Hey, Remember – When McDonald’s Was Fun


Once upon a time McDonalds was a fun place to go, everyone would go there for a salty unhealthy meal and feel absolutely no guilt about it

Remember When McDonalds Was Fun

There was a time when fast food was junk food. That was its image. It wasn’t meant to be healthy food and everyone knew it. The companies were ok with how they stood and so was everyone else. Everyone knew full well that kids would have been better off eating some vegetables, but they promoted the heck out of their burgers, fries and shakes and customers eagerly responded.

McDonalds was a mecca of tasty food with colorful creepy oddball looking mascots to promote it and lure kids in to enjoy a happy meal, get a toy and play on their dangerous playground.

Oh how times have changed.

I’m not going to talk about whether McDonalds’ sunnier disposition was wrong when consumers were much more innocent and gullible. Or the shady beginnings of the company, that will be told in the upcoming movie The Founder – which I’m really looking forward to see. Or how McDonalds’ golden arches rose over the ashes of smaller fast food competitors that were there first, which McDonalds allegedly steamrolled over and ripped off, like Weston’s.

McDonalds Playskool toy playset
Old McDonalds toys every kid had to have

Nah! Let’s put on our rose-colored nostalgic glasses, bury our heads in the sand and think back to when ignorance (or maybe indifference) was bliss. When McDonalds was the best place to go to get some food, have a birthday party at, buy some collectible drinking glasses from and get a few scrapes playing on some of their playground equipment. McDonald’s was like a local magical Disneyland!

Today they want to act like they’re real restaurants. Salads on the menu? Salads??? Why not jello for dessert. Back in the day kids were dying for those yummy cookies with Ronald and his crews faces on them. That was the way you finished off a McDonalds meal.

Eventually McDonalds started to get a lot of flak for advertising towards kids and their unhealthy menu. Only a little while earlier everyone was giving and receiving McDonald gift certificates and playing with McDonald toys and playsets. There was a whole line of junk based around the McDonald’s world. I had McDonald’s pajamas for goodness sake! Grimace proudly promoted obesity and we loved him for it. We should all take our cue from a giant purple monster after all.

McDonalds 1980s uniform staffMcDonalds used to have those cool brown uniforms with the hats. The girls looked like professional, sophisticated flight attendants. I remember kids dressing up in McDonalds uniforms for Halloween! Can you imagine that? Kids wanting to dress up as a fast food worker! Unreal!

Working at McDonalds wasn’t some kind of demeaning job. Today working at McDonalds is often used as a punchline. Yeah, the place was a fun place to go a long time ago.

It’s interesting to see how McDonalds has tried to desperately revamp their image and appease the criticism it gets today. I don’t see much of a point when they sell essentially the same dining experience it always has. It’s the same as ever – quick junky fast food.

McDonalds slogans were legendary. Back in the day they used to trumpet “You deserve a break today”. It was the company’s most successful campaign and one of the most memorable taglines ever created.

‘Break’ – an interruption, especially in a regular activity, or a short period of rest when food or drink is sometimes eaten.

With this slogan they weren’t explicating stating that a stop at their place was an actual meal. It’s just a ‘break’ – and on top of that you deserved it!

So, relax, put things on hold. Enjoy life a bit, come in and load your belly up with some burgers. Oh, so you’re going to indulge in-between your real meals with salty fries and a greasy burger? That’s fine! You don’t have to feel guilty! We understand. After all, you and everyone deserves a break today.

They got away with offering these ‘breaks’ to customers for years. Taking a break sounds like a much more admittedly irresponsible thing that you’re doing and McDonald’s will gladly help you out with it.

old McDonalds ad deserve a break todayYou can afford to eat a little bit of junk on a break. When you’re on a break at work don’t you eat crap out of a vending machine? Stop in McDonalds and take a break here! Hey, between you and me Mr. Customer everyone you see in here eating is taking a break.

Today there’s no breaks allowed. McDonald’s is sure you have more important and pressing matters you should be attending to than just chilling at their place for a break. Now you have to go there for an actual meal. They’re not in the break business anymore. Visiting for your daily three squares that’s fine, but a break – take your business elsewhere!

I think McDonalds shot themselves in the foot by starting to use the terms ‘dinner’ and ‘breakfast’. It just opened themselves up to criticism. Now they have a ‘Dinner Box’ and it’s filled with the same crap that billions used to break on. They have the All-Day Breakfast, so I guess that means you can eat Sausage McMuffins at any point during the day, meaning you can eat as many breakfasts as you want. Instead of providing you a break, that stuff on your tray or in your bag is defined as a meal.

McDonalds Dinner BoxThat makes the standards of eating at McDonalds carry much more weight to it (excuse the pun). A meal is an important part of your diet. You should get all the nutrients your body needs in a meal to keep you healthy. Well, if you’re counting on a McDonalds meal to provide that to you than you’re nuttier than the Fry Guys.

With everyone barreling down on McDonalds to act more responsibly and that they are no longer in the ‘break business’ they had to overhaul their image. Now they’re forced to make it look like they’re concerned with healthy eating, even though it’s the same crap they’ve been serving for decades.

