Mac Tonight is a fictional character who was used in the marketing for McDonald's restaurants during the late 1980s. Known for his crescent moon head, sunglasses and piano-playing, the character used the song "Mack the Knife" which was made famous in the United States by Bobby Darin. Throughout the campaign, Mac was performed by actor Doug Jones and voiced by Brock Walsh.

Mac Tonight
Mac Tonight animatronic at Solid Gold McDonald's in Greenfield, Wisconsin, April 2006
First appearanceDec. 29, 1986
Dec. 26, 1987 (Canada)
Created byDavis, Johnson, Mogul & Colombatto
Portrayed byDoug Jones (1986–1997)
Voiced byBrock Walsh (1986–1990) Eason Chan (2007–2010) Sharizan Borhan (2007)
In-universe information
OccupationNighttime mascot for the McDonald's fast food restaurant chain

Originally conceived as a promotion to increase dinner sales by Southern California licensees, Mac Tonight's popularity led McDonald's to take it nationwide on August 27, 1987.[1] By 1988, the ad campaign had spread worldwide. In 1989, Bobby Darin's son, Dodd Mitchell Darin, sued McDonald's for allegedly infringing upon Darin's likeness. After the lawsuit, McDonald's stopped using the song featured in the original Mac Tonight campaign in the United States. There were several attempts to reboot Mac Tonight in the US throughout the 1990s, but none of them took off.


Original marketing campaign (1986–1989)

The campaign, created by Jim Bennedict[2] and Peter Coutroulis,[3] was created locally for Southern California McDonald's franchisees by Los Angeles advertising firm Davis, Johnson, Mogul & Colombatto,[3] for a budget of around $500,000 dollars. Looking to increase the after-4 p.m. dinner business, the agency was inspired by the song "Mack the Knife" by Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht, which was made famous in the United States by Bobby Darin in 1959 and listened to different versions of it before opting to create an original version with new lyrics.[3] After deciding not to feature real people or celebrities, the designers settled on an anthropomorphic crooner moon on a man's body with 1950s-style sunglasses; the song and style were designed to appeal to baby boomers and a revival of 1950s-style music in popular culture.[3] The character, who played a grand piano atop either a floating cloud or a giant Big Mac (hence the name), was intended to garner a "cult-like" following, e.g. Max Headroom.[3] From 1986 to 1987, the campaign expanded to other cities on the American West Coast. McDonald's said that the campaign had "great success" while trade magazine Nation's Restaurant News announced that it had contributed to increases of over 10% in dinnertime business at some Californian restaurants.[3] A crowd of 1,500 attended the visit of a costumed character to a Los Angeles McDonald's.[3] With concerns that he was too typical of the West Coast, in February 1987 it was decided that the character would feature on national advertisements which went to air that September and he attracted a crowd of 1,000 in Boca Raton, Florida.[3] A September 1987 survey by Ad Watch found that the number of consumers who recalled McDonald's advertising before any other doubled from the previous month, and was higher than any company since the New Coke launch in 1985.[3]

Doug Jones performed Mac Tonight for over 27 out of the 29 commercials from 1986–1997. Years later in 2013, he recalled "[T]hat's when my career took a turn that I was not expecting. I didn't know that was a career option."[4] Mac Tonight's voice was provided by Brock Walsh.[5] Director Peter Coutroulis, who won a Clio Award for a previous campaign for Borax, pitched several commercials which did not air, including an E.T.-like one in which two astronomers watch Mac Tonight drive his Cadillac through the sky.[3]

In 1989, Bobby Darin's son Dodd Mitchell Darin claimed that the song infringed upon his father's trademark without prior permission and filed a lawsuit as well as an injunction for the song to be removed from both TV and radio ads.[6] As a response to the lawsuit, McDonald's stopped airing the advertisements.

They thought that I had co-opted his father’s singing style, and they filed suit for infringement of likeness. Specifically, my vocalization was apparently the issue. To me though, Bobby Darin wasn’t the imprint on that song. I was more influenced by guys like Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles and Louis Armstrong — Louis Armstrong was known for this song, too. That brought the gravy train to a grinding halt. I do think, though, that this lawsuit coincided with the downturn of Mac Tonight ads as effective marketing anyway. I think McDonald’s looked at it like, Do we really want to fuck with this? Isn’t it easier to just cut and run from the whole thing?” So that’s what they did. It’s cool, though. It’s a business. I get it. I think they tried to change the song for a bit, but it just didn’t work. Mac was done soon after that.[7]

Between 1997 and 1998, McDonald's sponsored NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott with Mac Tonight featured on his car.[8] In 2016, the Mac Tonight theme was McDonald's driver Jamie McMurray's Chip Ganassi Racing No. 1 Chevrolet SS throwback scheme for Darlington Raceway's Southern 500.[9]

