The McDonaldland characters, who starred in McDonald's promotional campaigns during the late 1980's and 1990's | Agents of Fandom

A McDonaldland Character Power Rankings Inspired by the Grimace Birthday Shake!

He may have gotten his own brand new milkshake, but where does the larger than life purple creature rank among all McDonald’s promotional characters?

One of the newest viral sensations making its way around the internet over the past few weeks is the Grimace Birthday Shake. The purple, sickeningly-sweet frosty treat has been introduced and heavily marketed by fast food giant McDonald’s for reasons that, to this point, remain a mystery. Yes, the product launch does align with the first-ever appearance of the affable purple monster, which took place in June 1971—however, what exactly Grimace has done to warrant such celebration is still unclear.

The Grimace Birthday Shake (pictured below) commemorates the 52nd birthday of the now middle-aged McDonald’s mascot. Logic would dictate that turning 50 might have earned him a party and his own (expensive!!!) birthday-themed meal, but I digress. Wanting to see what all the fuss was about, I chose to try the Grimace Birthday Shake for myself this week. While in the midst of said review, it occurred to me that the McDonald’s Cinematic Universe, the McDU if you will, is chock-full of some far more interesting characters. Where are their birthday celebrations and accompanying desserts?

It was for this reason that this piece has been published—today, we will conduct a deep dive into McDonald’s extensive “McDonaldland” televised marketing campaign, which spanned from the early ’70s through the early 2000s. The very best characters that were introduced during that time period have been selected and power ranked accordingly.

The Grimace Birthday Shake, released in June 2023 by McDonald's | Agents of Fandom
The Grimace Birthday Shake: a drink definitely fit for a furry purple monster. Image Credit: Dennis Lee/The Takeout.

Full review of the Grimace Birthday Shake

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Full McDonaldland Character Power Rankings

It’s time for the main event, our McDonald’s promotional character power rankings. There will be an honorable mention following our 10-character list, which only includes those mascots who appeared in the McDonaldland TV commercials over the years. Perhaps you’ve forgotten some of them or—even more likely—never knew that some of them existed in the first place. Well, that’s about to change!

10. Captain Crook

Captain Crook, a character who stole Filet-O-Fish sandwiches from unsuspecting McDonald's customers | Agents of Fandom

An obvious play on the Captain Hook character from Peter Pan, Captain Crook’s main objective over the years was to steal everyone’s Filet-O-Fish sandwiches. Seriously. Given that he’s not even the most prominent thief in McDonaldland—or on this list—and that his schtick involves stealing the item that no one would ever admit to eating (seriously, have you ever met anyone who’s claimed to have eaten a Filet-O-Fish?), he brings up the rear here.

9. Fry Kids

The Fry Kids, who were created as a means to promote McDonald's Fries | Agents of Fandom
They look nothing like French fries, but these colorful furry creatures were (for whatever reason) introduced as a means to motivate you to eat some. Image Credit: McDonald’s Corp.

The Fry Kids are fairly horrifying to look at (seriously, where are their mouths?), but since they were introduced to promote possibly the greatest fast food French fries to ever exist, they warrant a spot in the top 10. Their design is definitely flawed, though, as it’s implied that they’ll eat your fries if you don’t keep your eye on them…how would they go about doing this?

8. Uncle O’Grimacey

Uncle O'Grimacey, Grimace's Irish Uncle who was created to promote the Shamrock Shake | Agents of Fandom
The Grimace Birthday Shake is not the first dessert attributed to his family; his Uncle O’Grimacey (above) is the McDonald’s patron saint of Shamrock Shakes! Image Credit: McDonald’s Corp.

Yes, Grimace has a green, Irish Uncle (who was created solely for the promotion of the Shamrock Shake)! Quite frankly, I think this was top-notch marketing on the part of McDonald’s—how they don’t still trot him out for commercials during the month of March is beyond me. It’s pretty clear that the Grimace Birthday Shake would not exist without the success of Uncle O’Grimacey and his delicious minty dessert treat.

7. Iam Hungry

Iam Hungry, a computer generated character, poses with his business card next to Ronald McDonald | Agents of Fandom
The only character on this list to originate through computer animation, Iam Hungry was (or possibly still is?) McDonald’s VP of Snacking during the late 1990s. Image Credit: McDonald’s Corp.

He looks far too much like a bargain store Oscar the Grouch for my liking, but a prominent title like VP of Snacking will definitely take you places! Like others who will follow him on this list, Iam Hungry is a McDonaldland bigwig who never seems to face any sort of consequences for his actions, as he has been seen in commercials going around eating everyone’s McDonald’s meals and snacks over the years. How long will this behavior be enabled?

6. Officer Big Mac

Officer Big Mac, a character in the McDonaldland Promotional Marketing Campaign | Agents of Fandom
The McDonaldland Chief of Police, Officer Big Mac, has been letting crime run rampant throughout the city for years now. Keep two hands on your Grimace Birthday Shakes, folks! Image Credit: McDonald’s Corp.

