McDonald.
On May 18, 2011, Corporate Accountability International renewed their call to retire Ronald McDonald, by running ads in major newspapers and launching several web pages dedicated to the retirement of the character. However McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner defended Ronald McDonald by saying that he is an ambassador for good and "it's all about choice".
Shortly after McDonald's Website News Statements announced that Ronald McDonald is here to stay. In 2014, McDonalds new CEO Don Thompson has said that Ronald McDonald does not encourage kids to eat unhealthy foods. He stated Ronald McDonald only spreads joy and smiles. The Corporate Accountability International has failed to retire him due to the fact that he is a national icon and he has been around for half a century. However, just three years later, the company decided to retire Ronald.
Ronald McDonald's appearance has changed over the years, but his notable look is him wearing yellow clothes, a red and white striped shirt, yellow gloves, and red clown shoes with yellow laces. His face is white, with red hair and a big red smile; all in all, his appearance matches the colors of McDonald's.
In 1963, his first look had him portrayed with spaghetti-like hair in a red and yellow striped suit, with a tray of a hamburger, fries, and milkshake, which he wore as a hat and around his waist.
Ronald McDonald is also shown to possess magical abilities despite being a clown. He has shown this a few times by putting his index fingers together and spelling the letter "M", making the golden arch logo appear, as well as using his fingers to spray sparks of magic and make something happen out of it. He also has a rare magical ability where he can use his scarf to get him into out of reach place (seen in The Adventures of Ronald McDonald: McTreasure Island and McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure.
Jumpsuit Look (1965-2014)In 1965, with the addition of McDonaldland coming into advertising in 1971, Ronald got a major makeover, with a look that would last for more than 40 years (with varying subtle changes, occurring mostly in the 2000s), it being him wearing a yellow jumpsuit and white collar, complete with red and white striped shirt and legs, yellow gloves, red shoes, red hair, white makeup and a big red smile. The suit had two french fry bags for pockets, with a small one on the heart of the suit, all which read "McDonald's".
His appearance went through a few revisions before a big makeover in the late 1990s. From 1971-75, his hair was groomed before it would be puffed out and slicked back; his french fry pockets were all square before the lower pockets would become rectangular in 1974; and his sleeves were shortened to half length on his forearms (they would grow longer in his 1998 makeover).
In 1998, VHS tapes of The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald were released showing a new look of Ronald's jumpsuit that would become permanent for the next decade: His french fry pockets were replaced with red seamed pockets, the heart patch was replaced with a red circle with a golden arch "M", the stripes on the shirt were now thicker, and the back of the suit now read "Ronald" almost like a sports jersey with red rear pockets (all those features on the back of the suit would subsequently be removed in 2000). This would be his look from 2000-2014. By this time, McDonaldland had been phased out of the small screen and Ronald McDonald would interact with children, usually in sports and healthy activities.
New Look (2014-2017)In April 2014, McDonald's announced that Ronald McDonald will have a whole new look and new outfits. They also announced that he will be back in their new commercials as well as on social media sites like Twitter. As part of Ronald's makeover, his jumpsuit has been dropped in favor of yellow cargo pants, a vest and a red-and-white striped rugby shirt. His classic clown shoes remain part of the official uniform.
In November 2017, it was announced by the McDonald's Corporation that Ronald McDonald would be retired as their mascot. As for the restaurant's Happy Meals, he would be subsequently replaced by Happy, who was introduced 3 years prior. Fans of the character expressed their sorrow and displeasure of Ronald's departure through social media, with some comparing him as an icon next to Mickey Mouse. All performers who dress as the clown are to retire their uniforms effective January 2018.
- Main article: McDonaldland
In addition to the early commercials starring Willard Scott, Ronald has appeared in a large percentage of commercials. In many of the commercials he was seen in a magical world setting called McDonaldland, home to a wide variety of menu-based characters. Unfortunately, following a lawsuit in 1979, McDonaldland was nixed and commercials were from then on set in a less fairy tale like location, still titled McDonaldland inhabited by the few characters that survived the lawsuit. Those that were affected became streamlined in the mid 1980s.
While such characters as Grimace and Hamburglar have survived past that stage, Ronald, Birdie and the Fry Kids remain a fixture in the company's commercials, now at McDonald's settings interacting with a birthday kid. Most recently they were seen on the streets of New York with talking to a birthday kid singing Happy Birthday!
Relationships with other characters
While a mascot for McDonald's, Ronald McDonald has maintained good relationships with his friends from McDonaldland, both integral and important.
Since 1971, Ronald has always been bothered by the Hamburglar's constant crave of taking McDonald's hamburgers. Though the rivalry was tiresome, Ronald always knew a way out and has foiled the Hamburglar's plans many times. The Hamburglar's schemes have always varied from simply taking the burgers in plain sight to using many methods and disguises, though Ronald is able to find a flaw with his plans
But no matter what his intentions, Ronald and Hamburglar remain close friends and even show his nice side by sharing instead of taking.
At first, Grimace, like Hamburglar, was a villain who stole McDonald's soft drinks. Ronald however, was able to outsmart his former foe and now ally by tricking him into delivering a flyer saying he has been entered into a contest, and soaking him into Filet-O-Fish Lake when he was pretending to take a picture of the purple creature.
In later years, Grimace became Ronald's friend and they have been in many adventures together since then. They have varied from chasing Fry Kids for french fries, to teasing about the Hamburglar's "touch", and even teaching Birdie learn how to fly. The friendship between both Ronald & Grimace remain very important in the clown's history.
Birdie the Early Bird
When Ronald first met Birdie, she was still in her egg, waiting to be hatched. Since her debut in 1980, Ronald and Birdie have remained really close friends. Notable things the two have been through together have varied: eating hot pancakes for breakfast, speeding up dinner, teaching her how to fly, and having fun.
Merchandise and Appearances
As previously stated, Ronald McDonald is one of America's most popular characters. He has been seen in various pieces of merchandise, from plush to comics. The latter with four issues published by Charlton Comics sold from 1970 to 1971.
He was the central focus along with his friends in the long running children's magazine McDonaldland Fun Times, teaching kids lessons, playing games, solving puzzles, etc.
Ronald has also been featured in a 1984 Little Golden Book with Grimace called Ronald McDonald and The Tale of the Talking Plant.
He was also shown in a cameo in the E.T. ripoff Box Office failure Mac and Me. He was even awarded a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst New Star. In addition, he appeared as one of hundreds of licensed characters in the VHS tape Kids for Character.
Most importantly, Ronald McDonald starred in his own direct-to-VHS animated series The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald. Produced by Klasky Csupo, it featured six forty-minute tapes released sporadically between 1998 and 2003.
Beginning in 1986, Ronald would perform at magic shows for children, which still occurs today. He also visits children in the many Ronald McDonald Houses abroad.
Other major Ronald merchandise include the video games McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure and M.C. Kids. Ronald McDonald even had his own website respectively titled Ronald.com, which has since shut down.
To view the Ronald McDonald gallery, click here.