“Watch for me on TV – we’ll have lots of fun!”
Today’s throwback dials it all the way to 1963 when Ronald McDonald made his debut on local TV in Washington D.C. for McDonald’s.
Dubbed the Hamburger-Happy Clown by the franchisee and his agency Kal, Ehrlich and Merrick, one of Ronald’s first local TV spots introduces him as “the world’s newest, silliest, and hamburger-eatingest clown.” Willard Scott, a local radio personality and former longtime weatherman on NBC’s TODAY Show, played Ronald in this commercial spot. As the actor who also portrayed Bozo the Clown, there couldn’t have been a better casting choice for the original Ronald McDonald.
Equipped with a “magic” tray that supplied endless McDonald’s hamburgers, French fries, and milkshakes at his waist, the original Ronald also wore a tray on his head, sported lighter hair and a cup nose, and was clad in a yellow and red striped jumpsuit. Skipping off at the end of the spot back towards the restaurant, a jaunty, whistle-infused jingle plays:
He’s Ronald McDonald
The hamburger happy clown
A McDonald drive-in restaurant
Is his favorite place in town!
An instant hit with kids, Ronald would appear in his first national TV commercial in 1966, still donning his yellow and red striped jumpsuit, only this time he had red hair, red clown shoes, and a brightly painted red nose. That same year, he would also make his first appearance in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.
In this 1967 spot, Ronald helps short-lived sidekick Mr. Muscle paint the golden arches. Before he leaves, Ronald makes sure to grab a tasty lunch at McDonald’s and exits on a “flying hamburger” on his way to visit another McDonald’s location.
While some aspects of Mickey D’s have changed over the decades (most notably that you definitely can’t get a burger, fries, and a shake for 52 cents anymore and Ronald’s recent wardrobe upgrade into wearing cargo pants, a vest, red and white striped rugby shirt, and a red blazer reserved for special occasions), this colorful clown brand mascot has endured, and made countless kids and adults alike smile, as an icon of the global restaurant chain.