One of my favorite posts of 2008 so far has been my article on the strange first generation of commercials that introduced McDonald's McDonaldland characters (Tuesday, January 29th). They were trippy, crude, and just plain weird, much more so than the "normal" way I remembered seeing them for the first time. Then again, those first commercials arose during the very early 70s, which explains the weirdness; I didn't encounter the gang until the end of the decade, when the campaign became less spacey. One of the biggest differences between these two waves of commercials was the portrayal of the character Evil Grimace.
That's right--"Evil" Grimace.
Grimace was first introduced as a villain, of all things. He was just as huge, purple, and slow-witted as we know him today, but he existed to ruin McDonald's meals for people by stealing all the milkshakes. It was usually up to Ronald to trick the stupid Evil Grimace into deserting the shakes so Ronald could recover them. Here's an example (which also has a bonus appearance of Jodie Foster pre-Taxi Driver). Notice the "E. Grimace" on his mailbox and the fact that Grimace has four arms rather than the two we see him with today. Unfortunately, the quality of this video is very poor. Unfortunately also for Grimace, the dumb bastard only manages to steal empty cups rather than the shakes and sodas.
According to Kevin Smith and his cartoon version of Clerks, "Nothing can kill the Grimace!"
In the middle of writing this, I put my young daughter to bed with a videotape playing. It is part of a series of animated videos that McDonald's released as in-store premiums in 1998 using their characters. Tonight's feature: "The Legend of Grimace Island," a tale which gives Grimace's origin as coming from a tropical island inhabited by similarly purple and dim-witted beings. I couldn't find any Internet footage, but I thought it was worth a mention.