#657 Memories of McDonaldland

mcdonaldland McDonaldland was the trippy make-believe world where all the McDonald’s characters lived in harmony.

Growing up, we occasionally holed up in the corner of McDonald’s when someone’s cool mom dropped some bills on a deliciously greasy birthday party. There was usually a giant mural along the wall with all the McDonaldland characters living fantasy lives in their all-burgers-all-the-time world. If you were lucky, you might even have played on the McDonaldland playground equipment with some of these guys:

hamburglar• The Hamburglar. He’s dressed in black-and-white striped prison garb so we know he just escaped from the slammer. Maybe he broke out after a couple days of tuna melts and grilled cheeses. Anyway, I’m guessing he’s going to get caught again because that raccoon eye patch, oversized red tie, and Jackie O retro sunhat isn’t a great disguise.

mayor mccheese• Mayor McCheese. Even though his head is a giant, wobbly cheeseburger, this guy is as suave as they come. Just look at the top hat, diplomat’s sash, and fancy reading specs. I feel like this greasy politician (hey-ohhhhhh!)  stumbled into the Happy Meal universe by accident. He should be at the opera or something.

captain crook slideCaptain Crook. Did anybody else think some lazy ad exec watched Peter Pan the night before inventing this guy?

Ronald McDonald. Sadly, the red-haired clown was the most boring in the bunch. But then again, even though he looked like a hungover 30-year old in facepaint, he did inspire a generation of goths.

grimace playground jail

• Grimace. Everybody’s favorite, the purple giant played the lovable clumsy doofus of McDonaldland. Of course, in the original ads he had four arms, lived in a cave, and stole milkshakes. Just thinking about it gives me nightmares.

officer big macOfficer Big Mac. His giant two-all-beef-patties-special-sauce-lettuce-cheese-pickles-onions-on-a-sesame-seed-bun head prevents him from running fast enough through town to catch all the escaped convicts. That’s okay though, because his permanently frazzled eyebrows tell us he’s trying.

apple pie treeApple Pie Trees, Filet-O-Fish Lakes, and Hamburger Patches. In McDonaldland there were no beef processing plants, deep sea trawlers, or sugar kilns. Instead you just plucked hot hamburgers out of the patch, cast a line for Filets, and kicked the trunk of the Apple Pie Tree for dessert.

uncle ogrimaceyUncle O’Grimacey. Grimace’s Irish uncle visited in March and brought his delicious Shamrock Shakes with him. On another note, did anybody else ever wonder where Auntie O’Orangey was, because where did those delicious McArctic Orange shakes come from?

Fry Guys. These guys were called Gobblins, Fry Guys, Fry Kids, Pac-Man Ghosts With Legs, or Rollerskating Pom Poms.

mcdonaldlandcookiesBirdie the Early Bird. Poor Birdie was the only female in McDonaldland. She got out of bed early to tell us about the breakfast items. After that, I’m guessing she usually hit the pool hall or shooting range with Smurfette.

People, McDonaldland wasn’t a fictional place. No, it existed in the dimly-lit corner by the bathrooms and on the dangerous plastimold playground equipment in the parking lot.

It mcdonalds birthday partyexisted in the hearts and minds of kids everywhere because it was a place where we could be kids. Slam shots of orange drink, throw on some paper hats, play Pin the Arms on Grimace or Stack the Big Mac boxes, and scream as loud as you can. Then get bloated on sundaes, jump in the minivan, and smile a slow, sticky smile on the drive home.

Sure, maybe it was dangerous. Sure, maybe it wasn’t good for us.

But it sure was childhood.

And it sure was

AWESOME!

Photos from: here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here

Photos of kids in McDonald’s used with permission of Angela

75 thoughts on “#657 Memories of McDonaldland

  1. I may have been born at a time when this was on the way out, but I will add that this earns a hearty YES. AWESOME.

    While most of those Playplace structures in this entry were long gone in most of the ones I went to as a lad, there was two or three holdouts that still had statues of Big Mac and the Apple Pie Tree. I wish they had never left us, but Sid & Marty had a damn good case.

    There was one latecomer that wasn’t really a part of the McDonaldland Crew but he was a important one nonetheless: Mac Tonight.

    My favorite is Grimace. Because nothing can kill the Grimace.

  2. Was Officer Big Mac British? Why was he wearing a “bobby hat”. Maybe he can call in Scotland McYard to try and track down the Hamburglar.

    The Hamburglar looks young in that picture. Sort of like if you dressed up a Chuckie Doll with a Zorro mask.

    Why I wouldn’t give for some of that Orange Drink right now.. mmmm.. I think I would’ve savored it more as a kid if I knew that it was going to disappear from my life forever around the age of 11.

    Anyways, gotta go back to watching those totally creepy videos of McDonaldLand.

    AWESOME!

