One might not realize it if they were to go through my Fast Food Culture tab, but I am actually quite a fan of McDonald’s. Mind, I don’t agree with everything they do, but I do have many a fond memory of going there as a treat when I was growing up, and after moving to Canada, it’s been a sort of “comfort food” for me. The idea that no matter where you are in the world, you can still more or less get the same longtime McDonald’s staples offers a certain sense of “home” that most other places — save maybe Burger King — don’t deliver.
Sadly, for all the similarities and consistency, there have been changes made to the Golden Arches over the years. For one, the architecture of new locations (as well as revamped old ones) has grown less and less distinct — a symptom shared by most fast food places now, but that’s a subject for another time. What’s disappointed me more over the years has been the phasing out of the McDonaldland gang.
Save for Ronald (who, interestingly, is not pictured), all the fun characters who made visiting Mickey D’s a special experience as a kid have gone by the wayside. In a way, it was like getting to go to a more cost-effective version of Chuck E. Cheese’s, minus the pizza and games. Granted, those two things make up most of the Chuck E. experience, but there was a sense of atmosphere as well, and McDonald’s had its own.
Part of that came from the characters, a group of costumed oddities that we would get to see engage in all sorts of high jinks during Saturday morning TV commercials (something else that’s died out, but I digress). Due to marketing concerns from parents who don’t know how to parent their children by saying “no” and enforcing their word to their children, it would be the likes of Grimace, Birdie, and the Hamburglar who would take the fall upon the sword. All but completely removed from the company (you might still see them on a bib for small children in some restaurants), McDonaldland became a less cheerful place to visit.
But hey, reboots are all the rage now, right! Instead of creating new characters to attempt to instill some sort of market-tested dietary and social values to children through books and other odd promotions, I’ve long thought that McDonald’s should dig into what they already have and reboot the McDonaldland Gang to deliver these messages. I mean, once upon a time they could support their own video games and cartoons, so they ought to be strong enough to resonate, right?
It’s easy enough to imagine, with each character having a different theme. For instance, Ronald seems pretty active, and could promote such a lifestyle. Birdie the Early Bird could demonstrate the virtues of adhering to a healthy daily routine, while the group could work to remind the Hamburglar of the dangers of…
…or they could just do that.
This would be what I would have called “Plan B.” Supposing that unleashing the McD’s gang on children once again was simply an insurmountable task, let’s face it: The vast majority of people who have fond memories of the lot are in their adult years now, anyway. When a reference to a McDonald’s character who isn’t Ronald comes up in popular culture, it’s usually from someone who grew up in the 80’s or 90’s, aimed at a demographic who did the same:
When all else fails, bank on nostalgia. And, in case you haven’t heard (and the first video above didn’t tip you off), that seems to be precisely what McDonald’s is doing. Hamburglar, now a family man, is being brought out retirement to nab himself some of the chain’s new Sirloin Third Pounder burgers (which, as an aside, I’ve heard nothing about coming to Canada yet. But then, we still have our Angus Third Pounders, so…).
“We felt it was time to debut a new look for the Hamburglar after he’s been out of the public eye all these years,” McDonald’s’ Vice President of U.S. Marketing, Joel Yashinsky, told Mashable. “He’s had some time to grow up a bit and has been busy raising a family in the suburbs and his look has evolved over time.”
This attempt to stoke “brand excitement” has seen some… interesting responses. Some miss the original chubby-cheeked version of long ago, while others find this version — and I can’t believe I’m saying this, though I guess I can kind of see where they’re coming from? — “sexy.”
As for me, personally? I’m all for it. Especially since he reminds me of this guy:
First, someone needs to create a version of that song that replaces “Repo Man” with “Hamburglar.”
Second, as I sort of noted on Twitter, my new wrestling dream is for the new Hamburglar and Repo Man to meet each other on WWE Monday Night Raw. They can build to a Tables, Ladders, & Chairs pay-per-view match for a Happy Meal, with the winner using the tables and chairs to sit down and enjoy their hard-won meal.
…what? I’m serious. We already know that WWE had done and will continue to do ridiculous things, including product placement and spots featuring Jared from Subway and stuff from other restaurants. Might as well push for one I actually want to see, if they’re to happen at all, right?
Either way, whether we get the match or not (probably not, just because), I hope we see more of this stuff and more of the old gang, ’cause — ba da ba ba ba — I’m lovin’ it.