My Memories of McDonaldland & the Burger King Kingdom

I’m a kid of the late ’70s and ’80s, so I could not watch TV without being bombarded with some advertising. 99.9% of these were geared towards getting me to harass my parents to take me to eat somewhere or buy something I was now convinced I needed.

I was McDonald’s and Burger King’s target market. So I ate up everything McDonald’s McDonaldland, and the Burger King’s Kingdom had to offer.

To this very day, I still love these characters and the memories associated with them.

Burger Museum McDonald & Burger King Kingdom Memories
McDonaldland & Burger King Kingdom Memories

My McDonaldland Memories

Burger Museum McDonaldland Cups
McDonaldland Collector Series Cups

One marketing blitz that stuck deep in my head was McDonald’s McDonaldland. Even back then, I loved burgers, and now these cool characters convinced me that I needed a Happy Meal and the toy inside to complete my life.

The original Mcdonaldland characters were:

  • Ronald McDonald
  • Captain Crook
  • Grimace
  • The Hamburglar
  • Mad Professor
  • Mayor McCheese
  • Officer Big Mac
  • and Goblins (later named Fry Guys)

My favorite McDonaldland character was the Hamburglar, whose bucky teeth had more than a passing resemblance to me at that age before braces. Also, he loves hamburgers, which were and are right in line with my philosophy of life.

One last thing on McDonaldland

I remember thinking as a kid that this world reminded me a lot of Sid & Marty Krofft’s H.R. Pufnstuf. Sid & Marty Krofft thought so, too. They won a lawsuit against McDonald’s over the similarities.

McDonaldland Commercials Compilation

McDonaldland Commercial Compilation

My Burger King Kingdom Memories

Burger King Kingdom
Burger King Kingdom

We were a Burger King family since my Mom was a giant Whopper fan. It’s probably why I still remember all of the Burger King Kingdom character names.

The Burger King Kingdom characters were:

  • The Marvelous Magical Burger King
  • The Burger Thing
  • The Duke of Doubt
  • Sir Shake-A-Lot
  • The Wizard of Fries

Burger King’s attempt at making a dent in the seeming impenetrable popularity of McDonaldland started well but fizzled out quickly. Unfortunately, the characters never caught on and were considered cheap knockoffs.

My favorite McDonaldland character was the Marvelous Magical Burger King. He hooked me right from the start since he was the King of burgers and then reeled me in with expertise in magic.

Somewhere in my parent’s photo archives is a picture of me with the Marvelous Magical Burger King. Next time I come across it, I will scan and post it here.

One last thing on the Kingdom

Burger King area at my Burger Museum (R.I.P.)
Burger King area at my Burger Museum (R.I.P.)

When a member of Burger King’s advertising company used an old Magical Burger King helium tank head as a mask (you can see one in the picture above), a new version of The Burger King was born in 2003. This reincarnated Burger King leaned toward the creepy side of things, and I loved it.

Burger King Kingdom Commercials Compilation

Burger King Kingdom Commerical Compilation

All About the Burger Book Excerpt

In case you didn’t know, I wrote a book (All About the Burger) that focuses on the history of the restaurants that popularized burgers in the United States. I snuck in a few paragraphs about McDonaldland and the Burger King Kingdom. You can read them below.

SHAMELESS SALES PITCH: You can buy a signed copy HERE


Officer Big Mac Statue at Burger Beast Burger Museum
Officer Big Mac Statue at my Burger Museum (R.I.P.)

Advertising agency Needham Harper & Steers is credited with creating the McDonaldland characters (Ronald McDonald, the Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, Grimace, Captain Crook, Mad Professor, and Goblins, later known as Fry Guys) in 1971.

Then Don Ament and his company Setmakers were hired to bring them to life for TV commercials. McDonald’s liked the original set he built so much that they decided to have themed playgrounds at some locations.