    1. orange drink still exists at McDonald’s, it’s simply masquerading as “Orange Hi-C”. :) it’s practically the same, or at least what I remember from my own 9-year-old taste buds, it does!

  3. Back when the playgrounds at McDonalds were still huge metal dangers, I bashed my face on the Hamburglar….thing (toy? ride? you just crawled up into it via a ladder and sat there…).

    I chipped my two front teeth and they are still chipped. I thought no one noticed until I was about 20 and a friend called me “Chip Tooth”.

    Damn you, Hamburglar. Damn you.

    1. Your “Damn you, Hamburglar” reminds me of when my work friends and I used to play CounterStrike after hours, and we would sometimes choose McDonaldLand character names for our in-game terrorists and counter-terrorists.

      Every once in a while, when one of us would land a spectacular headshot or other skillful maneuver, the victim would make his displeasure known by shouting “Damn you, Hamburglar!” This was so much fun, it became our THING.

      Ultimately, this transcended the CounterStrike game, and we would say “Damn, you McCheese” whenever someone got the better of us in any competitive office happening, whether it was getting the good parking space, or the corner slice of cake.

  4. See, I really only remember the “newerish” video set they advertised with the happy meals…I guess I’m just too young to remember some of these guys. Oh well.

  5. Wow, i may not know a few of the ones named but hell it’s awesome! I remember how i used to collect all the toys and fold and play with my happy meal boxes.

    I love The Hamburglar! He’s cute!

    Sorry for your lost tooth Amanda. I’m sure you still look sweet. :D

  6. Aww the memories!
    Did anyone ever go on the MacDonald bus? I don’t know whether it’s only in England, but I used to go to birthday parties on a double decker bus with all the charcters painted on. Twas awesome :-)

    1. We had a ‘McCaboose’, an outdoor train caboose that you could party in :) Other locations had a large, plastic indoor train that had ‘car booths’ you could sit in! Oh the memories :)

  7. I second your awesome rating!!

    I so remember all this McDonald’s goodness! Remember the McDonaldLand toys…the figures of each of the characters? I still have the Grimace, my personal fave. He was all purple fuzz with stuck on plastic eyes and mouth. Sadly, he did not come with a milkshake. Some toy developer really dropped the ball with that one.

    Going to McD’s as a kid was always reserved as a treat…on vacation, at the Toronto Zoo (big highlight!) and I always envied kids that lived near a McD’s that had one of those old playgrounds. We only got a McD’s in my town when I was a teen so McD’s was always a far away destination making it very special indeed. Thanks for the trek down memory lane.

  8. Oh, one more thing!

    Up until a few years ago, the McD’s just outside the Tower of London had plastic Fry Guys you could sit on/take pictures with. Yes, I’m the geek who posed with them for photo evidence.

    I should get out more and stay away from McDonald’s on my travels obviously! :)

  9. That was aweseome. In today’s PC world you could never come up with a character like the Hamburglar and get away with it. Nice walk down memory lane. Thanks.

  10. UGHHHHHHH Our McDonalds had a great kid’s room with that big tree table and a carousel, and a FANTASTIC outdoor play area with astroturf and hamburgers to crawl through. I miss it, despite being 25 and well past the age of using it. Why they spent all the money to get rid of that stuff is beyond me.

  11. I am surprised that you didn’t mention the McDonald’s calendars! Any child of the 70s received them for Christmas every year. They had food coupons on every page and the entire calendar was a coloring book. AWESOME!

  12. Kinda frightening, especially the burger heads. are we supposed to eat them ? imagine these things coming to life…nightmarish.

  13. I’m pretty sure every member of my family had a birthday party here, including myself. I miss the old playgrounds for sure, especially the astroturf… and the fact that I could climb inside Mayor Mc. Cheese’s head.

  14. I only went to one McDonald’s birthday party but I loved it and was so jealous I didn’t have one. I forgot about some of these characters too and I always thought Ronald was the creepy one.

  15. I went to the Phoenix McDonalds waaaayy back when it was the neon golden arches, with a little guy with a chef’s hat holding a platter of burgers.
    The icon characters in this Awesome were still in McDiapers.
    19 cent burgers, 10 cent sodas, 15 cent fries.
    In today’s money….1 billion dollars.
    But all my boys enjoyed McDonaldland.
    Think I’ll go out for a Big Mac. Awesome!

  16. I remember back when each McDonald’s had its own unique playground with a collection of McDonaldland equipment. Now everyone has the same ball pit and slide thing where you have to take your shoes off (let me tell you how much parent’s of preschoolers hate that!!) It just isn’t the same.

    When I was four-my dad worked at McDonalds (yeah, he had a loser job, but when you are four, everyone you know wishes their dad worked there too!) and so I had my birthday there a couple of times as well as knowing all of the McDonaldland characters that his particular McD’s employed….fun times……

  17. Haha, kinda funny as I watched the third episode of Clerks yesterday, for you that have seen it understand what I mean.. Also @Ferny, i saw a McDonalds double decker a while ago outside of a McDonalds in Västerås, Sweden, so guess they’ve got it pretty much everywhere.

