Ticking off the days with Ronald and his pals…


By Shawn Robare

A Little while ago I shared a vintage McDonalds calendar from 1979.  I actually managed to get that calendar in a lot with others from the early 80s, so today I though I’d share some more.  Most of these calendars had some sort of gimmick (like the hidden messages and pictures in the 1979 edition), but the 1980 edition was a lot more straight forward featuring general history trivia as a theme (as you can see from the Christopher Columbus, Wright Brothers, and George Washington images on the cover…)

The artwork on this calendar is pretty weird too.  It has sort of a stained-glass vibe, but it also reminds me of the Count Morbidia pages in Dynamite magazine.  McDonalds wasn’t a huge part of my life growing up as my parents didn’t care for fast food, so most of my memories are of times when I’d tag along with friends and of the various television commercials.  Part of this un-exposure comes with an unfamiliarity with some of the McDonaldland characters, though I do think the early 80s was also a time when McD’s corporate was culling the bunch so that didn’t help either.  Because these characters seem so strange to me I find them endlessly fascinating, in particular the human characters like Captain Crook and The Professor.  I also think it’s fascinating that half of the cast were villains intent on stealing your food.  The Fry Guys (called Goblins in this calendar) would snatch your fries, Grimace would take your shakes, the Hamburglar burgled your burgers, and Captain Crook wanted to frisk you for your fillet-o-fishs.  With all these food-napping shenanigans going on it’s a wonder that anyone wanted to visit McDonaldland.  Seems like more of a mid-level hell to me…

The one thing that I also found a little strange was that as soon as Birdie the Early Bird showed up on the scene (introduced in 1980, but she doesn’t appear on a calendar until 1981), Officer Big Mac was forced into early retirement.  Hope he kept his pension, though I’m betting Mayor McCheese found a way to funnel that dough into his own personal money bin.

Though I tend to try and stick with a mainly analytical/nostalgia-ridden eye towards the stuff I write about, I can’t help but slip into Robot Chicken mode every once in awhile (Kickin’ Jeans anyone?)  So when I saw this 1981 animal-themed Ronald McDonald Coloring Calendar I did a double take of creepy-clown proportions.  How were kids not crapping their pants and crying when they set eyes on that cover?  If the big-eyed Ronald wasn’t enough, the realistically rendered animals with the human eyes would have sent chills down my spine.  Seriously, what’s up with that panda and fox?  Eloping anytime soon?

There really wasn’t a gimmick with this calendar either except its theme and the fact that it had a cut-out mobile on the back cover…

This edition also featured an ad for a branded read-along book and record set called the Ronald McDonald Discovery Series.  Personally I think this is a little weird.  It’s not that I’m against branded characters shilling products to kids; I love 80s cartoons despite all the merchandising.  I think it bugs me that this series isn’t about selling hamburgers, and instead seems to be education in nature.  It just doesn’t seem right for Ronald to lead kids on this journey.  I mean if it were ever the responsibility of a parent to step in and take center stage, it’s when teaching their kids about the basics of the world.  That aside, I’m dying to see what these books looked like…

 

Though I do have a copy of the 1982 calendar, I’m going to save it for another post as it’s a variation on the Little Golden Sticker Fun books from the 70s-90s and feels like it should be discussed in a Peel Here column.  Instead I’ll skip ahead to the last calendar in my collection, the 1983 Ronald McDonald Space Explorer Coloring Calendar with Magic Rub ‘n Discover Spots…

First off, I love the Space Ronald theme for the calendar.  It’s almost as if McDonaldland was in another galaxy and this is how Ronald gets from home to Earth to shill his burgers and chicken nuggets.  As we can see in the below coloring page Ronald decides to take a trip around the galaxy with all of the Mcdonaldland villains.  Strange…

Maybe he was planning on flying them all to Mars where he’s leave them stranded in a big pile of red space dust.  Hey, maybe that cosmic face everyone sees on the planet is really a giant temple built to Grimace?  Anyway, the main gimmicks in this calendar are the magic rub and discover spots, which is a technology that I hadn’t seen before.  Basically, there are missing images and text in the calendar that are surrounded by a dotted line.  By rubbing a coin over the area the images or text “magically” appear.  I’m not sure if it’s the age of the paper or if the trick was always sort of subpar, but it’s kind of difficult to see the revealed images, even with photoshop enhancement…

 

It is an interesting idea though…

The other thing that was really interesting about this 1983 calendar is that it came with two sets of coupons, one for McDonalds food products and another that were actually rebates for a series of Mattel branded products.  Actually, most of the other calendars also came with McDonalds coupons that you could redeem throughout the year, but this was the only one with a toy company tie in as well.  It was kind of neat to see rebates on Masters of the Universe figures and playsets, though at a combined rebate of $2.50 I’m betting not many kids or parents sent them in…

 

On Wednesday I’m going to share some more McDonalds craziness, so stay tuned for that.

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  • PhillyRadioGeek

    Thanks for sharing. The McDonaldland characters are fascinating for a variety of reasons, not least of which is the way they changed (and disappeared) as the years went on. If you think they were creepy in the 80s, you should see the 70s versions! This is a perfect time to shill my own blog (shameless plug) where I feature many old McDonald commercials. Unfortunately, several of them are now removed from YouTube leaving me with some dead links. I may need to revise them this week.

  • Paxton Holley

    LOL! These are great, Shawn. However, I’m not sure I’d want to play “”Rub and Discover”" with Ronald. I can already feel the psychosis starting to form in my brain when I think about it.

  • narvolicious

    LoL…”"rub and discover”" ..too funny. Ok so there’s the Fry Guys…what did they call those lil’ mini burger things next to the Fry Guys? Do you remember that “”McDonald’s Rap”" record (circa 1983) which was a 45rpm disc printed on that floppy vinyl? It was Ronald reciting all the items on the McD’s menu as a rap, with a crowd of people which he urged to follow along. The record was actually a contest, where one had to listen to the whole thing and see if the crowd finished the rap successfully (the rap got harder and harder as it went along). If you had the “”lucky record”" where they completed the rap, you won like $1000 or something (can’t remember exactly, but it was a large sum of money). I remember the first few lines going “”Big Mac McDLT a quarter pounder with some cheese…”" man, it was totally cheezy, but well worth the memories.