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Where’s Ronald? The Mystery Behind McDonald’s Iconic Clown

April 16, 2024 12:13 pm in by
Getty Images: Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto

If you were a child of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, you would likely remember seeing Ronald McDonald feature heavily in McDonald’s marketing campaigns. You may have also seen his life-sized statues in local stores and encountered him during public appearances on McHappy Day.

Fast forward to today, and Ronald is nowhere to be seen…

Introduced in 1963 as the quirkiest, burger-devouring happy-faced clown, Ronald became a cultural icon. Alongside familiar faces like the Hamburglar and Grimace, he played a pivotal role in McDonald’s growing global empire, with over 40,000 Macca’s restaurants worldwide. But where did he go and why is he no longer a mascot for McDonald’s?

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A Ronald McDonald statue waves hand to customers – Photo by Zhang Peng/LightRocket via Getty Images

The clown’s era took a turn in 2003 when McDonald’s began phasing out its mascots, transitioning from child-oriented marketing to a focus on adult audiences. The final nail in Ronald’s coffin came during the eerie clown scare of 2016, spawned by spooky sightings and social media frenzy, leading to his retirement from the limelight.

Most of these incidents were pranks, likely influenced by the release of the horror movie “It,” based on Stephen King’s popular book. The situation escalated to the point where McDonald’s issued a statement expressing caution about Ronald McDonald’s involvement in community events due to the widespread clown sightings.

Public sentiment toward clowns soured, leading to Ronald’s eventual retirement from the public.

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Despite his disappearance, Ronald’s legacy endures through the Ronald McDonald House Charities, aiding families with sick or injured children.

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