  18. This reminds me of when McDonald’s was still counting how many burgers they sold. I remember driving by and noticed they stopped counting.

  19. Hey, you forgot the absolute most awesome thing about McDonaldland… the awesome birthday cakes! Really it was the figures that decorated the cakes. Pure sugar, shaped and dyed to resemble Ronald with balloons, Grimace and a few others. Sitting underneath those big Apple Pie Trees, sucking on a sugared Ronald, THAT was awesome!

  20. I used to love going to McDonald’s. I remember fighting with my sister over who got to do the activities on the paper placemat. One time I even kept the placemat (grease and all) because the Power Rangers were on it. This post was AWESOME!

  21. This is totally awesome, I’m to young to have more then fuzzy memories of McDonaldland, but when I bought my HHR his purply awkwardness earned him the nickname Grimace!

  22. There was an epic deluxe McDonalds near me that had an awesome indoor playground: best parties ever. Nothing beats getting crushed against odorous rubber mats and being buried in ball pits.

  23. Anyone remember the glasses with the McDonald’s characters on them? My then brother in law would take my niece and I to McDonald’s and let us play outside in the Playland while he ordered. He had (and probably still does) the entire set of glasses….he used to get mad because he could not play on the equipment!!! (My niece is 20 months older than I am, btw)

  24. I think today a McD would have tp create Mr. Apple-Jack to this past the watchdogs – however judt like the item on the menu nobody would want him.

  25. haha i remember some of these, but not all of them. isn’t it weird they all have names that talk about being a criminal? haha… look at what we used to teach the kids!

  26. McDonaldland was a strange place for me as a kid. I was afraid of clowns and worried that I’d run into Ronald after he’d been drinking shakes all night, throwing up in the happy meal boxes and stumbling around, asking why all the chairs were rotating. I assumed those McDonaldland characters would be like my parents and their friends, the night would end after Mayor McCheese bit off Officer Big Mac’s face and then tumbled down a ravine into a creek. That was especially scary, since I wasn’t allowed to get wet back then either.

  27. We didn’t have double-decker buses for parties, but there were painted cabooses in a few of the McD’s here in Vancouver. I know there’s still at least one, at the Boundary and Lougheed location.

    I remember taking the tour of the kitchen at one of the parties I went to, and I recall we all got replica paper hats to keep. Those triangular ones they used to wear! I remember the calendars in the 70’s as well, and I recall the very first Happy Meal was advertising the first Star Trek movie.

    I actually have this t-shirt too: http://farm2.static.flickr.com/1229/1176007002_53b8ec77fc.jpg?v=0

  28. Oh, yes…but for a different reason than most of the people here, I bet: this is awesome to me because it reminds me of my son’s childhood. He loved going to McDonald’s getting the Happy Meals, and playing with the toys. I still have all the wonderful little toys from that time. Apparently, they’re worth a fair amount of money as collectibles but I wouldn’t sell them for any price. My son is in his twenties now and these remind of all the fun we had together when he was little.

  29. That was Jodie Foster in the Grimace commercial! She and McD’s sure bring back the memories. She was the kid in so many flicks of my childhood. Plus, McD’s as a treat on a Friday night…wooohoo, that was living! I miss the original fried pies .

  30. I have a 7ft Ronald and Apple Pie Tree in my front yard, looking for someone who might want to take them off my hands.

  31. my little sister had a mcdonalds videotape. it was a cartoon featuring all the mcdonalds characters, and they had a musical, camping-related adventure. she watched this movie very, very often, and because i was young, too, and we lived way out in the woods, there was often nothing for me to do but just sort of.. grudgingly watch it too.

    i remember some of the songs still. “gotta set set set set set set set up camp! … now it’s done, so we can play! have a pleasant holiday! time to set set set set set set set up camp!”

    and i learned from that movie how to find your way out of a maze, just in case you are ever trapped in one: just put your hand on the wall and keep it there as you walk! you will eventually get out of the maze, for sure.

  32. I have a hambergler slide. Does any one know how I can find out what it is worth. It does need to be refinished.

  33. Hi webmaster – This is by far the best looking site I’ve seen. It was completely easy to navigate and it was easy to look for the information I needed. Fantastic layout and great content! Every site should have that. Awesome job

  34. Couldnt help but wonder are McDonalds paying you for product placement, you dont mention other brands like you do with them.
    P.S gave you my spam email account!

  35. i didn’t even know there was a “gang” for mcdonalds. i didn’t even know there was a mcdonaldland!! i was soo excited when i saw this, i immediately searched each and every one of them on google. made my day. not just AWESOME! i must add in, INCREDIBLY AWESOME!!

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