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"McDonaldland" was a universe used in McDonald's advertising from 1971 until 2003. It was created by Needham, Harper & Steers.

McDonaldland is a brightly colored, idealistic fantasy world inhabited by various mascot characters, representing items on the McDonalds menu. There's the main mascot, a clown named Ronald McDonald; Grimace; Hamburglar; and the French Fry Kids. Birdie the Early Bird was introduced in the early 1980s to advertise the breakfast menu, the Happy Meal Gang were introduced in 1979, and 1984 introduced the McNugget Buddies, while 1998 introduced a dog named Sundae. There were also various minor characters like Uncle O'Grimacey, CosMc, and Iam Hungry. In 1971, McDonald's got into a lawsuit over Mayor McCheese. As a result of the lawsuit, the character and several others were later retired. Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, Captain Crook (later changed to just "the Captain"), and the Professor were used until 1988. Outside of McDonaldland, there was also Mac Tonight, a moon-headed jazz singer who was introduced to promote McDonald's after-4:00 pm. dinner hours.

In the early 2000s, McDonaldland was starting to phased away. McDonald's switched to the "I'm Lovin' It" campaign and did away with its cartoony characters. The sole exception was Ronald McDonald, who continued to be their iconic mascot until he was replaced with a Minion-esque anthropomorphic Happy Meal box named "Happy" in 2014 (and even then, Ronald hasn't been completely phased out). In 2015, the Hamburglar was temporarily brought back to advertise a new menu item. In June 2023, McDonald's celebrated Grimace's birthday by bringing him and some of the gang back for a few commercials and promotions.

For years the franchise existed as more than just simple advertisements. Throughout its lifespan, there was a lot of McDonaldland merchandise. This included the "McDonaldland Fun Times" magazine, The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald direct-to-VHS cartoon series, a line of action figures, and the video games McKids and McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure.

McDonaldland provides examples of:

