Native Happy Meal Characters: Now You See Them, Now You Don’t
In what might just be a blip on the cultural radar, a pair of cartoonish Native American characters tied to a McDonald's Happy Meal campaign appeared on a designer's portfolio site — but were taken down.
The characters looked to be part of the cast of HappyStudio.com, a website connected to McDonald's and aimed at kids. At HappyStudio, children create personal avatars that inhabit a world that is also home to Happy Meal boxes with arms, legs and personalities (cowboy, scientist, pirate, etc.) that interact in games and videos.
The website DesignTaxi posted a selection of characters yesterday it described as an "update" — a new kid-friendly face of McDonald's, perhaps replacing the familiar Hamburglar, Grimace and Mayor McCheese. The characters and concept originated with the Paris-based firm TBWA; DesignTaxi's images came from the portfolio of the creative team of Alice Mounoury and Danae Bilheude, and were rendered by artist Libellule.
The American Indian Happy Meal characters depicted were "Happy Indian Chief," who wears a full feathered headdress while sitting on a rocking horse, and "Happy Eagle Eye," an archer whose braids are so long one of them is used as the string of its bow, which shoots a suction-cup-tipped arrow.
Several commenters at DesignTaxi voiced objections to Chief and Eagle Eye.
“I like the Indian Chief. How about an Oriental Female Driver, or Starving Negro Slave or something similarly appropriate?” said one.
“You forgot happy Latina nanny/housekeeper. Ridiculous. I thought we were past this foolishness, but McDonald's brought it to a new high… or low,” said another.
Since the comments were posted, Mounoury and Bilheude have removed the American Indian characters from their portfolio sites, although it is unclear whether the removal was a direct result of the complaints.
Is is also unknown whether McDonald's plans, or ever planned, to use the two Native characters. Several attempts were made to reach Mounoury and Bilheude as well as the TBWA Agency, but all requests have remained unanswered.