He looks quite similar to Mayor McCheese—perhaps Officer Big Mac is his distant relative who chose to go into law enforcement. Did he obtain his position through nepotism, if this is the case? Because he’s clearly not too skilled at his job, given the fact that Hamburglar or any of the lower-level McDonaldland criminals aren’t locked up. As a result, he doesn’t crack the top five on our list. Keep an eye on your valuables, as your Grimace Birthday Shakes don’t appear to be safe from theft in his jurisdiction!

5. Birdie the Early Bird

There is no McDonald’s breakfast without Birdie the Early Bird. Next time you’re craving an Egg McMuffin, be sure to shoot her a thank you—it’s the least you can do. Birdie also helps break up the blatant sexism within McDonaldland, as there are virtually no prominent female characters aside from her in their commercials. What kind of operation are you running here, Ronald? Enough with the old boys club!

Birdie the Early Bird, a character created to promote McDonald's new breakfast items back in 1980 | Agents of Fandom

4. Grimace

Grimace, known as Ronald McDonald's best friend | Agents of Fandom

The inspiration of the Grimace Birthday Shake himself! Let’s lay it on the line—Grimace is clearly a nepo baby, considering his uncle invented the Shamrock Shake and all this guy has done is luck into becoming ingrained in the McDonald’s empire by being Ronald’s best friend. That smiling corrupt clown even helped Grimace shake off some bad PR, as he was originally “Evil Grimace,” the guy who stole milkshakes from innocent children. Now he gets this big over-the-top birthday celebration? Where are the consequences?

3. Mayor McCheese

Mayor McCheese, a character in the McDonaldland promotional campaigns over the years | Agents of Fandom
The corrupt bureaucrat of McDonaldland, Mayor McCheese, has accomplished very little in terms of new policy over the course of his many years in office. Image Credit: McDonald’s Corp.

If there was ever a prime example as to why term limits need to be introduced for fictional politicians, Mayor McCheese is said example. This man has ruled McDonaldland with an iron fist for too long, even instituting (who I believe to be) an incompetent relative in Officer Big Mac as its police chief. Was he the one who commissioned the Grimace Birthday Shake? Many curious McDonaldland citizens are wondering.

However, his burger head is iconic and was used for stools inside many McDonald’s locations back when people still used to eat inside them, remember those days? Mayor McCheese easily commands a top 3 spot in our rankings.

2. Hamburglar

The Hamburglar is one of the most prominent characters in McDonald's marketing campaigns | Agents of Fandom
The Hamburglar has become the most wanted criminal in all of McDonaldland. At this point, he’s still at large and should be considered very dangerous to those looking to enjoy their burgers. Image Credit: McDonald’s Corp.

A master thief with an iconic look, the Hamburglar has made a name for himself over the years by stealing everyone’s burgers and constantly evading capture. Perhaps he has connections in law enforcement or in the Mayor’s office? Who knows how deep his crime ring truly lies? You can sleep comfortably at night knowing that he’s not after your Grimace Birthday Shake, however. The Hamburglar’s criminal empire knows no bounds in McDonaldland, so keep a tight grasp on your quarter pounders!

1. Ronald McDonald

Ronald McDonald, pictured in a McDonald's promotional image | Agents of Fandom
Ronald McDonald has been the face of the organization for decades and is one of the most recognizable fictional characters worldwide. Image Credit: McDonald’s Corp.

Can I just say that it’s quite astounding that the Ronald McDonald character took off the way it did, considering the original IT movie from Stephen King came out around the same time as Ronald’s commercials? This begs the question whether Pennywise and Ronald are long-lost relatives or—god forbid—possibly in cahoots? Has Ronald ever publicly denounced Pennywise’s crimes against the citizens of Maine? His silence on the matter is deafening. Perhaps he greenlit the Grimace Birthday Shake to throw interested parties off his scent!

Honorable mention & final takeaways

Mac Tonight, a promotional character for McDonald's that was introduced in 1986 | Agents of Fandom
Mac Tonight, a mascot who was introduced to promote McDonald’s late night hours, is an honorable mention on our list. Image Credit: McDonald’s Corp.

Ultimately, while I can’t say I’ll ever consume another Grimace Birthday Shake, I’m definitely pleased to have tried it, as it led us down this wormhole. The investigation into Mayor McCheese needs to begin promptly—there is genuine cause to believe the man is playing fast and loose with his constituents. Based on what we’ve uncovered so far, would any of you be shocked to find some gerrymandering going on to help keep him in office all these years? Initiatives such as the Grimace Birthday Shake are clearly measures to distract inquiring minds and keep them at bay.

An honorable mention who missed our top 10 is Mac Tonight (pictured above). The character, while extremely recognizable, was declared ineligible by our committee due to his lack of inclusion in any McDonaldland televised marketing campaigns. He’s the only McDonald’s mascot to never enter into said campaigns, remaining solo in his attempts to drive late-night traffic to the Golden Arches. A mysterious figure, he never removed his sunglasses at any time.

While this particular piece involved a beverage review and impromptu power ranking of characters from a fast food giant’s marketing campaigns, we normally review movies, television, and various books at Agents of Fandom. Stay tuned to our socials as well for the latest news, reviews, and interviews!

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