  • Abandoned Mascot: For the most part, everyone but Ronald was scrapped in 2003. Birdie, Grimace and Hamburglar still occasionally appear on packaging (such as the "McDonaldland Cookies") and they still appear in stores that haven't removed the characters from the play areas or windows.
    • Before that, the various hamburger characters from the early days were dropped in the 1980's due to a lawsuit.
  • Animated Adaptation:
    • The Adventures of Ronald McDonald: McDonaldland Treasure Island is an animated film from 1989 produced by Dic Entertainment.
    • The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald is a series of direct-to-video cartoons produced from the late 1990s to the early 2000s that could be received when going to McDonalds.
  • Art Evolution: The designs started off being heavily inspired by the Kroft Brothers. To fix this issue after they sued, the designs were handed off to lead puppet master Tony Urbano and reworked to look more friendly and remove as much of the original influence as possible once the 80s rolled around.
    • Interestingly, some of the redesigns didn't roll out until well into the 1980s, with Grimace in particular keeping his 70s look until 1986.
  • The Artifact:
    • Officially McDonaldland is no more in most areas. But many, many McDonald's around the world haven't redesigned their stores, so the characters still appear (especially in the playground areas). They also appear on some packaging.
    • Grimace's name made sense when he was a villain. It is an Ironic Name when he was retooled into a Gentle Giant.
  • Barefoot Cartoon Animal: Birdie, who wears only goggles and overalls.
  • Black Comedy: There were a couple commercials in the 1980s where the Hamburglar tried (unsuccessfully, thank goodness) to nab the talking burgers. In one of them (done inside Hamburger University), Ronald catches him and makes him write on the chalkboard as punishment.
  • Blatant Burglar: The Hamburglar wears a domino mask and a costume with black-and-white horizontal stripes. (One commercial claimed he wore all-black when he first came to McDonaldland, until one of his hijinks turned it striped.) His frequent mutterings of "robble robble robble" don't exactly help hide his intentions, either.
  • Born as an Adult: The commercial "The Night Birdie the Early Bird Came to McDonaldland" shows Birdie hatching from her egg fully grown and able to speak fluently.
  • Bowling for Ratings: One commercial, entitled "Bowling For Burgers" features Ronald, Grimace, and Birdie at the bowling alley, trying to knock down all the pins. When Birdie goes for a strike, the pins, dressed in baseball attire, dodge the ball and say "You're out!". Grimace then tries to make a spare by tossing a tire, but the pins dodge it, too. Ronald then knocks down the pins by having his sentient bowling ball scare them.
  • The Bus Came Back: While the McDonaldland concept hasn't been revisited since 2003, beginning in the 2010s and 2020s decade, some of the McDonald Land characters (notably Grimace and The Hamburglar) has slowly started resurfacing back to the spotlight. Between 2013 and 2014, there were two live stage shows (Ronald McDonald & Friends Friendship Adventure Show and Musical Show of Ronald McDonald respectively) starring Ronald, Birdie, Grimace, and Hamburglar together performed at a few countries across America. Occasionally Grimace or The Hamburglar would make rare live appearances at some local McDonald restaurants for special events, some of their official social media account (such as McDonalds official TikTok) posts, and sometimes appear during Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade beginning in 2020. Grimace's most recent appearance was in a 2022 Super Bowl commercial where he was voiced by Ryan Reynolds.
  • The Cameo: The McDonaldland characters appeared in one early episode of You Can't Do That on Television, when it was a local series for Ottawa viewers only. Grimace gave hostess Christine McGlade a glomp, temporarily throwing her off, while one of the other kids tried to eat Mayor McCheese.
  • Captain Ersatz:
    • Ronald McDonald himself. In the Washington, D.C. area, Bozo the Clown made appearances at local McDonald's bringing in massive crowds. When the show was cancelled, actor Willard Scott (yes, the weatherman) created a new costume and name while keeping the Bozo act.
    • While few could deny that Captain Crook was intended to be a direct parody of Peter Pan's foe, he certainly seemed to specifically resemble Disney's version of Captain Hook.
    • The other McDonaldland characters were blatantly ripped off from H.R. Pufnstuf after Sid and Marty Krofft Productions refused to license the original characters. The company sued and McDonald's ended up paying a large settlement.
  • Catchphrase: The Hamburglar's was "Robble Robble!"
  • Celebrity Paradox: Funnily enough, there are McDonald's restaurants within McDonaldland.
  • Characterization Marches On:
    • Grimace was the "Evil Grimace" for all of one year. Between 1971 and 1972, he was given a personality overhaul once it was determined he was scaring kids.
    • The Hamburglar was originally a menace, but he was softened up over the years.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
    • The McDonaldland characters outside of Ronald haven't been since the early 2000s. Even Ronald himself barely appears in new ads.
    • Mayor McCheese has almost disappeared entirely after lawsuits from the owners of H.R. Pufnstuf.
  • A Dog Named "Dog":
  • Dumb Is Good: The Grimace. Though he wasn't exactly a genius when he was evil, either.
  • Early Installment Character-Design Difference:
    • The very first commercials featuring Ronald McDonald (which predated McDonaldland by eight years) depicted Ronald with brownish hair in addition to having a costume solely of yellow and red stripes, white gloves and a styrofoam cup over his nose.
    • In his days as the Evil Grimace, Grimace had four arms. He would lose the extra arms once retooled as a friendlier character.
    • The Hamburglar originally looked much older and had a huge, pointed nose as well as yellow spots on his necktie. He got several redesigns over the years after he joined Grimace in becoming one of Ronald's friends, eventually gaining the red-haired, youthful appearance and necktie decorated with burgers by the mid-1980's.
    • Birdie the Early Bird in her earliest commercials had a pointier beak and longer pigtails, plus her eyelashes were thicker and her overalls were a lighter shade of pink and had an image of a smiling sun above the McDonald's M (itself a reference to the now-dropped logo for the restaurant's breakfast menu).
  • The Face of the Sun: The sun has a face in one commercial, along with The Man in the Moon.
  • Fantastic Flora: Talking hamburgers grow in patches, and talking trees produce apple pies.
