The original Ronald clown of McDonald’s, 1963
The origin of Ronald McDonald involves Willard Scott (at the time, a local radio personality who also played Bozo the Clown on WRC-TV in Washington, D.C. from 1959 until 1962), who performed using the moniker “Ronald McDonald, the Hamburger-Happy Clown” in 1963 on three separate television spots. These were the first three television ads featuring the character.
Scott, who went on to become NBC-TV’s Today Show weatherman, claims to have “created Ronald McDonald” according to the following excerpt from his book Joy of Living:
At the time, Bozo was the hottest children’s show on the air. You could probably have sent Pluto the Dog or Dumbo the Elephant over and it would have been equally as successful. But I was there, and I was Bozo … There was something about the combination of hamburgers and Bozo that was irresistible to kids … That’s why when Bozo went off the air a few years later, the local McDonald’s people asked me to come up with a new character to take Bozo’s place. So, I sat down and created Ronald McDonald.
McDonald’s does not mention Voorhis or claim that Willard Scott created Ronald in their statement:
“The smile known around the world,” Ronald McDonald is second only to Santa Claus in terms of recognition. (According to one survey, 96% of all school kids in the United States of America recognize Ronald. In his first TV appearance in 1963, the clown was portrayed by Willard Scott.