A Brief History of Ronald and his Battle with Speedee the Clown by David Boje 2004.


Figure 1 - Ronald is a replacement for Speedee

Ronald is a morph of Bozo, successor to Speedee, conceived and raised by three parents (Klein, Polakovs, & Scott).  In the early days, ad executive Barry Klein and a Ringling Brothers clown (Michael "Coco" Polakovs) morphed Bozo into Ronald. [i]   Willard Scott (NBC Today Show weatherman & himself a part time Bozo performer) played Ronald locally, Scott fashioned a crude costume (a paper cup as a nose & a cardboard tray as a hat) [ii] , breathed dialogue-life into the character, and gave the clown a name (Ronald), while playing the role for the DC franchises (owned by John Gibson & Oscar Goldstein). [iii] Scott was dumped in 1966 when the corporation took Ronald national; “I was too fat,” says Scott. [iv]   McDonald’s corporate hired Mr. Polakovs to restylized Ronald’s look. He gave Ronald his now familiar white-face, put him in a canary-yellow jumpsuit (pulled off a mannequin in a women's clothing store), and a fire-engine red wig. [v] On Nov 25 1966, a new Ronald had his big debut in the (Chicago) Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. In 1971, Ronald was given his own fantasy genre, McDonaldland, and was joined by more grotesque burger-headed characters such as Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, and Sheriff Big Mac, as well as another grotesque body: Grimace, a purple milkshake with human speech. The important point is Ronald was restylized throughout his first decade.

Ronald McDonald “follows a closely guarded set of rules that govern how the fast-food icon looks, moves and talks and where he can go”(Voight,2003: 20).   The design is carefully done, with few mishaps (except when Ronald played the adult game of golf in the 1996 Arch Deluxe Burger promotion). Ronald is still being strategically re-fashioned. In 1998, McDonald’s ad agency, Leo Burnett, hired LA stylists to refashion Ronald’s hair and spent months studying whether to increase the width of the red stripes on his socks (Hume, 1998; Leung & Vranica, 2003).  McDonald’s and Leo Burnett executives went on a strategy retreat in 1999 to figure out how to exploit six 40-minute films (released between 1998 and 2002) [a] starring Ronald (Kramer, 1999).

Ronald has been up-staged by the old 1948 Speedee clown (created by Richard McDonald). Speedee's installation in many Super Wal-Marts  is more visible there than Ronald).

We went to the Wal-Mart in our town, to take a look.

Figure 2 - Speedee at the Super Wal-Mart

We were not soure how Ronald was reacting to the Speedee upstaging Ronald, so went to see him.

Figure 3 - Ronald is the Scream in the Mirror

There he was. Ronald was holding the latest Happy Meal toy offerings, and standing almost on the borderline between Wal-mart and McDonald's. Meanwhile Speedee occupied prominent places insid McD's with not just one but two big wal murals. It was more than Raonld oculd stand. We looked into the mirror at Ronald. You can stand just right and see yourself, with Roanld's spirit image looking over your shoulder. Anyway, it looked to several of the members of the narrative methods class that Ronald was about to do that big scream, like in the painting.

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[a] Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald http://shop.store.yahoo.com/cooltoons/wacadofronmc.html


[i] Ethan Switch August 29 2003 http://www.thewaxconspiracy.com/wicked/200308.php

[ii] This web site has two audios of Willard’s Ronald commercials http://www.thejoyboys.com/ronald.htm

[iii] http://kidshow.dcboomer.com/willard.html

[iv] p. 8 Leung, Shirley & Suzanne Vranica (2003) Ronald McDonald is so busy: But just how does he do it? June 3 www.inebriantia.org/2003/06/ronald_mcdonald.html

[v] http://www.collegejournal.com/salarydata/hotelrestaurant/20030616-leung.html