Let me confess--I'm fat. Not morbidly obese mind you, but I do have to make an effort to see my feet when I look down. One of the reasons for that--McDonald's. I'm addicted to the stuff. My favorite meal is the No. 2 Extra Value Meal: that's a Quarter Pounder, fries, and Coke.
I'm far from alone in my love for the chain. After all, "billions and billions" of burgers have been sold. Popularity is sustained in part through the chain's heavy and creative advertising, most notably through the use of Ronald McDonald and his friends (no wonder kids are fatter than ever). But as iconic as he is today, his debut years were very, well, weird.
See his first appearance here. Quite a different look and sound from the Ronald we know today. Everything about this first incarnation, his voice, look, and personality, was created by the first actor who plays him here--former Today Show weatherman Willard Scott!
Around 1970-1972, McDonald's expanded Ronald's mythology by creating not only friends for him, but an entire place for him, McDonaldland. These first series of commericals were very strange indeed! Then again, that may be because the characters and ideas were knock-offs of the style of the Kroft Brothers "H.R. PufnStuff." McDonald's approached the Krofts about having H.R. promote their product, but the Krofts said no. So the chain went ahead and copped their style, leading the Krofts to launch a successful lawsuit against McDonald's.
Take a look. Rip-off or not, these are some freaky commercials!
Finally, just from a couple of years ago, the Japanese subsidiary of McDonald's took a much more contemporary, yet still unorthodox, approach to advertising their food. Ronald never looked quite like this!