Reintroduction in Southeast Asia (2006–2010)

In 2006, McDonald's brought back the character in territories throughout Southeast Asia such as in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Thailand and China. The Asian-exclusive campaign featured a CGI-animated Mac Tonight dancing atop a McDonald's restaurant while singing and playing a saxophone.[10] These commercials were made by Liquid Animation.[11]

The other was a series of bumpers showing updates of a competition, 'Mac Tonight Mad Dash' was a competition hosted and broadcast in the Philippines in which 24 pairs of contestants had to race to visit 24 24 hour McDonald's locations where they had to solve puzzles to continue, this race lasted for 24 hours. This competition was hosted and broadcast on July 24, 2007.[12]



The mask the actor wore was made by a makeup and practical effects artist called Steve Neill. It weighed over 10 pounds and had the facial expressions motorized with animatronics. It needed three puppeteers to control the lip, jaw, and eyebrow movement.[13] This was mostly done by Steve Neill, Gilly Neill, and Bob Burns.[14]

New masks were made with more articulation and animatronics added. The Australian 1988 mask was made by Robert Bertie.[15] Due to the law in Australia at the time, they were forced to remake 'Spinning Burger from scratch in order to air it. This required a new actor, a new head, a new instrumental, and a new set, all done in Australia. In 1993 the original American advertisements later aired after laws had changed.[16] A new advertisement was produced, with a new head to emulate the look of the 1987 and 1988 heads.


Several McDonald's restaurants in the early 1990s were fitted with Mac Tonight hydraulically-powered animatronic figures built by Mannetron[17] with the character playing a piano.[18] One of the animatronics is the World's Largest Entertainment McDonald's in Orlando, Florida.[19] Other locations include a Greenfield, Wisconsin McDonald's known as the Solid Gold McDonald's, prior to undergoing major renovations in 2011.[20]


Mac Tonight is featured on an episode of Video Soul on January 26, 1988.[21] Mac Tonight's last known appearance was in the background of a Canadian McDonald's ad on a poster.[22][unreliable source] The poster design was made and used for the General Mills/McDonald's Promotion.[23][unreliable source] This artwork was done by Tom Dubois.[24]

Ronald Mcdonald House Charities started the annual Mac Tonight Gala fundraiser, renamed Masquerade Ball in 2018.[25]

Mac Tonight has a heavy association with vaporwave and appeared on the cover of the split album Late Night Delight by Saint Pepsi and Luxury Elite,[26][27] where he became an icon of the genre.[28]

Mac Tonight is featured in The Simpsons episodes "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore" as a cardboard cutout, "Fatzcarraldo", and "Burger Kings" via Homer's imagination.[29]

Moon Man is an Internet meme and unofficial parody of Mac Tonight that originated in 2007 on the Internet meme community YTMND, in which the character is depicted as being a racist.[30] A Salon article compared Moon Man to Pepe the Frog, another meme labeled as a hate symbol.[30] In 2016, Salon said that YouTube was removing Moon Man videos for violating its community guidelines on hate speech, and AT&T, whose text-to-speech software was used to create the meme, had edited it to filter out the character's name and obscenities.[30] In 2019, the Anti-Defamation League added Moon Man to their database of hate symbols.[31][32][33]


