According to a McDonald’s marketing promotion, it’s the birthday of furry purple mascot Grimace. The gimmick (or Grimmick?) is primarily to introduce a new purple shake as part of what’s being sold as the limited-edition “Grimace’s Birthday Meal.” But social media users embraced the event claiming Grimace as an icon of pride and a beloved man. Some TikTokers showed up in cursed cosplay to take part in the Grimace birthday meal, which was posted on June 12.
McDonald’s marketing found other inventive ways to celebrate the mascot, including giving Grimace its Instagram account and launching a Game Boy Color game (in conjunction with Krool Toys) called grimace birthday, which you can play here. There’s also Grimace merch, of course. This level of bombast is entertaining, as it’s not particularly clear why this period of days in mid-June counts as Grimace’s birthday – the press release makes no mention of Grimace’s birth (I don’t mean not know what that would look like), or when he was first introduced in advertising, although a simple Google search puts that date in 1971. (He was also originally an evil thief similar to the Hamburglar, and he had four arms and scales when he was first created, according to Insider This version of him apparently terrified children.)
People were, of course, curious to know what a Grimace shake looked like. What flavor is a purple, triangular, googly-eyed monster that could actually be a taste bud? Turns out it’s “berry” flavored. A journalist compared the taste of the shake to cereal milk.
TikTokers are having fun, ordering Grimace’s birthday meal, donning cursed cosplay, and vaping in celebration of “mother Grimace.”
But a number of fans have really popped up, embracing the mascot with fan art and other…interesting…works. Do we like it because McDonald’s has gone through corporate hell and is now camped out? Or is Grimace a queer icon now because his birthday falls during Pride month, when so many companies rainbow wash their brands, and because it’s funny to politicize mascots for such a massive fast food chain of such scale? Who’s to say?
The idea of Grimace and Hamburglar meeting is very cute though. And while Grimace’s pronouns have been him over the years, historically women have donned the mascot costume for TV and commercial appearances.
Grimace is simply here, without having a single thought. This is the real birthday present. According to the McDonald’s fan wiki, Grimace “sometimes goes long periods of time without speaking; when he speaks, he has been known to say “duh” before every sentence.
But who or what East Grimace, really? Apparently even McDonald’s doesn’t. A press release for Grimace’s festivities reads: “Our timeless bestie has become a fan favorite known for her signature fuzzy purple look, friendly and playful personality, love of shakes and of course her ambiguous nature. What exactly is Grimace? We may never know…”
Here’s the real piece de resistance, though – someone did a spoof commercial for what a real Grimace burger would be, made with… real Grimace meat. Each patty is covered in waving fur, resulting in an extremely flavorful burger (I’m lying). However, if you really like Grimace, I recommend that you don’t watch this one.
As a self-education project during lockdown I wanted to see if I could emulate a brand’s advertising style
Anyway I made this, happy birthday Grimace or whatever pic.twitter.com/2MHjEtgsEL
— Richard Parry (@_RichardParry_) June 13, 2023
Grimace getting fan art in June wasn’t on my bingo card for the year, but McDonald’s has struck a chord with its Happy Meal toys over the past two years, so I probably shouldn’t be surprised. In 2021, Pokémon Happy Meal toys became a hot commodity, ending up on the resale market. Last October, the company launched a series of Happy Meal toys in conjunction with Cactus Plant Flea Market – quite clearly aimed at adults – which have also become highly sought after on the resale market.
As Polygon culture editor Ana Diaz predicted at the time, “It makes sense that company management is trying to win back the once-youthful audience that has aged. I wouldn’t be surprised if we come to a day when McDonald’s is running multiple toy promotions simultaneously aimed at children and adults. Do the birthday milkshake, Game Boy Color game and merchandising count? I think so.