A Straight Dope Classic from Cecil's Storehouse of Human Knowledge

McDonald's commercials explained!

April 29, 1994

Dear Cecil:

In McDonald's commercials, I can figure out that Mayor McCheese is a cheeseburger and Hamburglar is a hamburger. But what the hell is Grimace?

Cecil replies:

Where are the semioticians when we need them? According to McDonald's spokesperson Jane Hulbert, Grimace is a "big fuzzy purple fellow." Probably you figured this out for yourself. What you want is detail. Too bad. Here's the complete McDonald's personnel file on the guy: "Grimace personifies the child in everyone. … He is Ronald [McDonald]'s special pal. Everyone loves Grimace because of his innocent loving nature. He occasionally causes trouble in McDonaldland because he is clumsy, but his friends overlook this because he is so happy."

You are gagging, I expect. So am I. Jane Hulbert is … well, Jane is doing her best to be professional about this, but it's a struggle. Here's more: Hamburglar is a "fun-loving prankster." The Happy Meal Guys are the "fun-loving personification of the hamburger, soft drink, and fries that compose the Happy Meal." CosMc is a "wacky fun-loving alien who came to McDonaldland from outer space" and is "part vehicle and part creature." ("I can't believe they pay me to read this," Jane muttered at this point, but we promised we wouldn't tell the Kroc family.)

You can imagine the deliberations in the McDonald's promotion department: "Jeez, we went a little overboard on the fun-loving bit. I know, let's make our next character a nasty ill-tempered malcontent! We'll call him Grimace! We'll make him purple!" No doubt the higher-ups nixed the negatory personality, but the name stuck. At least that's my theory. Prove it wrong.

One more thing: stop sniggering. Grimace may be a little weird, but Ronald McDonald is a good guy, who visits sick kids and generally makes the world a better place. More than most of us yuppie slime ever do.

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