  1. ^ "Article clipped from Pensacola News Journal". Pensacola News Journal. August 17, 1987. p. 14. Archived from the original on February 21, 2024. Retrieved February 21, 2024.
  2. ^ "ROTATION AND BALANCE: Where credit's due". January 17, 2011. Archived from the original on January 24, 2024. Retrieved January 24, 2024.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Prescott, Eileen (November 29, 1987). "The Making of 'Mac Tonight'". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 15, 2021. Retrieved February 28, 2015.
  4. ^ Radish, Christina (June 26, 2013). "Doug Jones Talks FALLING SKIES Season 3, the Makeup Process, His Career, His Desire to Make HELLBOY 3, and More". Collider. Archived from the original on December 8, 2015. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  5. ^ "Brock Walsh voice on "Mac Tonite"". The Sault Star. March 25, 1988. p. 36. Archived from the original on February 7, 2024. Retrieved February 6, 2024.
  6. ^ "Darin's Son Sues McDonald's". Deseret News. October 15, 1989. Archived from the original on July 13, 2018. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
  7. ^ "A Delicious Oral History of 'Mac Tonight'". January 21, 2022. Archived from the original on January 11, 2024. Retrieved January 11, 2024.
  8. ^ "Driver Bill Elliott 1997 NASCAR Winston Cup Results". Archived from the original on April 28, 2021. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
  9. ^ Jensen, Tom (August 15, 2016). "Jamie McMurray unveils 'Mac Tonight' Darlington throwback scheme". Archived from the original on August 15, 2016. Retrieved August 30, 2016.
  10. ^ Mac Tonight commercial in Southeast Asia (commercial). McDonald's Corporation. 2007.
  11. ^ "Liquid Animation » McDonalds – 'Mac Tonight'". Archived from the original on January 31, 2024. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  12. ^ Cavanlit, Carmi C. "Mac Tonight Mad Dash 2007". Archived from the original on February 24, 2024. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  13. ^ "A Delicious Oral History of 'Mac Tonight'". MEL Magazine. January 21, 2022. Archived from the original on January 11, 2024. Retrieved January 11, 2024.
  14. ^ Bongo, Mighty. "Steve Neill...Make-Up... Models... and Monkey Man !". Archived from the original on January 25, 2024. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  15. ^ Australian Mac Tonight commercial, head by Robert Bertie, February 17, 2019, archived from the original on January 25, 2024, retrieved January 25, 2024
  16. ^ "Mac Tonight's 1993 Australian TV Commercials - YouTube". Archived from the original on January 25, 2024. Retrieved January 25, 2024.
  17. ^ Retroist. "The History of Mac Tonight". Archived from the original on January 16, 2024. Retrieved January 11, 2024.
  18. ^ Ocker, J.W. (March 21, 2012). "Mac Tonight". Odd Things I've Seen. Archived from the original on July 16, 2021. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  19. ^ Kubersky, Seth (March 16, 2016). "World's Largest Entertainment McDonald's reopens on International Drive". Attractions Magazine. Archived from the original on May 15, 2021. Retrieved July 12, 2018.
  20. ^ Snyder, Molly (March 28, 2011). "So long, Solid Gold McDonald's". OnMilwaukee. Archived from the original on January 20, 2020. Retrieved September 6, 2018.
  21. ^ Washington Afro-American. Washington Afro-American. Archived from the original on February 24, 2024. Retrieved February 9, 2024.
  22. ^ McDonald's 2022 "Love what's next" Canada commercial (w/mactonight), March 10, 2023, archived from the original on January 31, 2024, retrieved January 31, 2024
  23. ^ McDonald's (1990) Television Commercial - Mac Tonight - General Mills Cereal Happy Meal, July 27, 2020, archived from the original on January 31, 2024, retrieved January 31, 2024
  24. ^ "VARIOUS ART". Retro Graphic Books LLC. Archived from the original on January 31, 2024. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  25. ^ "LARMH Masquerade Ball on November 3rd, 2018 : Ronald McDonald House Charities of Southern California". Archived from the original on January 31, 2024. Retrieved January 31, 2024.
  26. ^ Beauchamp, Scott (August 18, 2016). "How Vaporwave Was Created Then Destroyed by the Internet". Esquire. Archived from the original on August 19, 2016. Retrieved August 26, 2016.
  27. ^ Minor, Jordan (May 19, 2016). "McDonald's Mac Tonight should make a comeback as the lead in a fast food cinematic universe". Archived from the original on May 20, 2016. Retrieved August 25, 2016.
  28. ^ Bowe, Miles (June 10, 2019). "Acid Test: Harsh Electronics, Spoken Word, A Vaporwave Classic, & More". Bandcamp Daily. sec. Luxury Elite / Saint Pepsi – Late Night Delight. Archived from the original on January 28, 2020. Retrieved October 13, 2023.
  29. ^ Burke, Timothy (December 22, 2014). "Rape, Murder, Violent Racism: The Weirdest McDonald's Ad Campaign Ever". Deadspin. Archived from the original on November 13, 2020. Retrieved July 28, 2015.
  30. ^ a b c Sheffield, Matthew (October 25, 2016). "Meet Moon Man: The alt-right's racist rap sensation, borrowed from 1980s McDonald's ads". Salon. Archived from the original on January 29, 2019. Retrieved January 31, 2019.
  31. ^ ""OK" and Other Alt Right Memes and Slogans Added to ADL's Hate Symbols Database" (Press release). New York City: Anti-Defamation League. September 26, 2019. Archived from the original on July 20, 2021. Retrieved December 29, 2019.
  32. ^ Allyn, Bobby (September 26, 2019). "The 'OK' Hand Gesture Is Now Listed As A Symbol Of Hate". Boise State Public Radio. Archived from the original on November 16, 2019. Retrieved November 16, 2019.
  33. ^ Kunzelman, Michael (September 26, 2019). "'OK' hand gesture, 'Bowlcut' added to hate symbols database". Associated Press. Archived from the original on March 8, 2021. Retrieved November 24, 2020.