If today’s Ronald McDonald looked more like his original incarnation, the McDonald’s CEO might have a tougher time defending against those asking for the burger clown’s resignation. Have you seen the first Ronald? Played by Willard Scott, he’s a clown with a soda cup for a nose and a tray of food as a hat. He also has a food tray attached to his belt which will magically produce three hamburgers in a row on demand. You can see why this Ronald was streamlined into the version we know today. Because he looks like a serial killer.
1963: the introduction of Ronald. Note the meta device of pulling out from the McDonald ad to reveal Ronald is actually watching that ad on a TV set.
Here’s one where Ronald skates along and a suspicious child doesn’t believe he’s who he says he is, or that he should be talking to the clown because his mother told him not to talk to strangers. Ronald allays his concerns by producing three hamburgers in a row out of thin air, which, if you include the one that fell off the clown’s head at the beginning, means the kid is eating four hamburgers. Then after that they both go to McDonald’s, because Ronald doesn’t encourage childhood obesity at all.
In this last ad, released in 1971, Ronald is still played by Willard Scott and has by this time had his food tray hat replaced by a red wig and he has also lost his magic hamburger-producing tray. This ad is for how you can by little Ronald dolls for only a $1.00 and the dolls hang around the set in an off-kilter mobile. Ronald laughs about how much they look like him. Between the strange closeups, beige backdrop, and static staging, it’s quite disturbing. If you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to go feed a kitten to an ATM for some reason.