Ronald McDonald, Grimace, Mayor McCheese, the Hamburger, Officer Big Mac, the Fry Guys and Captain Crook were characters that were once a fixture in the Fantasy Land of the Golden Arches restaurants knows as McDonaldland. (Note: Birdie doesn’t make the above list, because it was just stupid.) McDonaldand was developed after the fantasy concept of one of my early favorite TV shows H.R. Pufnstuf (you might get a little but you can’t get enough). Nothing says the the ‘70’s like psychosis, LSD, junk food and Filet-O-Fish Lake. The McD’s characters were a classic example of how big brands would market their product to America’s youth. And guess what? It worked.
As I was watching a recent episode of the History Channel’s American Restoration, the show’s head honcho Rick Dale was the recent recipient of an Officer Big Mac climb-in jail cell from a former McDonald’s playground. It got me thinking of something that I guess was just not on top of my mind of late. Whatever happened to all the the McDonalds characters?
Popularized on TV during cartoons and other prepubescent programs, the McDonaldland characters helped grow McDonald’s business beyond burgers, fries and shakes. Children loved to annoy their parents for a weekend visit to McDonald’s so that they could order a Happy Meal with a character toy inside or hang out in the McDonaldland playgrounds which adorned most McDonald’s. The characters were also plastered on numerous other products including plastic plates and glasses, of which I had plenty. In fact, I still have many of these items around which the kids still use today. My Mom has boxed up the remaining items and I will be picking them up over Thanksgiving.
However, in the new land of the United States of Obesity that we live in, there are an ever increasing amount of strict guidelines to market to children. The Federal Trade Commission has enacted several laws that impacted the dynamics of McDonald’s advertising and the world has forever changed. (And no one says obesity better than Grimace.) McD’s dropped the McDonald land characters in the early 2000’s, but while Ronald McDonald is still around, his friends have long gone, parting ways along with Joe Camel and the Dunkin Donuts guy.
Fact: in China Ronald is known as McDonald Suk-Suk. (that does summarize the food, suck, suck).
Times do change, and we all like to reminisce, though I am not sure anyone overly misses the McDonaldland characters. Remember how excited we were all to watch Sigmund & the Seamonsters a few years ago on a TV Land marathon? Well, it was fun, but not what we remember the show as. It ended up being a little creepy. So yes it’s nice to remember and miss the gang, I don’t believe we need them hocking Shamrock Shakes (delicious). I do however favor Jessica Rabbit selling me some carrots in her seductive ways. Yum.