As I stand in line at Burger King to get the latest Star Wars promotional items, I can’t help but remember the good old days of fast food and Happy Meals. To this day, I’m still not entirely sure what a “McNugget” is, but I do know that Ronald McDonald and his pals were a fond part of my childhood, and I’ll bet that they were a part of your childhood, too. What ticks me off is that there used to be a lot more characters than just Ronald, Birdie, Grimace and the Hamburglar. If you’re a regular reader of this column, you’ll know that this will inevitably be a tribute to those characters.
Mayor McCheese: Did you know that the mayor of McDonaldland got into his own political scandal? No, he didn’t kill a hooker. Instead, he was accused of plagiarism by Sid and Marty Krofft, who said that the mayor bore too close a resemblance to H.R. Pufnstuf.
“Evil” Grimace: In the early days of McDonaldland, Grimace had six arms that tried to steal McDonald’s shakes. Yes, Grimace, the loveable purple blob, used to be on the side of evil. I guess he and the Hamburglar had a falling out or something. I thought maybe “Evil” Grimace would have just been Grimace with a beard, but instead, he had four extra arms.
Captain Crook: Yeah, you didn’t know that guy on top of the sliding board in Playland had a name, did you? Keeping with the good versus evil theme, the captain would try to steal hamburgers while avoiding the police chief Big Mac. So, wait … he’s trying to steal hamburgers but then he’s running away from someone who has a giant hamburger for a head? Maybe the hamburgers are Big Mac’s many children. Maybe you’re eating Big Mac’s children right now! Oh, and by the way, Captain Crook, why steal hamburgers when one of your allies is called the Hamburglar? Sheesh, no wonder you’re not around anymore.
“Goblins” a.k.a. Fry Kids: Geez, so much evil in McDonaldland! It’s like if the Sith and the Nazgul had nightmares, they would be the evil characters of McDonaldland. Again, the premise was that these goblins would steal the fries. So basically, the terror alert in McDonaldland must have been on at least orange on a daily basis.
The Professor: Easily the most mysterious of all the original McDonaldland characters, one can only guess that The Professor is responsible for creating the “secret sauce.” Of course, I don’t know if the secret formula of “Let’s stick this expired mayonnaise in the sun” is worthy of donning this guy with the title of professor.
Fast forward to today. McDonald’s no longer has Happy Meal promotions with the core McDonaldland characters. Ronald McDonald is encouraging kids to exercise in order to burn off the extra calories they take in when eating at McDonald’s, while at the same time providing Happy Meal toys that promote television shows and video games. I would love it if, somehow, the good versus evil theme came back, and the McDonald’s commercials became very dark and epic, but that won’t happen. Just know that when you have to take Lipitor to reduce your high cholesterol, it’s a small price to pay in comparison to having these loveable characters in your life.