Ronald McDonald is a character, created in 1963, as the advertising mascot of McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain. Depicted as a famous smiling, friendly clown in a village of food-related characters, he appeared in many vignettes creating a safe, pleasant fantasy for children. The highly successful advertising campaign still continues to draw in thousands of children and parents to purchase McDonalds' famous happy meal.
According to Fast Food Nation (2001), 96 percent of schoolchildren in the US can identify Ronald McDonald. Only Santa Claus was more commonly recognized.
Many of the restaurants are decorated with a life-size statue of the clown, holding out his hand to greet customers at the entrance, and children love to shake hands with him. Sometimes the figure is sitting on a bench allowing children to sit next to him or on his lap.
In television commercials, Ronald inhabits a fantasy world called McDonaldland and has adventures with his friends Grimace, Hamburglar, Birdie the Early Bird, and The Fry Kids. In recent years, however, the somewhat "childish" McDonaldland premise has been largely phased out, and Ronald is instead shown interacting with normal kids in their everyday lives.
Several people work full-time making appearances in the Ronald McDonald costume, visiting children in hospitals. There are also several Ronald McDonald Houses, where parents can stay overnight when visiting sick children in nearby chronic care facilities.
Due to the controversy over fast food, critics have likened Ronald McDonald to Joe Camel, the former mascot of Camel cigarettes.
Few people know that there is a real Ronald who is a member of the family that started McDonald's. Ronald Lee McDonald, the nephew of McDonald's founders Dick and Mac McDonald, is a successful businessman, consultant, and author.
At any given time, there are dozens, or possibly hundreds, of actors retained by McDonald's to appear as Ronald McDonald in local 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 such "primary" Ronald actors.
- Willard Scott (1963 – 1966)
- Bob Brandon (1966 – present)
- King Moody (1970s)
- Geoffrey Gulliano (late 1970s – early 1980s)
- Joe Maggard (mid-1990s)
- "I feel badly about what I've done with young people. I was the happy face on something that was horrendous." —Geoffrey Gulliano, former Ronald actor who later embraced vegetarianism
- "For the last eight years I have documented coercion, threats, intimidation and manipulation by McDonald's and Leo Burnett Advertising against me due directly to my work as Ronald McDonald." —Joe Maggard, former Ronald actor, 2003
Last updated: 10-25-2005 22:46:39