The only way to solve this is to attempt to make that bag of junk food look like a healthier meal by offering a salad with it. No matter that that salad has more calories than most of their hamburgers, it’s technically a salad. Now with its inclusion doesn’t that make it sound like a healthier meal?

Everyone happy now? Can we all go back to pretending that this stuff is good for you. Or can we just get back to taking breaks so everyone can stop feeling guilty about eating there. And I’ll take some cookies for the ride home please.

Today McDonalds proudly says ‘I’m loving’ it’. What kind of slogan is that? What do they mean? What am I supposed to be loving? You go in and you’re forced to see the calories that are being consumed, be reminded that this is not healthy food thanks to all the articles and reports about the place and witness all the clogged arteries that are slowly taking place under their roof and just feel downright miserable. What’s there to love?

I liked it better when we could all fool ourselves that scarfing down a burger was a small reward we actually deserved! Why don’t we deserve a break today anymore???  Apparently breaks only lasted from 1971 to 1997 and we now no longer deserve them.

Maybe this coincided with everyone referring to the joint as Mickey D’s. I still have no idea how that started. Maybe it was just another name that has fallen victim to the abbreviating of every popular word trying to make it sound hipper.

Old McDonalds Playground 1980s
The dangers of the old McDonalds playgrounds

Another thing that happened with their advertising is dropping all their nutty characters that haunted McDonalds for so many years.  Grimace, The Hamburgler, Birdie the Early Bird, Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, Captain Crook, The Professor, those little talking McNuggets, the Fry Guys – these guys were a fixture in McDonald ads for a long time.

They would show up at the kids McDonald’s birthday parties held in the place. I don’t even know, do kids have birthday parties at McDonald’s nowadays? Is that a thing anymore? I can’t imagine them being as much fun as the ones I went to when I was a kid.

After the cake and winning a box of cookies you would go outside and play on the McDonald Land park. All the playground equipment were modeled after the characters. It was all hard metal, dangerous and not exactly the safest things for kids to run around on. I don’t think you could find one piece of foam or padding anywhere in those things, but it all still looked awfully cool and it was a lot of fun.

McDonalds Star Wars glassesMcDonalds even used to sell drinking glasses with images of their characters on them for you to buy. They were always doing cross-promotion with movies and cartoons emblazoning their glasses with character pictures on them. These weren’t cheap disposable plastic pieces of crap you’d find at 7-11’s either. You’d go there to buy the entire set of these fine drinking glasses and keep them for a lifetime.

Gradually those all went bye-bye too, but a generation still have those things sitting around. The best chance of seeing those licensed glasses are in the top shelves of kitchen cabinets and scattered around garage sale tables. They still do the Happy Meal toys at least.

Today, McDonalds likes to pretend they’re real restaurants and are too sophisticated for that kiddie stuff. The characters were phased out in the early 2000s with only Ronald remaining. The only place you’ll find the fading images of most of them today are imprinted on the cookies and maybe a very old out of the way McDonalds where they haven’t gotten around to tearing their pictures down yet.

McDonalds feels they’d just be better off leaving their funny characters out of their promotions today. Back in the 60’s and 70’s the ad men must of been smoking some really strong stuff coming up with such outlandish characters and guessing if they would work.

Who would ever think having a policeman and a mayor with giant hamburger heads for heads would work? What would kids think when they sat down to eat a burger now? You would be pouring ketchup on the head of Mayor McCheese and eating it! That whole crop of characters were really bizarre, but somehow you warmed up to them.

McDonalds new HamburglarNow I bet they go through so many designs and surveys for their publicity. Taking so many studies trying to be sure not to offend consumers and attract the right demographics or whatever what they finally spit out is just bland and embarrassing.

Remember when McDonalds reintroduced a new Hamburglar to sell some new sirloin burger. This guy doesn’t look like the old weird cartoony guy who would say “Robble Robble”. No they had to update him. He was a suburban dad now and actually he looks creepier than the old one! 

Little kids probably were confused by who this guy was supposed to be and those who remembered the real Hamburgler were aghast by this new version.

“We felt it was time to debut a new look for the Hambugler after he’s been out of the public eye all these years. 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.”

What a joke.

Evolved??? Grow up??? He’s a creepy masked bandit who steals everyones hamburgers, what’s so complicated about that? A backstory? Are they serious? I don’t think the creators of this guy expected him to ‘evolve’ any further than him grabbing bags of hamburgers. His point was to shill hamburgers to kids! It’s very simple. SIGH. I can’t imagine what they’ll do to Grimace when they get around to ‘evolving’ him!

The new Hamburglar failed miserably. Embarrassing commercials. and the promotion went bust. I think the sirloin burger is still around, but the new Hamburglar went bye-bye.

That new Hamburglar was so bad. All he did was get people complaining about how he looked and no one was motivated to buy the burgers. At least with this incident people didn’t just complain about calorie counts. They were too busy shaking their heads at this new Hamburglar idea.

