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A Ronald McDonald statue in Thailand, 2005, greeting guests with the traditional Thai "wai" gesture
|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 (1970–1984)
Squire Fridell (1985–1990)
Jack Doepke (1991–1999)
David Hussey (2000–2014)
Brad Lennon (2014–present)
Bob Stephenson (Logorama only)
|Voiced by||Squire Fridell (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)
|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. Since 2003, 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.
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 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. 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. 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)
- Ray Rayner (1968–1969)
- King Moody (1971–1984)
- Squire Fridell (1985–1990)
- Jack Doepke (1991–1999)
- David Hussey (2000–2014)
- Brad Lennon (2014–present)
An actor named Joe Maggard claims to have performed as Ronald McDonald between 1995 and 2007, but these dates overlap with the portrayals by Jack Doepke and David Hussey. On July 22, 2017, a YouTube user by the name of SuperSonicTailsEas posted a video comparing the facial features of the 1995-2007 iteration of Ronald and Maggard out-of-costume, pointing out discrepancies that seem to disprove Maggard's claims. Furthermore, in a 2003 article by The Baltimore Sun, a spokesperson for McDonald's said that Mr. Maggard was simply a stand-in for Ronald for one commercial shoot in the mid-1990s, and that "he is definitely not Ronald McDonald."
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. Also, over the years several giveaway comics have been produced starring the character.
Animated video series
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.
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 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".
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.
Critics have claimed that a clown mascot targeting children for fast food is unethical. A group of 550 doctors took out newspaper ads in 2011 demanding Ronald McDonald's retirement.
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- Ronald McDonald Vol. 2, No. 3
- Ronald McDonald and the Fries Farmers
- JOHN ALBANO: JONAH HEX and RONALD McDONALD!
- McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure gamefaqs.com February 05, 2017
- Ronald McDonald in Magical World gamefaqs.com September 20, 2009
- Smith, Andrew F. (2016). Fast Food: The Good, the Bad and the Hungry. Reaktion Books Ltd. ISBN 9781780236094.
- Goldwert, Lindsay (2011-05-19). "Is Ronald McDonald an evil influence? McDonalds hits back at clown critics". NY Daily News. Retrieved 2017-04-02.
- 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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