Donald McDonald as he’s known in Japan first arrived in Ginza, Tokyo, in 1971. McDonald’s was experiencing a period of spectacular growth and had stores in every American state and five other countries. Den Fujita, who was amazed at the efficiency and popularity of the chain decided to introduce the restaurant to Japan. A brilliant businessman he dominated the hamburger market but he wasn’t without his controversial attitude. He famously declared, “The reason Japanese people are so short and have yellow skin is because they have eaten nothing but fish and rice for two thousand years.” Going further, he said, “If we eat McDonald’s hamburgers and potatoes for a thousand years we will become taller, our skin become white, and our hair blonde.” Despite a downturn in popularity in other countries the burger chain recorded net profits of ¥12.81 billion in 2009.
According to one survey, 96% of all school kids in the United States of America recognize Ronald. However a recent survey by Corporate Accountability International say that 47% of people they asked think it might be time for him to retire. Alfred David Klinger a retired physician and member of the group said “Ronald McDonald is a pied piper drawing youngsters all over the world to food that is high in fat, sodium and calories,” The organization has spearheaded a “Retire Ronald” campaign critiscing the company for targeting young children with their mascot. When asked would McDonalds be dropping Ronald, CEO Jim Skinner gave a defiant “no” and described their character as “a force for good”. Some people think the blame shouldn’t be placed squarely on Ronalds shoulders and that parents should take responsibility Robert Stutler, 26, said where and what children eat is ultimately up to their parents, not the character in the yellow suit.
At the time, Bozo was the hottest children’s show on the air. You could probably have sent Pluto the Dog or Dumbo the Elephant over and it would have been equally as successful. But I was there, and I was Bozo… There was something about the combination of hamburgers and Bozo that was irresistible to kids… That’s why when Bozo went off the air a few years later, the local McDonald’s people asked me to come up with a new character to take Bozo’s place. So, I sat down and created Ronald McDonald.
Japanese people love to dress up, so its no surprise Ronald has provided inspiration for costumes, check out two great photos here and here. In the video at the bottom of the post you’ll see a sexy lady Ronald who appeared in 2005 advertising the Tomato McGrand. A recent campaign involving the character Mr James wasn’t as well revived and caused protests from vocal foreigners living in Japan.