The very first McDonaldland Playland opened in Chula Vista, California, in 1971. The playground featured wall decor, swings, teeter-totters, and statues with Ronald McDonald and friends.

Sierra Vista, Arizona, has the distinction of being the first McDonald’s restaurant with a drive-thru. It opened in 1975 when the goal of the company was to take care of the customer in fifty seconds or less. Of course, this was before McDonald’s had expanded their menu. Today, the drive-thru accounts for about 70 percent of their total sales.

In 1979, the company launched the McDonald’s Happy Meal: a hamburger or cheeseburger, french fries, cookies, a soft drink, and a toy. It had a circus wagon theme.

from the McDonald’s chapter in All About the Burger

Burger King Kingdom

Burger Museum The Magical Burger King Bookmark
The Magical Burger King Bookmark

McLamore’s reign as director lasted through 1972 when Arthur Rosewall took over. In 1977, due to his declining health, he was replaced by Don Smith, the third highest-ranking executive at the McDonald’s Corporation.

Smith initiated a plan called “Operation Phoenix” that called for a restructuring of business disciplines, including an update to franchise agreements, standardized restaurant designs, and a menu with a more extensive selection. The newly revamped menu would include chicken and fish sandwiches as well as breakfast.

The Burger King Kingdom was then created to compete with the McDonald’s McDonaldland juggernaut, which had kids hooked. The Kingdom featured the Magical Burger King, the Duke of Doubt, Sir Shake-A-Lot, the Burger Thing, and the Wizard of Fries. By 1989, most of the characters were phased out, except for the Burger King, who would return as “The King” in a series of slightly creepy and entertaining commercials in 2003.

from the Burger King chapter in All About the Burger

The Burger Beast Talks Mascots

written by Burger Beast in 2009 for the Broward/Palm Beach New Times

Burger Museum Ronald McDonald Courtesy Cups
Ronald McDonald Courtesy Cups

September 28th, 2009 – Does anyone know who the McDonaldland and the Burger King Kingdom characters are anymore?

I can’t remember when I didn’t know who Ronald McDonald or the Burger King was. Sure, the friendly Burger King of the past was nothing like today’s creepy King (that guy freaks me out). And Ronald’s clownish mug used to be all over the place when I was growing up. But the other characters seem to have gotten lost in the shuffle.

I was in Downtown Disney not too long ago, and I saw a 10-year-old boy ask his parents who that giant purple creature was outside McDonald’s. What? That’s Grimace, little dude. Grimace!

Do You Remember?

Does anyone remember when Grimace was evil? Or when he had four arms? What about the Hamburglar (robble, robble)? That guy was always trying to steal burgers! Captain Crook was also a famous thief, but his big weakness was fish fillets (he must have been hard up).

There were good guys, too. The Big Mac worked diligently to stop the Hamburglar and Captain Crook while there was also Mayor McCheese, Birdie the Early Bird, Fry Kids, and the Hamburger Patch; the list goes on and on.

The Burger King Kingdom Characters were less known. Sir Shakes-A-Lot was always cold. The Burger Thing was essentially a 3D wall puppet. Funny enough, I recently saw one for sale on eBay.

I barely remember the Wizard Of Fries other than the fact that he was a robot. But who could forget the Burger King’s worst enemy, the Duke of Doubt?

In the 1980s, the Miami Dade County Youth Fair held stage performances with the McDonaldland characters.

Once Upon a Time I Used To

  • collect anything and everything with these characters on them: sometimes in toy versions or via glasses, only available with the purchase of McDonald’s Happy Meals or Burger King’s Kids Meal Pack.
  • go to Burger King and hope to run into the Burger King himself and get the chance to wear one of those paper crowns.
  • go to McDonald’s and wished to interrupt someone else’s birthday party because I knew that meant Ronald would be there (yes, we were on a first-name basis, baby).
  • think all these characters would be around forever.

But nothing lasts forever except old, styrofoam Big Mac packaging.

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