When it comes to Ronald McDonald, McDonald's doesn't clown around. It
won't even admit that there is more than one Ronald.
For four months now, McDonald's Corp. executives have been meeting at
headquarters in Oak Brook, Ill., trying to decide just how to script a
Ronald revival. The Golden Arches is mostly mum on the matter, saying only
that the 40-year-old character will start showing up more -- and in
The careful choreography of this clown's every step shows the McDonald's
machine in high gear. No detail is too small. In 1999, McDonald's ad
agency Leo Burnett hired a stylist to refashion Ronald's wavy red hair,
and it spent months studying whether to increase the width of the red
stripes on his socks.
So protective is McDonald's of the character's mystique that men who play
Ronald are never to admit that they do. Ronalds in costume aren't to say
who they are in civilian life.
McDonald's conducts extensive background checks on Ronald candidates, but
that hasn't always prevented mishaps. One former Ronald is a vegetarian
who has since joined forces with animal-rights group People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals to chide the chain.
"I feel badly about what I've done with young people," says Geoffrey
Giuliano, who played Ronald in Canada in the early 1980s. "I was the happy
face on something that was horren- dous."
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