Yesterday, McDonald’s unveiled their newest mascot — “Happy,” a cartoon Happy Meal box with a giant toothy grin.
While USA Today reports that the box is supposed to entice children into eating healthy, that smile really only makes it look like he want to eat the children.
So, what fast food mascots (past and present) make Consumerist’s collective skin break out in goosebumps?
THE OLD RONALD MCDONALD
Let’s stick with McDonald’s for the moment before we dive into other creepy fast food shills.
It’s a known fact that many people find clowns to be terrifying, especially when they are outside their standard milieu of the circus tent.
But the old-school Ronald McDonald, with his paper cup nose and a magic hamburger-dispensing belt, isn’t just disturbing; it established a baseline of creepiness for other fast food establishments to follow for generations to come.
THE NEW RONALD
While the original Ronald McDonald might have been too outre and bizarre for fast food fans, the recently revamped McDonald’s front man is a different kind of creepy.
With the more casual outfit, the all-too-welcoming open arms and ever-frightening grin, it’s like that guy on your block who is always talking a little too much to the kids selling lemonade on the sidewalk; the one that makes parents put their arms around their youngsters when he walks by the playground on the weekends.
We’re not saying Ronald has filthy predilections. He just won’t be getting invited over for family events anytime soon.
Here’s an idea for a mascot: A person that so loves McDonald’s fast food that he’s willing to steal it! What a great way to teach your kids how to get what they want.
Beyond the ethical questions, there’s the fact that the Hamburglar is just plain bad at his job; always getting caught and turned into the burger police, who promptly return him to the streets, presumably because McDonaldland has a lenient attitude toward the theft of sandwiches.
Perhaps if he didn’t walk around in big striped pajamas and a bandit mask, he might not stick out so much, or creep out so many kids.
While milkshake-loving Grimace may not be as overtly scary as Ronald or the Hamburglar, he poses a sort of existential dread to the young consumer.
“What is this purple monster and why is no one asking it what it is or where it came from?” Is it a figment of Ronald’s imagination? A ghostly manifestation of some man-child who perished during the construction of the first McDonald’s? A hallucinatory, self-referential expression of American overconsumption?
The world may never know; and that may not be a bad thing.
THE BURGER KING
Just as many of us began to shed childhood fears of fast food mascots, Burger King went and dumped this plastic-masked “King” on us.
Not only did the King pop up in ads for the burger chain, he appeared in commercials waking up next to people in bed, or hanging outside their windows. And the King did more than just wake up with strangers; he also cornered them in dark tunnels, further cementing the idea that he was a nightmare from which we could never wake.
The masked man was retired by Burger King in favor of a more healthy-minded campaign around 2011. Apparently the strange dude landed on his feet in the form of a gig behind the register at Taco Bell last Halloween.
THE SUBSERVIENT CHICKEN
While the King hasn’t risen from his marketing grave, Burger King has recently tried to revive this bizarre marketing ploy that melded the jittery low-fi video of webcamming with the do-as-we-say-and-you’re-going-to-die-anyway freakishness of snuff films.
Late last month, the weirdo chicken’s website, which once featured a person in a chicken suit on grainy security com footage, relaunched with a “Missing Chicken Error” message asking consumers to “Help. There’s a chicken on the loose and we are desperately trying to find him.”
We don’t know if the creepy chicken is still out there, but if you see him, it might be best to call animal control.
BILLY BOB BROCKALI FROM SHOWBIZ PIZZA
For the most part, we can could go to the drive-thru in attempts to avoid mascots, but back-in-the-day there was one place you always wanted to go and could simply never escape the monstrous mascots: ShowBiz Pizza.
Billy Bob Brockali underwent a number of nip-and-tuck surgeries over the years, but that bear never did feel quite right to us.
The guitar-picking brown bear first appeared as a walk-around character at ShowBiz then morphed into an animatronic robot bear. To whomever thought that was an improvement: It wasn’t.
But maybe our favorite creepy encounter with Billy Bob took place in some of the pizza place’s poster art and other ads where he’s just hanging out behind a family, eyeing their pepperoni-covered pizza.
If he had an inkling of Yogi in him, that pizza would be gone and those kids would be scarred for life.
THE QUIZNOS SPONGE MONKEY
Rodents — or hybrids thereof — really don’t make people want to eat their food, and they’re certainly among the last things you’d want to associate with a fast food restaurant.
And yet, a number of rodent-like mascots have roamed the airwaves over the years, like this particularly gruesome spokesthing.
The Sponge Monkey of Quiznos, which in spite of the name appeared to be some sort of rat/hamster hybrid — loved his subs, but we did not love his beady eyes, human-like teeth or his fancy looking top hat.
JACK FROM JACK-IN-THE-BOX
Sure, he’s a Jack-in-the-box (we get that) but he walks around in a sharp business suit, and has that dead-eyed, unblinking stare and perma-grin that are straight out of a horror movie.
It’s like a mash-up of some bad early ’90s slasher flick and American Psycho, but it’s also trying to sell us fast food.
The combination of authority figure in a suit and clown-like oversized head is the perfect recipe for a screaming kid (or adult).
Which one of these do you think is the creepiest of them all?