What is the Mcdonalds purple thing?

The Mcdonalds purple thing refers to Grimace, a character that has been featured in Mcdonald’s marketing and advertising since the early 1970s. Grimace is a large purple anthropomorphic being of undefined species with short arms and legs and a round body. He has become one of the most recognizable mascots for Mcdonald’s along with Ronald Mcdonald and the Hamburglar.

Who Created Grimace?

Grimace was created in 1971 by Richard McDonald, who was one of the original founders of the Mcdonald’s franchise. At the time, Mcdonald’s was looking to introduce a new mascot that could represent their milkshakes and other dessert offerings. Richard McDonald came up with the concept of a large purple character with two eyes to entice kids and families to try Mcdonald’s shakes and sundaes.

The original Grimace had four arms and was known as the “Evil Grimace” with a sinister expression. However, the four-armed version was quickly abandoned and Grimace was redesigned to be more child-friendly with just two arms. His name was also changed from Evil Grimace to simply “Grimace” and his scowl was changed to a goofy, innocent smile.

What is Grimace Supposed to Be?

There has been much speculation over the years about what exactly Grimace is supposed to represent. Some key theories include:

  • A taste bud – This is based on his original role promoting milkshakes and his large round head that resembles a taste bud.
  • A blob or drop of milkshake – His purple color and shape mirrors that of a thick milkshake.
  • An anthropomorphic plum or blueberry – His color and shape lends itself to looking like a giant talking purple fruit.
  • A monster or alien – His unusual shape has led some to speculate he could be a friendly monster or alien.

However, Grimace was never officially defined by Mcdonald’s. His character was purposely left open to interpretation to be appealing to children’s imaginations. So Grimace could be any of the above theories, or simply a friendly, fun mascot without a defined backstory.

History and Evolution of Grimace

Here is a more detailed overview of how Grimace has evolved and been portrayed over the decades as a key Mcdonald’s mascot:

  • 1971 – Grimace is introduced as the “Evil Grimace” with four arms and a sinister expression. He represents Mcdonald’s new milkshakes and is partly inspired by horror films and characters that were popular at the time.
  • 1972 – Evil Grimace is quickly dropped in favor of a two-armed friendly Grimace to appeal better to kids and families. His name is shortened to just “Grimace” and he sports a goofy smile.
  • 1974 – For a few years in the early 1970s, Grimace stars in Mcdonaldland adventure commercials alongside Ronald Mcdonald. He plays more of a villainous role in these ads.
  • 1976 – Grimace begins appearing in Mcdonaldland commercials as a protaganist along with the newly introduced Hamburglar. His personality is portrayed as that of a gentle, harmless sidekick.
  • 1980s – Throughout the 1980s, Grimace remains a major staple of Mcdonald’s advertising along with Ronald. His character is developed to be more childlike and innocent.
  • 1984 – For Mcdonald’s sponsorhip of the Olympics, Grimace is given an Uncle Sam hat and portrayed as “Uncle O’Grimace.” This turns him temporarily into more of patriotic American symbol.
  • 1990s – Grimace continues to feature prominently in promotions and ads for Happy Meals and other kids meal offers from Mcdonald’s.
  • 2003 – Grimace undergoes a significant redesign and receives eyebrows and 3-dimensional computer animation on his face to give him a more expressive look.
  • 2006 – For some of Grimace’s appearances, another change is made to his eyes by having only one giant eye instead of two eyes.
  • Present – While not as prominent as in the 80s and 90s, Grimace still makes occasional appearances in Mcdonald’s marketing campaigns and remains a recognizable pop culture icon.

As shown by this timeline, Grimace has gone through various iterations over the decades while managing to remain a lovable mascot known for his purple blob-like shape and innocence.

Grimace’s Personality and Characteristics

So what are some of the established personality traits and characteristics of Grimace as Mcdonald’s has developed him into a mascot?

  • Gentle – Grimace is often portrayed as very soft-spoken and kind.
  • Nervous – He can be depicted as shy, cowardly, and easily scared.
  • Innocent – Grimace often behaves in a very childlike and guileless manner.
  • Playful – He loves to have fun and joke around with Ronald and other characters.
  • Dimwitted – Grimace can sometimes come across as a bit slow or dense.
  • Clumsy – His huge size and stubby legs make him prone to being clumsy and bumbling.
  • Happy – Most of all, Grimace just wants everyone to be happy and have a good time.

These traits have endeared Grimace as a lovable, gentle giant sort of character that provides a fun contrast to the more energetic and mischievous Ronald Mcdonald.