  • Feather Fingers: Birdie's wing feathers function as if they were fingers.
  • Fictional Video Game:
    • A 1987 ad has Grimace playing Cheeseburger Chase, where the objective is for Hamburglar to run through a maze, with a little incentive.
    • In another ad from late in the campaign, Ronald and Hamburglar play one where they race to McDonald's for the last fry.
  • Frankenstein's Monster: A 1995 Halloween ad campaign revolved around Ronald McDonald trying to decide what he'll go as. He eventually gets the idea of going as Frankenstein's monster after an encounter with a particularly goofy Frankenstein monster. The monster in turn chooses to go as Ronald.
  • Friendly Enemy: Even before they were retooled into being friendlier characters, Ronald had a tendency to allow Grimace, Captain Crook and the Hamburglar to join him and the children in consuming McDonald's food after their attempts to steal the same food.
  • Goggles Do Nothing: Birdie is rarely, if ever, seen with her aviator goggles over her eyes.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Hamburglar and Captain Crook can occasionally be observed hanging out with the other characters without even trying anything sneaky.
  • Grows on Trees: Apple pies grow on trees, and French Fries grow on bushes.
  • Harmless Villain: Pretty much any villain who menaced McDonaldland was easily fooled and outsmarted by Ronald and his child friends; Captain Crook, the Goblins, and the Hamburglar started off this way, before mellowing and becoming cuter and even more harmless. Even Grimace was one before he was changed to a nicer character.
  • Level Ate: Much of McDonaldland is made of food, like the Thick Shake Volcanoes, Hamburger Patches, and Apple Pie Trees.
  • Lighter and Softer: The Hamburglar and Grimace both started out as rather creepy and villainous before becoming friendly and being redesigned to be more cute.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Ronald McDonald and the rest of the McDonaldland characters almost always wear the same outfits.
  • Lost Voice Plot: One story arc was entitled "Search For the Runaway Voice". Grimace's voice leaves his body after Grimace says it sounds silly. Ronald, Birdie, and Grimace chase the voice down, and the voice makes other people sound like Grimace when it goes inside their bodies. Ronald, Birdie, and Grimace eventually find the voice in a cave in Scary Mountain, where a dragon has trapped it to make his voice sound deeper. He lets Grimace have his voice back when Birdie compliments his original voice.
  • Magical Land: McDonaldland is this. Full of strange creatures and talking objects, while regularly visited by normal kids.
  • The Magic Touch: One commercial has the Hamburglar imagine what life would be like if everything he touched would turn into McDonald's cheeseburgers. When Ronald won't let him touch Grimace, a frustrated Hamburglar accidentally touches himself, turning him into a cheeseburger.
  • The Man in the Moon: He appears in a couple of episodes.
  • More Criminals Than Targets: When the ad campaign began in 1971, the only residents of McDonaldland shown were Ronald, Mayor McCheese, Big Mac (a hamburger-headed cop), The Hamburglar (who stole hamburgers), The Evil Grimace (who stole milkshakes and soft drinks), Captain Crook (a pirate who stole Filet-O-Fishes), and The Goblins (who stole french fries). Thus, more than half the population were thieves. Eventually, Grimace lost a couple of his arms and the "Evil" part of his name and became a good guy, Captain Crook reformed and was gradually phased out, and the Goblins became the harmless French Fry Guys leaving The Hamburglar as McDonaldland's only remaining habitual criminal.
  • Multi-Armed and Dangerous: The Evil Grimace before he was retconned into the lovable two-armed good guy we know now.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: The lovable Ronald McDonald.
  • Non-Nude Bathing: In one ad, Ronald wears a bathing suit as he takes a shower.
  • Out of Focus: All of the mascots save for Ronald McDonald. The Hamburglar was revived for an ad campaign in 2015, though.
  • Painted Tunnel, Real Train: One ad has Hamburglar paint a tunnel on a wall to try to get cheeseburgers from Ronald, who approaches him on a scooter. Ronald goes through the tunnel, but Hamburglar slams into it when he tries to chase after him. Fortunately for him, Ronald is nice enough to give him one cheeseburger from inside the tunnel.
  • Polka-Dot Paint: One ad promoting 101 Dalmatians Happy Meal toys features Ronald painting McDonald's with Dalmatian paint.
  • The Professor: An obscure McDonaldland character.
  • Roger Rabbit Effect:
  • Spell My Name with a "The": Grimace is sometimes called The Grimace, including in the early corporate literature about the characters.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Birdie the Early Bird was the first female character.
  • Sudden Name Change:
    • Grimace was originally "Evil Grimace".
    • Captain Crook was later named just "The Captain".
    • The Fry Kids were originally "Fry Gobblins", then "Fry Guys", before becoming the "Fry Kids" after the Fry Girls were introduced.
  • Swiper, No Swiping!: Sometimes, the Hamburglar succumbs to stopping his attempts at stealing burgers simply from Ronald telling him to stop.
  • "Test Your Strength" Game: In an early commercial, the Hamburglar sets up a carnival (the admission to which, as well as each attraction therein, was one cheeseburger). After Ronald enters, he tries his hand at the test your strength game. After Ronald only gets the weight up a few notches, the heavy-set Grimace accidentally steps on the lever, sending the weight so high it knocks the bell off the hook.
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • The Hamburglar has McDonald's burgers.
    • Grimace has McDonald's shakes, while Uncle O'Grimacey specifically prefers the Shamrock Shake.
    • The Fry-guys. Guess what theirs is.
    • Birdie represents the breakfast (i.e., until 10:30 AM) meals.
  • The Unintelligible: Hamburglar's speech consists mostly of "robble-robble-robble" with the word "cheeseburger" sometimes interspersed between the robbles. Originally, Captain Crook—his usual partner in crime—translated for him, but after the cast got the "cute treatment", everyone could understand him.
  • Villain Decay: Hamburglar, Captain Crook, and the Goblins (called Fry-Guys later) were more malignant in the 1970s, but later were given a "cute treatment" and became harmless. Crook was eventually dropped from the commercials.


Video Example(s):


When Birdie Hatched

It is shown in "The Night Birdie the Early Bird Came to McDonaldland" that Birdie hatched from an enormous egg, emerging from the shell in her current height, fully clothed and already able to speak.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / BornAsAnAdult

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