McDonalds Happy Meal mascotThen they tried to create this new mascot for their Happy Meals. They’re starting to toss in apple slices, low-fat yogurt and a smaller amount of fries into their happy meals to promote better nutrition, even though most kids would probably ditch that healthy crap and just eat the cookies.

So they made up this guy called Happy. That lit further anger by consumers saying the thing looks stupid, which it does.

I love these press releases from the company. They say Happy and the new yogurt addition will “give kids and parents something to look forward to during their next trip to McDonalds’. I’m sure the kids will be so psyched to eat out of a box with a smiley face on it.

Damn thing looks like that old annoying Microsoft Word paperclip icon. Yeah, I’d love to have pajamas emblazoned with that thing.

It is strange. I would think most of these people who have been complaining about McDonalds for years would like any semi-healthy message the place even half-heartedly would attempt. At least it show they’re trying a little and you couldn’t fault them too much. But everytime McDonalds tries to cater to the PC police they just get scorned even further.

What would happen if McDonalds went balls deep and just revamped their Happy Meals into Healthy Meals. No more good stuff, just plain tasting farm crap inside that box. Their sales would plummet, kids wouldn’t eat it, but would that make everyone happy then?

Anyone old enough to remember McDonalds gift certificates? Boy, were they great and everyone loved them! There was a stretch of time I could count on getting one in my stocking every Christmas. Fifty cents back then could actually buy you something decent from McDonalds. I remember my teachers would always get a bunch for the holidays from kids too. Back then teachers probably got more of those than coffee mugs.

I guess McDonalds still sells gift cards, but those don’t rival the popularity that those old gift certificates enjoyed. Everyone actually liked getting those things. I’m not sure if anyone gets the same excitement by being handed a McDonalds gift card today. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people might even take it as an insult if you give them one for Christmas!

Kids still love McDonalds today, but there’s nowhere near the adulation it got when I was little.

McDonalds cast characters Ronald GrimaceI would like McDonalds better if they didn’t bother trying to dress up their garbage as healthy food. And I never understood why McDonalds is being held so responsible for the fat epidemic so much. Everyone knows it’s crappy fatty, salty, sugary food. Ever since the place started in 1930 that’s what it sold – cheap unhealthy food that was made quickly. That’s their business model. I think if I was in charge of advertising I would just promote the hell out of that aspect to it.

Kids this stuff is bad for you, but you’re sure going to love eating it! You’ll be saying ‘I’m Loving It!

I can’t remember the last time I ate at McDonalds, but I sure have some great memories when I was a kid eating there. I’m sure plenty do. Billions weren’t served by McDonalds with plates of vegetables.

And they should really get back to wearing those old uniforms.

6 thoughts on “Hey, Remember – When McDonald’s Was Fun

  1. Fact – growing up as kid in the 70s and 80s was the best time ever in the history of mankind. Fact.

    Today kids have smartphones, iPads, access to every song or film ever made at a touch of a few buttons, and thousands of video games for consoles, handhelds and the PC.

    Then we had toys made from real metal (that never broke and are still survive even to this day), we played in parks and woods without our parents freaking out or tracking us every second with a GPS finder, we made adventures in our heads playing D&D and watched the same cartoons like all the other kids watched when we got home from school (just before boring news), we went to McDonalds for our birthday treat with 20 of our friends and we had fun. Real genuine fun.

    Today everything is processed, industrialised, plastic, cheap and accessible and the US is now in the bottom league of one of the most unhappiest countries on earth. Everything has been reduced to profit margins and revenue growth and it has sucked the life out of imagination and innocence.

    1. “Then we had toys made from real metal (that never broke and are still survive even to this day)”

      Well, I see someone still has their Tonka toys. God bless you, sir!


  2. I still remember that bizarre promotion where they had the “hot” and “cold” sides of a Big Mac in an egg-like container. What???

    1. That wasn’t the Big Mac; it was a product called the McDLT. And why they put the cheese on the “cool” side instead of the “hot” side is beyond me.

  3. How could you write this and not mention this failed attempt at an ‘image overhaul” or whatever: the Arch Deluxe and all the ads surrounding it? Supposedly it was a burger with “the grown up taste”. Ads for this alleged “grown up burger” saw kids/teens viewing it with disgust, Ronald apparently going through a mid-life crisis, teens being judged on how mature they were simply by whether or not they’d eaten the thing, an old man picking up after a little league game repeatedly saying “darn kids” until finding an Arch Deluxe wrapper prompting a “darn grown ups” instead. Yet despite some of those ads boldly saying the Arch Deluxe was “America’s favorite new burger”, it was off the menu after a year or two at most.

  4. McDonald’s doesn’t make the cookies with the character heads anymore. Those were pretty good, I miss them. But what I really miss are the fried apple pies. If I wanted healthy food I wouldn’t be a McDonald’s. It’s not like anyone was ordering them thinking they were healthy. At the very least they could have kept them on the menu, and added the baked apple pies for the mo-mo’s that thought they were eating healthy by ordering the sugar ridden pies baked not fried. Probably the same idiots who order a super size Big Mac meal with a Diet Coke.

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