A Ronald McDonald statue in Thailand, 2005, greeting guests with the traditional Thai "wai" gesture
|Created by||Willard Scott|
|Portrayed by||Willard Scott
and Bob Stephenson (Logorama only)
|Occupation||Clown mascot for the McDonald's fast food chain|
Ronald McDonald is a clown character used as the primary mascot of the McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain. In television commercials, the clown inhabits a fantasy world called McDonaldland, and has adventures with his friends Mayor McCheese, the Hamburglar, Grimace, Birdie the Early Bird, and The Fry Kids. In recent years, McDonaldland has been largely phased out, and Ronald is instead shown interacting with normal kids in their everyday lives.
Many people work full-time making appearances in the Ronald McDonald costume, visiting children in hospitals, and attending regular events. 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.
McDonald's does not mention Voorhis or claim 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 school kids in the United States of America recognize Ronald (stunning-stuff.com)). In his first TV 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.
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 Ronald McDonald.
In April 2011, McDonald's announced that Ronald McDonald will re-appear in their commercials. However, Ace Metrix says 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.
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 such primary Ronald actors.
- Willard Scott (Washington, D.C. 1963–1965)
- Bev Bergeron (Southern California, 1966–1968)
- George Voorhis (Southern California, 1968–1988)
- Ray Rayner (1968–1969)
- King Moody (1975–1984)
- Squire Fridell (1984–1991)
- Jack Doepke (1990–1995)
- Joe Maggard (1995–2007)
- 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.
Charlton Comics obtained the license to publish four issues of a Ronald comic sold on newsstands in 1970–1971. Also, over the years several giveaway comics have been produced starring the character.
He appears for a few seconds in Mac and Me, during a birthday scene set at a McDonald's.
Animated video series
The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald was a series of retail animated direct-to-video features produced by the ka-chew! division of Klasky-Csupo for the McDonald's fast-food restaurant chain. A total of six 40-minute tapes were produced, released at various times between 1998 and 2003.
Ronald McDonald is also the subject of a video game developed by Sega, and released in Japan in 1994.
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 Japan, Ronald McDonald is called Donald McDonald due to a lack of a clear "r" sound in Japanese. A pair of McDonald's advertisements for the Tomato McGrand in Japan feature either a "sexy" male and female, both dressed in modern clothing with the Ronald McDonald color scheme.
- "Big Burger Business: McDonald's and Burger King". Heavyweights. Season 2. Episode 3. 2008-04-21. Food Network. http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_iz/episode/0,3195,FOOD_31138_56604,00.html.
- Bone, James (28 December 2009), "Michael Polakovs: Circus Clown", The Times (London), retrieved 2 August 2010
- McDonald's says no way Ronald will retire, Yahoo!, retrieved 2 August 2010
- Gasparro, Annie (April 7, 2011), McDonald's Puts Ronald Back to Work, Wall Street Journal, retrieved 2 April 2011
- Rexrode, Christina (2011-05-19). "Midlife crisis for Ronald McDonald?". The Sun News. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-05-19.
- McDonald's Says Ronald is Here to Stay, McDonalds.com, retrieved 18 May 2011
- Province, Ben (October 19, 2011). "MBU Runs for Ronald". Malibu Times. Retrieved April 25, 2012.
- Ronald McDonald Vol. 2, No. 3
- Ronald McDonald and the Fries Farmers
- JOHN ALBANO: JONAH HEX and RONALD McDONALD!
- Ronald McDonald in Magical World gamefaqs.com September 20, 2009
- Rungfapaisarn, Kwanchai. "Ronald's 'wai' to hit the States." The Nation (Thailand), September 18, 2002
- "Ronald and Donald McDonald keep their cultural identities". Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 17, 1996
- Schlosser, E. (2006) Chew on this: everything you don’t want to know about fast food. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.
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