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Ronald McDonald is a clown character used as the primary mascot of the McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain. In television commercials, the clown inhabited a fantasy world called McDonaldland, in which he had adventures with his friends Mayor McCheese, the Hamburglar, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird and The Fry Kids. By 2003, McDonaldland has been dropped from McDonald's advertising, to which Ronald is instead shown interacting with normal children in their everyday lives.
A Ronald McDonald costumed character in 2007
|Portrayed by||Willard Scott (1963–1965)|
Michael Polakovs (1965–1968)
Bev Bergeron (1966–1968)
Viv Weekes (1968–1970)
George Voorhis (1968–1988)
Ray Rayner (1968–1969)
King Moody (1969–1985)
Squire Fridell (1985–1991)
Jack Doepke (1991–1999)
David Hussey (2000–2014)
Brad Lennon (2014–present)
|Voiced by||Squire Fridell (Ronald McDonald and the Adventure Machine, The Adventures of Ronald McDonald: McTreasure Island)|
Jack Doepke (The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald; ep. 1–3)
David Hussey (The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald; ep. 4–6)
Bob Stephenson (Logorama)
|Occupation||Clown mascot for the McDonald's fast food chain|
Many people work full-time making appearances in the Ronald McDonald costume, visiting children in hospitals and attending regular events. At its height there may have been as many as 300 full-time clowns at McDonald's. There are also Ronald McDonald Houses, where parents can stay overnight when visiting sick children in nearby chronic care facilities.
The origin of Ronald McDonald involves Willard Scott (at the time, a local radio personality who also played Bozo the Clown on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. from 1959 until 1962), who 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.
- 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.
At the time, Scott was working for Oscar Goldstein, the Washington DC area McDonald's franchisee, and numerous sources describe Scott's role as only playing the part of Ronald McDonald, while giving credit for the creation of the mascot to Goldstein and his ad agency.
McDonald's does not mention George Voorhis or acknowledge that Willard Scott created Ronald in their statement:
"The smile known around the world," Ronald McDonald is second only to Santa Claus in terms of recognition. (According to one survey, 96% of all schoolchildren in the United States of America recognize Ronald (stunning-stuff.com)). In his first television appearance in 1963, the clown was portrayed by Willard Scott.
On March 28, 2000, Henry Gonzalez, McDonald's Northeast Division President, thanked Scott for creating Ronald McDonald, during a taped tribute to Scott on the Today Show. Yet in 1965, Roy Burgold assigned Aye Jaye as Boss Clown worldwide in charge of hiring, writing, creating shows, media handling, training and major events such as The White House appearances, Macy Days, etc., and finally opening Ronald worldwide for 35 years. Aye Jaye was responsible for the hiring of hundreds of past field Ronalds.
In 2010, the Corporate Accountability International in Boston, Massachusetts suggested Ronald McDonald should retire due to childhood obesity. However, McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner said there are no plans to retire him.
In April 2011, McDonald's announced that Ronald McDonald will reappear in their commercials, but Ace Metrix stated Ronald McDonald ads are no longer effective. 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 April 2014, McDonald's announced that Ronald McDonald would have a whole new look and new outfits. They also announced that he would be back in their new commercials as well as on social media websites 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.
At any given time, there are dozens to hundreds of actors retained by McDonald's to appear as Ronald McDonald in restaurants and events. It is assumed, however, that the company uses only one actor at a time to play the character in national television commercials. Following is a list of primary American Ronald McDonald actors.
- Willard Scott (Washington, D.C. 1963–1965)
- Bev Bergeron (Southern California, 1966–1968)
- George Voorhis (Southern California, 1968–1988)
- Michael Polakovs (1965–1968)
- Ray Rayner (1968–1969)
- King Moody (1969–1985)
- Squire Fridell (1985–1991)
- Jack Doepke (1991–1999)
- David Hussey (2000–2014)
- Brad Lennon (2014–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.
In Thailand, Ronald McDonald greets people in the traditional Thai "wai" greeting gesture of both hands pressed together. The Thai version of the company mascot was created in 2002 by the local Thai franchise, McThai, as part of a "McThai in the Thai Spirit" campaign. The figure has also been exported to India and other countries where a similar gesture is used. In China, out of respect for Ronald McDonald as an adult, children refer to him as 麦当劳叔叔 (Uncle McDonald). In Japan, Ronald McDonald is called Donald McDonald due to a lack of a clear "r" sound in Japanese enunciation.
Charlton Comics obtained the license to publish four issues of a Ronald comic sold on newsstands in 1970–1971. Over the years several giveaway comics have also been produced starring the character.
In 1991, Ronald appears in the Discover the Rainforest activity book series consisting of Paint It Wild: Paint & See Activity Book, Sticker Safari: Sticker and Activity Book, Wonders in the Wild: Activity Book, and Ronald McDonald and the Jewel of the Amazon Kingdom: Storybook, which are written by Mike Roberts and Russell Mittermeier, Gad Meiron, and Randall Stone, and illustrated by Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer, in which he is seen here as a nature show host and tour guide.
In 1987, Ronald McDonald (with Birdie, Hamburglar, Grimace and the Professor) appeared in an eight-minute animated short film titled Ronald McDonald and the Adventure Machine, which was only shown in birthday parties at McDonald's restaurants.
From 1998 until 2003 a series of direct-to-video animated episodes titled The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald and produced by Klasky Csupo were released in participating McDonald's worldwide on VHS.
Ronald McDonald is the protagonist of two video games: McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure, developed by Treasure for the Mega Drive console and released in 1993, and Ronald McDonald in Magical World, developed by SIMS for the Game Gear handheld, released only in Japan in 1994. Ronald McDonald is also featured in two more video games: M.C. Kids for NES, Game Boy, C64, Amiga, Atari ST, and MS-DOS; and Global Gladiators for Genesis, Master System, Game Gear and Amiga.
Ronald McDonald appears for a few seconds in the 1988 film Mac and Me during a birthday scene set at a McDonald's. He is played by Squire Fridell, but is credited as "Ronald McDonald as himself". He won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst New Star for his appearance in the film. The character also prominently appears in the theatrical trailer for the film.
Because of his prominence, Ronald McDonald has become a symbol, not just of McDonald's but of the fast food industry in the USA as a whole, as well as Corporate America, capitalism, globalization and other broader topics. As such, the costume and iconography of Ronald McDonald is often appropriated by protestors and artists wishing to subvert the icon and communicate a message that runs counter to the corporate narrative. For example, in 2000, protestors in Hong Kong dressed as Ronald McDonald to protest McDonald's labor policy in China.
Criticism and failed retirementEdit
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Critics claimed that a clown mascot targeting children for fast food is unethical. A group of 550 doctors took out newspaper ads in 2011, insisting Ronald McDonald retire. In 2010, the Corporate Accountability International in Boston, Massachusetts suggested that Ronald McDonald should be retired due to childhood obesity in the United States; however, then-McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner replied there were no plans to retire the character. 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 afterwards, McDonald's Website News Statements announced that Ronald McDonald is here to stay. In 2014, McDonald's new CEO Don Thompson said that Ronald McDonald does not encourage kids to eat unhealthy foods, but only spreads joy and smiles.
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- JOHN ALBANO: JONAH HEX and RONALD McDONALD!
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ronald McDonald.|
- Schlosser, E. (2006) Chew on this: everything you don’t want to know about fast food. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.