Most fast food restaurant chains come with a pretty decent package of goods: Food that essentially sells itself. Whether it be the Colonel’s deep fried chicken, Wendy’s square burger patties and well … the list on from there. But there within, these restaurant chains have loads of help selling those burgers, chicken and other tasty treats, and that help comes in the form of the plethora of characters like the aforementioned Colonel and pig-tailed Wendy. Perhaps none of these are as big a name or as recognizable a face as Ronald McDonald himself. Here are a few things you didn’t know about the jolly clown.
10. He Didn’t Always Look as he Does Now
Of course it’s rather natural for things to change over the course of time. If things stayed the same, society wouldn’t be going anywhere and staying stagnant really doesn’t ignite progress, so we more than understand the necessity of change, no matter how difficult it is for a lot of us to accept. It seems that the McDonald’s corporation has no problem with change, as they’ve made quite a few changes over the years and not only with the incredible amount of menu items we’ve seen over the years, sometimes seeing our favorite sandwiches and offerings disappearing from menus all over the globe (so long MLT … we still miss you). The changes we’ve seen also come when looking at the cast of colorful characters that have helped McDonald’s sell their food to the world, the corporation reshaping them and molding them from generation to generation. Perhaps the character that has been revamped the most was none other than everybody’s favorite clown, Ronald McDonald. At first, the company wasn’t sure what direction to take him in, and he wasn’t the friendliest looking character out of the bunch and yes, if one would look at the picture long enough, a feeling of creepiness would outshine any rumblings of hunger that may have been felt at the onset.
9. Was Portrayed by The Incomparable Willard Scott
The portrayal of this lovable but creepy clown was offered by none other than comedy and radio personality Willard Scott. His portrayal didn’t last all that long, but it definitely made an impact on one and all, as he set the tone for the character, ultimately deciding where it would go in the future. Scott, who played the character for two years, from 1963 to 1965, is an author, presenter, host and funny man, most famous for his TV weatherman role on The Today Show and of course donning the clown suit and face paint of Ronald McDonald himself. He is also credited as being the creator of the character and that’s no small feat. He was no stranger to playing a clown, as he had previously played the infamous Bozo The Clown for WRC TV in Washington. The corporation hasn’t exactly credited Scott as having created the character, but industry insiders have made the fact fairly known. It was actually his portrayal that set the tone, although the character wouldn’t come to be as it is known today until much later, the foundation was set.
8. A Total of 10 Different Actors Have Played The Mighty Clown
Now a lot of different small time actors have been hired to play Ronald at local McDonalds locations for events, or maybe even birthday parties, but these were not the main “Ronalds” that were used for advertisements and major public appearances on TV and of course other public demands. For such occasions, professional actors were hired and some of them for specific amounts of time. After Scott hung up the clown suit for a cushy job presenting the weather, Bev Bergeron was given the gig and he held the position for two years. Some of the actors overlapped and shared the responsibility of bringing joy and burgers to the world, but the longest playing Ronald was probably George Voorhis, who played Ronald McDonald for a whopping twenty years in total. He was famously responsible for ushering the Big Mac to the world and he performed at a record number of openings around the States and elsewhere, sometimes bringing his daughter along for the appearance. Other performers who donned the suit include: Michael Polakovs, Ray Rayner, King Moody, Squire Fridell and a few others. He is currently played by Brad Lennon. He took up the position in 2014.
7. He Almost Wasn’t a Clown
Despite the success that the Ronald McDonald character has had, and of course thinking of the buzz he brought the restaurants, it’s quite a mazing to find out that he almost wasn’t going to be a clown at all when the franchise owners first thought up the idea of having a company mascot to help sell burgers and fries. Two ideas were kicked around the boardroom and when seen now, these ideas don’t really seem like they would have worked: The first character idea was for Ronald to be a cowboy! It’s true. The whole cowboy thing was pretty in back then, Westerns having the run of Hollywood, the company figured that a cowboy would really sit well with consumers, especially children who looked up to these cowboy characters, but the idea was ultimately scrapped. The second idea was a tad more far-fetched, as it were, when execs thought that a space man would be the ultimate spokesman for the restaurant and be the right character to hype up their menu of items sold. The thought process here was that the space program in the States was pretty much big news and they figured the character would hit home with many consumers out there. But now that we have a clown as McDonald’s spokesman, it seems unreal and unlikely that anyone would have ever accepted these other characters in that role. Of course, we’ll never know, but we’ll take Ronald over the Space Man and Wild Bill from the Wild West any day of the week.
6. At First He Was The Spokesman For Only A Single Franchise
This is actually a fact that not many are privy to. Before the McDonald’s corporation would catch on and use the character for world-wide promotions, the Ronald McDonald character was used primarily at one location … the Washington DC local owned and operated by Oscar Goldstein and John Gibson. It was this specific franchise that can be made responsible for the creation of this character, along with the aforementioned Willard Scott of course. But talk about heat. This character caught on and in a big way. It was a million dollar idea and it did just what they originally though it would do, and that was to bring huge amounts of attention to a company and restaurant that was already doing quite well already. Ronald McDonald was the proverbial cherry atop the already scrumptious piece of cake.
