I was talking with a friend at lunch today. We were discussing the various marketing strategies employed by restaurants to attract their assumed target customers. The topic of older McDonald’s marketing in the form of funny characters came up. They were supposedly intended to attract children. Based on McDonald’s position in the global fast food market today it would seem the succeeded.
When I think back on my childhood filtered through the sunny yellow tint of a McDonald’s fiberglass play set, I have very fond memories of the restaurant in general. Now that I am an adult and I am looking back on some of the marketing employed to wrangle my attention, I now see something rather sinister lurking in my memories. Several things just seem creepy. Many of the things I seem to remember as harmless and often funny then seem very dark and frightening now. Let’s take a look.
McDonald Land Characters always seemed fun and inviting. I always wanted to see them in person. Now that I look closer at them I am not so sure.
Based on the LSD and Marijuana influenced designs of Sid and Marty Krofft. These characters are down right terrifying! Mayor McCheese and Officer Big Mac have huge, misshapen heads and tiny little hats. Grimace is an enormous, purple furry creature with a perpetual scowl. LOOK AT THE HAMBURGLAR FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!! The Hamburglar alone should have had us all running for the hills from his prison outfit, cloak, wide brimmed hat and child molester-esque frozen grin. I know I have, in the years since these were on the TV in commercials had nightmares about the fry guys being some kind of alien that was discovered on some far away planet. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?
Now shortly after this campaign went the way of the dodo. Our food started talking to us. Personally when my food starts chatting with me, or more accurately AT ME i get a little scared. Thinking back on the happy meal gang and the mcnugget buddies sends chills down my spine.
It doesn’t get too much better from there. Let take a look now at the early eighties. This is my absolute favorite time period. Its my early to mid childhood. A character from Mcdonald’s comes to mind that could frighten even the most hardened cartoon loving kids. MAC TONIGHT!
Notably played by one Doug Jones in many of the commercials this hideously frightening entity sang and danced all the while flying through the air playing a corruption of Bobby Darin’s Mack the Knife. If the song doesn’t send you running for the hills from this pointy chinned demon, the cannibalistic grin and pervy shades should.
So, what do you think? If these guys were coming at you on a dark night would you be scared? What the hell were we thinking as kids? Cheers!