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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 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 and the McNugget Buddies were introduced in 1984, while 1998 introduced a dog named Sundae. There were also various minor characters like Uncle O'Grimacey, CosMc, Iam Hungry, and Griddler. 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 1985.

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In the early 2000s, McDonaldland was finally 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 an anthropomorphic Happy Meal box named "Happy" in 2014 (and even then, Ronald hasn't been completely phased out). In 2015, the Hamburgular was temporarily brought back to advertise a new menu item.

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 MC Kids and McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure.

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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.
  • Animated Adaptation:
    • The Adventures of Ronald McDonald: McDonaldland Treasure Island is an animated film from 1989.
    • The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald is a series of 1990s direct-to-video cartoons that could be received when going to McDonalds.
  • 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 1990s 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.
  • 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 & 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.
    • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 Grimmace 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.
  • Magical Land: McDonaldland is this. Full of strange creatures and talking objects, while regularly visited by normal kids.
  • The Man in the Moon: He appears in a couple of episodes.
  • 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:
  • Trademark Favorite Food:
    • The Hamburglar has McDonald's burgers.
    • The Grimace has McDonald's shakes.
    • The Fry-guys. Guess what theirs is.
    • Birdie represents the breakfast (i.e., until 10:30 AM) meals.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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