The Great McPufnstuf Ripoff

Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Does anyone else who was a child of the 70s remember the psychedelic "McDonaldland" commercials and themed playgrounds? It was an advertising concept that McDonald's introduced in 1971 and centered around a trippy, magical place where bushes grew an unending supply of french fries, Filet-O-Fishes swam in lakes, and apple pies sprouted from trees. In addition to Ronald McDonald himself, other inhabitants of McDonaldland included Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac, The Hamburglar, the pear-shaped, purple, hairy Grimace, Captain Crook, and The Professor. 

This was the best quality version of an early commercial showing McDonaldland that I could find. The song is very groovy!

Tucked away in my basement, I have this wind-up McDonaldland train set and dolls of several of the characters sold during the mid-70s:

What I loved most were the McDonaldland themed playgrounds that only certain McDonald's in my area had. My brother took me to one when I was about five years old and I distinctly remember riding the Filet-O-Fish and playing inside Grimace:

If you're thinking by now that these mascots look like something Sid and Marty Krofft dreamed up, you'd be mostly correct. When McDonald's came up with the marketing concept in 1971, they modeled it exactly after the H. R. Pufnstuf TV show, created by the Kroffts. One problem, though - McDonald's never actually credited or paid the brothers. The pair sued the fast food giant in 1973, and ultimately collected over $1 million in damages about 4 years later. McDonald's was forced to phase out the magical sets and many of the original characters from their advertising. They tried to compensate in the 80s and early 90s by introducing new characters such as the French Fry Goblins and Birdie the Early Bird, but by then the magic was lost. Like a lot of things from my childhood, I'll always think of McDonaldland as distinctly 70s, never to be seen again. 


  1. I totally remember this!!! I also LOVED the H.R. PufnStuf series, too! Same on Mickey D's. How shallow of them not to give due credit (and paid royalties).

  2. Yup. I remember the play lands. Boy were they awesome! I was going to touch on the subject in a future post about Mickey D's (probably still will) Great post! Really brings back memories!

  3. Those commercials were probably the impetus for me to demand McDonaldland Cookies whenever we'd go to McD.

  4. some of the mcdonald's near me still had those playsets until the late 1990s.

    I never watched (nor heard of) the Krofft show as a kid, so I never made the association! ha ha.

  5. I swear, if I saw a Grimace bouncy thing still around I'd have to hop inside it! It was a pretty big deal to me when I got to visit a McDonald's that had the playground.

  6. That was a pretty cool commercial - now I have that song playing in my head. My Aunt Al's 4 kids all worked here at various times in the 70s and 80s. I still have the collectible plates that she got me in the mid or late 70s.

  7. I remember the themed playlands....ahhh, those were the days.

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