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The Ronald McDonald Comic Strip
One day a few months ago, I was browsing the Filming in McDonaldland Facebook Page when I saw someone mention a Ronald McDonald newspaper comic strip. This completely took me by surprise. I had seen Ronald and his friends in comic strip form before, but I had always assumed that they were part of advertising material that had been distributed at McDonald’s restaurants.
I was very wrong. Yes, they were advertisements of a sort, but they were published for an all too brief time in the high-profile newspaper, The Chicago Tribune. More importantly, one person painstakingly collected and reprinted the entire run of this comic strip in a book called Ronald McDonald Newspaper Comic Strip Collection: 1978-1979.
What is Filming in McDonaldland?
The Filming in McDonaldland Facebook Page is a wealth of behind-the-scenes knowledge and fun about McDonaldland. Even the most ardent fan will discover new information to appreciate there.
Just to set expectations on this book, it is a slim volume that clocks in at 48 pages. They only released 104 of these strips in 1978 & 1979. Also, the quality of the comic strips vary. Some of the strips are in clear moderate-resolution color, but others are obviously Black & White versions of the original work. All of them though are clear and readable.
This speaks to the difficulty in trying to gather the entire run of the comic. This strip was in a single paper for just two years, then disappeared. So the author of this book and McHistorian, Chris McB, had to patiently compile these comics over multiple years. Bidding and winning various auctions and connecting with fans who were willing to hold onto these comics for decades and then give them up. All this work resulted in 89 of the strip’s original 104 published comics.
Then to get the final 15 strips he had to get access to the microfilm masters from the Chicago Tribune. This took years of back and forths with the paper.
Ronald in other comics?
Starting in late 1970, Ronald also appeared in a Charleton Comic aptly named, Ronald McDonald. The series only had a 4 issue run, but it is filled with light storytelling, fun gags, and an art style that I would almost describe as Peanuts-esque. The art and story are by well-known artist Bill Yates (who had nothing to do with the comic strip).
I am now sure why this never caught on as a series, but over the years, this limited run has begun to become collectible.
After that, McB needed to compile, figure out their publication timeline, organize, and in a few instances edit the comics to make them legible.
The end result is a wonderful book that not only compiles the original run of the Ronald McDonald Comic Strip, but also three much larger comic booklets that were distributed at McDonald’s
The story of how the book came together is great, but it’s the subject matter that makes this book worth owning. Each comic strip is a single horizontal strip. With colorful or B&W art representing the various characters of McDonald’s McDonaldland engaged in various activities that usually end in a pitch for a food item, new promotion, or location opening. It is advertainment at its best.
Retroist McDonaldland Memories Podcast
Learn more about McDonaldland on the Retroist McDonaldland Memories Podcast.
But despite the constant selling, these strips have a lot more going for them. They are creatively illustrated with a timeless style and playfulness in formatting that you could only find in more advanced strips at the time. The artist plays with the genre and comic boxes will change sizes and sometimes disappear altogether.
Most interesting are the strips that build upon the mythology of McDonaldlands’ cast of characters. Outside of this strip, most of that world-building was only coming out of the people working on the restaurant chain’s TV commercials. But we get some great nuggets in print. For example, we see that they paint all of McDonaldland green for St. Patrick’s day, which really pleases ol’ Uncle Grimacy.
These are small things, but it makes you wonder. If given the time and creative freedom, how much better well-rounded would McDonaldland and its citizens have become.
Sadly, that is just a giant, “what if.” The comic strip only ran for 2 years and didn’t set the world on fire and was quickly forgotten. Lucky for us though, it did find some fans. Some of whom were dedicated enough to hold onto the strips for over thirty years. We are even luckier that Chris McB had an earnest and passionate interest in these comics strips that drove him to put together such an obvious labor of love.