If you live in the United States, you probably know who Ronald McDonald is, even if you don’t eat at McDonald’s much. However, very few people know the story behind this character.

Ronald McDonald is now a cultural icon. He has appeared outside of McDonald’s commercials and is recognizable. To find out who this person really is, keep reading!

Who was Ronald McDonald?

Ronald McDonald is not a real person. Instead, it’s a character that was created to advertise to children. Hamburgers and clowns seemed to work well for the company. Willard Scott originally played Ronald McDonald and claimed he created the character. However, he was dropped by the company after just two years.

Keep reading for more information on Willard Scott and the other actors who played Ronald McDonald!

Was Ronald McDonald a real person?

No, Ronald McDonald was never really a real person. Instead, this character was simply a brand mascot – something McDonald’s doesn’t like to talk about.

This company no longer uses its original clown mascot as much. However, he remains a recognizable person.

In fact, Taco Bell made fun of the mascot just a few years ago, reflecting its staying power. As a character, this mascot has been played by many different people.

For example, the first person to appear as Ronald McDonald was Willard Scott, who played him in a Washington, DC commercial.

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However, he was dropped shortly after the first commercial, as McDonald’s believed he was « too big » to play the active Ronald McDonald.

While this mascot was originally a clown and has remained a clown, McDonald’s has considered changing it a few times.

For example, he almost transformed into a cowboy and then an astronaut, but these changes never stuck.

Why did McDonald’s stop using Ronald McDonald?

There are several reasons why McDonald’s no longer uses its mascot. However, Ronald McDonald isn’t technically retired, so the company may still use the character in the future.

However, the company has faced a lot of criticism over the years regarding its use of this clown.

Originally, the main complaint was that using the clown to target children was unethical, given that McDonald’s sells fast food.

In fact, McDonald’s has been repeatedly asked to remove the clown and stop advertising to children. Even more famously, a group of doctors called for the clown’s retirement in 2011.

While the clown is a bit outdated, the most annoying fact is that it targets children. Additionally, during the 2016 clown sightings, McDonald’s toned down the mascot.

That said, it has not come back strong since, although the reasons for this are unclear. For the most part, he appears at live events and promotional gatherings.

Is the first Ronald McDonald still alive?

Sadly, the original Ronald McDonald actor, Willard Scott, passed away in 2021.

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As previously mentioned, he only played Ronald McDonald a handful of times before the company found a new actor.

Today, he is best known as the meteorologist on the Today show. He was 87 years old when he died, well above life expectancy.

Why is Ronald McDonald the mascot?

Why is Ronald McDonald the mascot?

I don’t know why Ronald McDonald is still a mascot or why he was chosen to be a mascot. Yet the mascot was first introduced to a small market in Washington, DC.

Additionally, he was played by Willard Scott, who played him on three different TV spots. However, the actor was dropped when the company took on the national mascot.

Willard Scott claimed he created the mascot to advertise to children.

As a result, the company still faces scrutiny today, as many health officials agree that fast food should not be advertised to children.

When does Ronald McDonald retire?

There have been numerous attempts to retire the Ronald McDonald mascot. However, none of them were successful.

Now the character is a national icon and instantly recognizable, so it’s not just about the company using the clown.

For example, Taco Bell created an ad that used a clown-like character, likely to push McDonald’s.

Yet no CEO has ever announced that they are retiring the clown. In fact, many of them have explicitly stated that they have no plans to remove it.

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Today he is one of the most famous mascots.

Where is Ronald McDonald now?

Remember, Ronald McDonald is not a real person. Instead, this character was invented as the main mascot of McDonald’s.

The character is not based on a real person or intended to represent a real person. When McDonald’s was founded, no one actually called themselves « McDonald’s. »

Additionally, the actors who played this character vary greatly. Some of them are no longer alive, while others still are. For some reason, the company has changed actors several times.

With that, here is a list of actors and when they portrayed this character:

  • Willard Scott (1963-1965)
  • Michael Polakovs (1965-1968)
  • Ray Rayner (1968-1969)
  • King Moody (1969-1985)
  • Squire Fridell (1985–1991)
  • Jack Doepke (1991–1999)
  • David Hussey (2000-2014)
  • Brad Lennon (2014–present)

To learn more, you can also read our articles on McDonald’s hiring process, McDonald’s statistics and facts, and McDonald’s Australia complaints.


Ronald McDonald was never a real person. However, the character has been played by eight different actors over the years.

He was originally played by Willard Scott in a few smaller commercials.

However, before the company took the character nationally, it cast a new actor named Michael Polakovs, who played the clown for a few more years.

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