McDonald's has a new Happy Meal mascot, but the character isn't garnering entirely rave reviews. What's the issue with the new guy named Happy? It seems his very smiley face is striking some social media users as a bit scary, creepy and terrifying. The fast food giant shared the image of Happy via Twitter on Monday, and at first glance many would say he is a relatively innocuous character. So, what's the issue?
The new “Happy Meal Ambassador” is an animated character designed to bring “fun and excitement to kids' meals” according to the company. The goal, says a corporate press release, is to have the Happy Meal mascot serve as an “ambassador for balanced and wholesome eating.” It seems that introducing the Happy Meal mascot via social media may have sparked a reaction McDonald's didn't intend. Time describes Happy as a “big toothed, bug-yet-somehow-still-squinty-eyed character” who is “absolutely terrifying.” Many others online seemingly followed suit in giving Happy some severe criticism.
It looks like McDonald's is sticking with Happy, however. They issued a response that indicates that the Happy Meal mascot has been well-received in Europe and Latin America and has actually been around since 2009. The character is supposed to help promote “wholesome food choices... in a fun, positive and creative way.” While the chain recognizes that the criticism has spread rapidly on social media, they maintain that “not all comments reflect the broader view.”
The argument could be made that in the grand scheme of fast food restaurant characters, Happy is hardly the most frightening. It does seem that many online are simply having a bit of fun with this one, though the criticism has generated a life of its own. Happy makes his official debut in the United States on May 23. Will children across the nation really scream and have nightmares? That seems doubtful, and chances seem fairly solid that the new Happy Meal mascot will be a bigger hit with children than he is on Twitter.