The Truth About Why Ronald McDonald Disappeared

If you're a fan of both vintage commercials and meat-themed nightmares, then you know that the Ronald McDonald of old seemed exceedingly more likely to make other people disappear than to disappear himself. His commercial debut introduces him in a dark room, sitting with his head turned away. Suddenly a clown with a cup for a nose and a food tray for a hat pops out of the disappearing darkness like a Jack the Ripper-in-the-box. As part of his pitch, he creepily informs viewers that he "[likes] to do everything boys and girls like to do."

A 1963 commercial goes in a more horrifying direction as a rollerskating Ronald magically wills burgers into existence and uses them to bribe a small boy into dismissing his mom's warnings not to talk to strangers. It ends with them leaving together. Alone. From there, Ronald probably reveals his true form — a giant spider — and gleefully eats the trusting child like a Mac Jr. burger. If McDonald's was looking for a clown mascot that was both enduring and endearing, this clearly wasn't it. Or at least he was the wrong kind of "It."

Ronald McMurderface was eventually replaced by the happy, red-haired Ronald who dressed like sunshine and befriended a giant purple gumdrop named Grimace. However, after years of looking wholesome and hopefully not devouring children around the world, he seemingly vanished from advertising materials.

Ronald McGone-ald

A 2004 article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine observed that "all of the children in China recognize the image of Ronald McDonald, even though they might not be able to read English." That sounds like a win for the clown's fast-food overlord until you consider that the article was about obesity, and linking McDonald's famous corporate mascot with the fat-ification of the country. Fast-forward to 2011, and Time Magazine runs a headline asking, "Where's Ronald?"

Was this wholesome-looking mascot secretly eating obese children the whole time, causing him to kick the bucket with his preposterously large clown shoes? Not to anyone's knowledge. Rather, as Time explained at the time, McDonald's wanted to veer in a different advertising direction because Ronald had become synonymous with fattening fast food. So he had to take a "backseat to upscale marketing."

In 2016, CNBC reported that Ronald had to make himself scarce again because of a spate of scary clown sightings popping up everywhere. Clearly, fear does not make burgers tastier, even if it makes the kids who eat them taste better to certain clowns.