Ronald McDonald, Hamburglar, and Grimace of McDonald's attend the 2022 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on November 24, 2022 in New York City.
Noam Galai/Getty Images

Who Is Grimace? Get to Know the Origins of All McDonald’s Bizarre Characters

Grimace is back in a big way -- but what about the rest of the Happy Meal gang?

When you think of McDonald's restaurants, the first thing that probably pops into your head is their perfectly salty French fries, the big Golden Arches, or their chicken McNuggets. But, perhaps if you grew up eating McDonald's, you may remember their cute (read: totally creepy) McDonald's characters.

Birthday parties with the Happy Meal gang were a thing for a while, and many people have just as many memories of these jumpsuit-wearing monstrosities as they have of Disney's famous mascots. Since these mascots were plastered all over meal boxes, they've become somewhat popular with the collectible community as well.

The fast food giant used certain mascots to advertise and bring publicity to certain menu items from the 1970s through the 1990s. The characters were used in the play places and McDonaldland commercials. The commercials stopped airing in 2003, but the most well-known character, Ronald McDonald, has survived, still appearing in Happy Meal toys and commercials.

That all changed when one of the characters, Grimace, recently made a comeback. The oversized purple creature of unknown species was originally introduced in the '70s, but with McDonald's new berry shake in celebration of Grimace's birthday (June 6, in case you want to send a card next year) and a macabre TikTok trend, it's safe to say our lovable purple buddy is having a moment.

But for every Grimace, there's a resident of McDonaldland who flew too close to the sun. Sure, you may know the Hamburglar, but what about the Fry Kids or Birdie the Early Bird? Test your knowledge of McDonald's characters of the days of yore and get to know the rest of the McD's family by reading our roundup below.

1. Ronald McDonald

93rd Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

(Photo by Noam Galai/Getty Images)

The star of the McDonaldland characters and official mascot of McDonald's, everyone recognizes his bright red hair. Although Ronald McDonald is the most recognizable of the bunch, he dressed very differently when he first appeared in 1963 than he does today. Wearing a suit of red and yellow stripes, he used to have French-fry bags rather than pockets. Delicious, indeed!

2. Sundae

If you don't remember Sundae, that's because the Ronald's human-like dog only appeared in the film-shorts The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald. Although the role of Sundae would be reprised for McDonald's commercials in the early aughts, Ronald's best pal would appear only as a real dog.

3. The Hamburglar


(Photo by Mathew Imaging/FilmMagic)

The Hamburglar has long been known for stealing hamburgers, but in a cute and lovable way. First debuting in 1971, this 50-year-old character was one of the first villains to appear in the McDonald's franchise. Originally designed to be an old man who spoke in gibberish, the Hamburger was reprised in the '80s to be a Dennis the Menance-type child.

But, in the last 10 years, the Hamburgler has grown up: In 2015, new images were released of the character sporting stubble, a fedora, and high-top sneakers.

4. Grimace

 Grimace appear in the 94th Annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade¨

(Photo by Eugene Gologursky/Getty Images for Macy's, Inc.)

This giant purple character was most known for saying "duh" before every sentence—But when he debuted in 1971, he was originally known as "Evil Grimace." Although his character continued to evolve through the early 1970s, but the middle of the decade, he was a beloved and major character at McDonaldland.

It was only recently revealed that Grimace was revealed to be modeled after a tastebud.

5. Birdie the Early Bird

Birdie was the first female character and was introduced in 1980 to promote new breakfast items. According to the original commercials, Birdie joins the crew when a giant egg falls from the night sky into McDonaldland. Of course, Ronald McDonald decides to show the wayward egg some love.

6. The Fry Kids

Originally called the Gobblins, these characters were known for stealing French fries. Although originally introduced in 1972, they became known as the Fry Guys in 1983, and then the Fry Kids in 1987. No matter their name, they've always been portrayed as fluffy, ball-like creatures with long legs and no arms.

7. Mayor McCheese

Mayor McCheese

(Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for ReedPop)

He may be a mayor, but he's also an enormous cheeseburger with a top hat and a sash. But despite the fancy get-up, he's not known for effectively running McDonaldland.

This mayor was a giant cheeseburger and not so effective at running the town. Although the character has been dropped throughout the years, he's appeared on and off in the cast of characters from 1971 until 2008.

8. Officer Big Mac

Fast food chain child's meal premium from the early 1980s.

Officer Big Mac must be related to Mayor McCheese, since he has a large Big Mac for a head—although he wore a constable's uniform rather than a hat and sash. Known for his hard stand on law and order, Officer Big Mac had a relatively short tenure and was removed from the line-up in the 1980s.

9. Captain Crook

Reminiscent of Peter Pan's Captain Hook, Captain Crook contented himself with stealing Filet-O-Fish sandwiches from the good citizens of McDonaldland. He was known to spar with Officer Big Mac, often escaping on his ship like a good Captain would. Unfortunately, he was dropped alongside his nemesis when McDonald's streamlined the character line-up in the 1980s.

10. Uncle O'Grimacey

This green monster was invented to help promote the beloved Shamrock Shake around Saint Patrick's Day. Known to be Grimace's Irish uncle, the two looked remarkably similar, except for one big difference: Uncle O'Grimacey was green, while Grimace was purple. According to McDonald's lore, O'Grimacey lives in Ireland for most of the year, but visits his nephew every March—bringing with him the Shamrock Shake, of course!

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