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Ronald McDonald

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For other people named Ronald McDonald, see Ronald McDonald (disambiguation).
Ronald McDonald
A Ronald McDonald statue in Thailand, 2005, greeting guests with the traditional Thai "wai" gesture
First appearance 1963
Portrayed by Willard Scott (1963–1965)
Bev Bergeron (1966–1968)
Viv Weekes (1968–1970)
George Voorhis (1968–1988)
Ray Rayner (1968–1969)
Bob Brandon (1970–1975)
King Moody (1975–1984)
Squire Fridell (1984–1991)
Jack Doepke (1990–1995)
Joe Maggard (1995–2007)
Brad Lennon (2007–present)
Bob Stephenson (Logorama only)
Voiced by Squire Fridell (The Adventures of Ronald McDonald: McTreasure Island)
Joe Maggard (The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald)
Gender Male
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 inhabited 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 children 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.


Willard Scott[edit]

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.[1]

Scott, who went on to become NBC-TV's Today Show weatherman, claims to have "created Ronald McDonald" according to the following excerpt from his book Joy of Living:

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.[1]

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.[2]

McDonald's version[edit]

Ronald McDonald with musician Enrique Iglesias, 1999
The original Ronald McDonald as pictured on the United States trademark application filed in 1967

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 ( 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.

Circus performer Coco the Clown (real name Michael Polakovs) was hired in 1966 to revamp Ronald's image, and it was he who created the now familiar costume and make-up.[3]

In 2010, the Corporate Accountability International in Boston, Massachusetts suggested Ronald McDonald should retire due to childhood obesity,[4] however McDonald's CEO Jim Skinner said there are no plans to retire Ronald McDonald.[5]

In April 2011, McDonald's announced that Ronald McDonald will re-appear in their commercials.[6] 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.[7] 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.[8] In April 2014, McDonald's announced that Ronald McDonald will have a whole new look and new outfits. They also announced that he will be back in their new commercials as well as on social media sites like Twitter.[9] 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.[10][11]


Willard Scott as Ronald McDonald, from the first of three pre-recorded television advertisements to feature Ronald.

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.

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.

Licensed works[edit]

Comic books[edit]

Charlton Comics obtained the license to publish four issues of a Ronald comic sold on newsstands in 1970–1971.[14] Also, over the years several giveaway comics have been produced starring the character.[15]

Ronald (with Grimace) appears in the 1984 Little Golden Book Ronald McDonald and the Tale of the Talking Plant, written by John Albano and drawn by John Costanza.[16]

Animated video series[edit]

The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald was a series of retail animated direct-to-video features produced by DIC Entertainment and 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.

Video games[edit]

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,[17] and Ronald McDonald in Magical World, developed by SIMS for the Game Gear handheld, released only in Japan in 1994.[18]


Ronald McDonald appears for a few seconds in the 1988 movie 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".

International localization[edit]

Ronald McDonald at a military base in Southwest Asia.

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.[19] In China, out of respect for Ronald McDonald as an adult, the 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.[20]


  1. ^ a b "Big Burger Business: McDonald's and Burger King". Heavyweights. Season 2. Episode 3. 2008-04-21. Food Network. 
  2. ^ [1]
  3. ^ Bone, James (28 December 2009), "Michael Polakovs: Circus Clown", The Times, London, retrieved 2 August 2010 
  4. ^
  5. ^ McDonald's says no way Ronald will retire, Yahoo!, retrieved 2 August 2010 
  6. ^ Gasparro, Annie (April 7, 2011), McDonald's Puts Ronald Back to Work, Wall Street Journal, retrieved 2 April 2011 
  7. ^ Rexrode, Christina (2011-05-19). "Midlife crisis for Ronald McDonald?". The Sun News. Associated Press. Retrieved 2011-05-19. 
  8. ^ McDonald's Says Ronald is Here to Stay,, retrieved 18 May 2011 
  9. ^ Ronald McDonald Loses Jumpsuit and Joins Twitter, retrieved 24 April 2014 
  10. ^ Ronald McDonald gets a new look; Twitter says, 'NotLovinIt', retrieved April 25, 2014 
  11. ^ Williams, Alex (24 April 2014). "Ronald McDonald Officially A Hipster". WebProNews. Retrieved 26 April 2014. 
  12. ^
  13. ^ Province, Ben (October 19, 2011). "MBU Runs for Ronald". Malibu Times. Retrieved April 25, 2012. 
  14. ^ Ronald McDonald Vol. 2, No. 3
  15. ^ Ronald McDonald and the Fries Farmers
  17. ^ McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure February 05, 2017
  18. ^ Ronald McDonald in Magical World September 20, 2009
  19. ^ Rungfapaisarn, Kwanchai. "Ronald's 'wai' to hit the States." The Nation (Thailand), September 18, 2002
  20. ^ "Ronald and Donald McDonald keep their cultural identities". Seattle Post-Intelligencer, December 17, 1996

Further reading[edit]

  • Schlosser, E. (2006) Chew on this: everything you don’t want to know about fast food. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Co.