Grimace’s Role in Mcdonald’s Marketing

In addition to being a mascot, Grimace has served a variety of roles in Mcdonald’s advertising and promotions over the years:

  • Promoting milkshakes – His original purpose was to get customers excited about Mcdonald’s thick, creamy shakes.
  • Promoting Happy Meals – Grimace starred in many ads for Mcdonald’s Happy Meals aimed at children.
  • Promoting soda – For a time in the 1970s, Grimace represented Dr. Pepper drinks in Mcdonald’s ads.
  • Promoting food overall – Grimace moved beyond just milkshakes to promote Mcdonald’s burgers, fries, nuggets and other items.
  • Promoting special initiatives – He has been used to advertise Olympics campaigns, literacy programs, Ronald McDonald House Charities and more.

Grimace’s friendly persona has allowed him to be effective at marketing Mcdonald’s across a variety of initiatives beyond just products. His colorful appearance and cheerful demeanor make him appealing and memorable to audiences of all ages.

Pop Culture Appearances

Beyond official Mcdonald’s commercials and advertising, Grimace has made appearances in TV shows, films, video games and more over the decades:

  • The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald – He was featured as a main character in this animated series along with Ronald and others.
  • Saturday Night Live – Grimace was impersonated in some SNL sketches, played by Horatio Sanz.
  • Aqua Teen Hunger Force – In one episode, Frylock makes a Grimace-shaped birthday cake for Meatwad.
  • Drawn Together – An episode featured Grimace portrayed as a hardcore, foul-mouthed rapper.
  • Family Guy – The show referenced Grimace in a joke about Ronald McDonald’s genitals.
  • PaRappa the Rapper – Grimace has a cameo in this rhythm video game for PlayStation.

Grimace has made his way into numerous corners of pop culture, often being parodied or referenced in funny, memorable ways as people reminisce about the Mcdonald’s icon.

Why Grimace Disappeared for a While

From 1996 to 2003, Grimace and the other core Mcdonaldland characters faded from Mcdonald’s advertising and promotions. There are a few reasons speculated for Grimace’s absence during this period:

  • Mcdonald’s was shifting to more mature marketing focused on adults rather than kids.
  • The company wanted to promote its food rather than characters and mascots.
  • Mcdonaldland was seen as outdated compared to more hip, modern advertising.
  • Mcdonald’s was being criticized for advertising unhealthy food to children.

Whatever the exact motivation, Mcdonald’s clearly felt the classic characters like Grimace and Ronald no longer fit its new marketing strategy at the time. It wasn’t until years later in 2003 that Grimace was brought back into the fold along with his Mcdonaldland friends.

Grimace Makes a Comeback

In 2003, after nearly a decade absence, Grimace and the rest of the Mcdonaldland gang were revived with some modern updates to their look and appeal:

  • New 3D computer animated graphics made the characters look sleeker and more modern.
  • Grimace was given eyebrows to become more expressive.
  • Advertising focused on their nostalgic appeal to those who grew up with the characters.
  • They starred in new promotions like the Come as You Are music video and Monopoly sweepstakes.

While not as prominent as their heyday in the 1980s and 90s, Grimace and friends found a new place in Mcdonald’s marketing mix by evoking nostalgia. Grimace helped Mcdonald’s appeal to multiple generations who fondly remember the cute purple character.

Why Grimace Is an Effective Mascot

There are a few key reasons why Grimace has endured and remained beloved as a successful Mcdonald’s mascot over the decades:

  • Simple and Distinctive Design – His instantly recognizable round shape and purple color makes him stand out.
  • Broad Appeal – His harmless personality andplayful nature appeals to young kids as well as adults.
  • Flexible Usage – Grimace can easily be adapted to promote new products, initiatives and campaigns.
  • Good Complement – He serves as a lighthearted counterpoint to Ronald’s wacky energy.
  • Positive Association – He links positive memories of Mcdonald’s with happiness and fun.

Very few marketing characters achieve true icon status on par with Grimace. His enduring longevity proves he tickles the public’s funnybone in just the right way.


The Mcdonalds purple thing – Grimace – has become an iconic piece of Americana over the decades. From his sinister start in the 1970s to his childlike revival in the 2000s, Grimace has demonstrated surprising staying power and the ability to keep charming new generations. His amorphous purple blob-ness has come to represent the warmth, fun and familiarity associated with Mcdonald’s. While he may not be the hippest mascot or appear in as many ads today, Grimace remains a beloved pop culture fixture after all these years.

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