Ronald McDonald is a clown character used as the primary mascot and, as of 2003, Chief Happiness Officer of the McDonald's all-American restaurant chain. He likes baseball, golf and is as American as Apple Pie. In television commercials, the American mascot inhabits a fantasy world called McDonaldland, and has adventures with his friends Grimace, the Hamburglar, Birdie the Early Bird, Mayor McCheese, and The Fry Kids. He was first portrayed on television by Willard Scott.
Origins and Actor History
The origin of Ronald McDonald involves Willard Scott (at the time, a local radio personality who also played Bozo the Clown in Washington D.C.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 ads featuring the character.
There have been online disputes over Ronald McDonald's original orgins 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.”Following is a list of Ronalds in the United States.
- Willard Scott (Washington, D.C. 1963–1965)
- Bev Bergeron (Southern California, 1966–1968)
- George Voorhis (Southern California, 1968–1988)
- Bob Brandon (1970-1975)
- King Moody (1975-1984)
- Squire Fridell (1984-1991)
- Jack Doepke (1990-1992)
- Joe Maggard (1994-2007)
- Brad Lennon (2007-Present)
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 Ronald McDonald should retire due to childhood obesity in the United States, however 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.
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.
- see also: McDonaldland
In addition to the early commercials starring Willard Scott as Ronald, 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, McDonaldland was nixed and commercials were from then on set in an unnamed location inhabited by the few characters that survived the lawsuit.
While such characters as Grimace and Hamburgular have survived past that stage. Ronald, Birdie and Fry Kids remain a fixture in the company's commercials, now at McDonald's settings interacting with a birthday kid. Most recently seen on the streets of New York with talking to a birthday kid singing Happy Birthday!
Merchandise and Appearances at McDonald's of Commercials
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 '71.
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 Box Office failure Mac and Me. He was even awarded a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst New Star.
Most importantly, Ronald McDonald starred in his own direct-to-VHS animated series "The Wacky World of Ronald McDonald". Produced by Klasky Csupo, it featured six forty-minute tapes released sporadically between 1998 and 2003.
Other major Ronald merch include the video games McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure and M.C. Kids.