5. A Hefty Ronald Gets Terminated
Many wondered why Willard Scott only did two years as the character he helped bring to fruition. These days, Hollywood celebrities are weary of playing a character for too long, as they fear that they will be associated with the character so much, they won’t be able to broaden their horizons and do other things with their career. Many have wondered if this was the case for Scott. Well, the actual truth is a tad more controversial and well, it’ll inspire many to feel a tad bad for the famous weatherman. As it turned out back then, the powers that be up the ladder felt that a slightly thinner man would be better at convincing the world to sell fries, burgers and cold cola drinks to children and the masses. It definitely seems odd, but as it turns out, society was a little more health conscious than we would like to think back then, because the idea worked and the actor they took next was thinner and the outlook was a tad better, the performance being recorded as a plus rather than a negative. Go figure. One would think that a more portly individual would convince the masses that he had a bunch of tasty food items to peddle, the idea being that he’s sampled the goods himself.
4. A Brush With The Law
As is the case with many Hollywood celebrities these days, the many actors that donned the paint and yellow jumpsuit have also had their fair share of run ins with the authorities, and we wonder … does that make them legit celebrities, or does it tarnish the symbol of the golden arches? Of course we’re not talking anything serious here. Nobody was given a life sentence or anything, but a few of these stories do prove that there’s a bad boy in all of us … even a loveable clown handing out cheeseburgers and fries. First, we should mention that the company requests that actors portraying the famous clown should stay in character at all times while in the suit and a lot of them have taken this rule a tad too seriously. One such actor was involved in a bit of a car accident a few years back and when police arrived on the scene, they were quite shocked and amused to see who was in one of the cars involved. But things turned serious pretty quickly when the clown in question refused to give them his actual given civilian name. It almost presented the ultimate in problems … a night or more in jail, but the cops finally let him go despite. They must have secretly been fans of the clown when they were kids. Either that or he gave them coupons for free cheeseburgers. We’ll never know, really.
3. Donald? No … It’s Ronald!
His name is pretty much easy to remember. After all, it does rhyme, and rhymes were invented to help us remember things, much like pneumonic devises. And for many of us out there who grew up knowing of him and maybe even meeting him once at our local McDonald’s restaurant, we probably even pictured him as the title character in the “Old McDonald” song we heard as children. No? Just us then? Okay. Regardless, the name is pretty straight forward, but as it turns out, not everybody thinks so. In Japan, the character is actually named Donald, and no, not that Donald. After all this one’s got red hair, not blond. But the reason for this is simply because the word Ronald in Japanese would be pretty hard to say and wouldn’t be as catchy either, so the name was simply changed to Donald, and it made a world of difference. Furthermore, the character there was actually redesigned to be younger and of the female orientation, giving old Ronald, or Donald a completely different and revitalized look. And what more? They actually got rid of the old yellow jumpsuit and wrapped this version of the clown in a dress, but thankfully they kept the same color scheme going, because that would have been way too confusing, right? Sure. The man behind the campaign is simply known as Kazoo, another one name person like Madonna or Prince. We’re waiting for the period of time when even this guy starts going by the moniker: “The artist formerly known as Kazoo,” but don’t hold your breath, friends. Regardless, his idea came from the popular costume play trend that is a hit in Japan and the campaign actually did quite well there, being especially popular among teenage girls of the area.
2. Ronald Is The Ultimate Survivor
The children of the eighties and nineties were subject to a pretty interesting lineup of characters whenever they went to McDonald’s or saw an ad on TV while they were watching their Saturday morning cartoons. And when we say lineup, we mean a whole crew of characters ranging from the most unreal to the absolutely ridiculous. But we loved them just the same, and many feel that today’s generation is missing out. They were meant to be Ronald’s best buds and well, the camaraderie the youth of past generations witnessed gave them an overall feeling of coziness and togetherness as they enjoyed their Happy Meals and plethora of McDonald’s included toys. It’s actually quite sad now to see all these characters lost to time and the corporate mechanism of moving forward. They were such a part of our lives and perhaps just as impactful as Big Bird, Bert and Ernie too. The names bring a feeling of nostalgia to our hearts as we look back: Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, Birdie and Early Bird, the cuddly and loveable Grimace, The Hamburglar, the Fry Kids and a plethora of other colorful buddies that are quite hard to forget. But rumblings of bringing back the Hamburglar are being heard and we hope that this plan comes to fruition, because Ronald needs some company, as it can get quite lonely when McDonald’s closes for the night and the place is so quiet you can hear a pin drop. Besides, how many times can Ronald go down the slide in the play park before getting sick and tired?
1. Long Live “The Hype”
McDonald’s have enjoyed decades of success, and it doesn’t only come at the hands of the many men and women that keep up the standards of the franchise every day at many worldwide locations, or even the popularity its enjoyed in the mainstream. At the end of the day, the success of McDonalds can pretty much come down to the hype that they themselves have built up over the years, and very much like the professional wrestling industry, the corporation believes the hype that they spread and wouldn’t speak against it of their existence depended on it. In the wrestling business it’s known as Kayfabe, and it can best be described as the practice of keeping up appearances and going along with the storyline they present in the ring even when walking into a hotel, checking their bags or even ordering a meal. Of course these days, it isn’t as strict, but back in the day, it was common practice. Well, McDonald’s isn’t all that different, as they act like they truly believe that Ronald McDonald is a real life person. They have yet to admit to the hiring of actors to play he part and have actually negated this, putting forth the belief that he is real and he brings joy to the masses. Now how’s that for Kayfabe?