Having secured its fashionable standing among millennials by giving a clown a vest, McDonald’s has since focused its rebranding efforts on young children, in the hopes that—through the fresh repurposing of trademark properties and targeted marketing—it can somehow get them to want colorful boxes full of toys and hamburgers. To that end, today it’s introducing American kids to “Happy,” a character and “ambassador for balanced and wholesome eating.” As part of promoting that healthy diet, Happy will terrify children into never eating McDonald’s again.
“Happy” is an animated Happy Meal box who was first introduced in 2009 in France, a nation well-versed in the existential angst that its name so ironically conveys. (“How can one be happy if our only destiny is to become food?” asked the children of France, before puking wine into the ball pit.) He’s since traveled to Latin American countries that now have more reason to hate us, and today made his big U.S. debut on Twitter, where he’s already being hailed as an effective deterrent for both appetite and sleep.
“‘Happy’ is about bringing more fun and excitement to kids’ meals, including eating wholesome food choices like low-fat yogurt,” McDonald’s said of its new mascot, which brings the fun of wondering why their Happy Meal appears to have realistic teeth, tongue, and eyeballs, and the excitement of contemplating with horror whether this means Happy also has a functioning digestive system—and whether that means they’re the ones who are the “Happy meal.” Perhaps the “toy surprise” inside is their soul, which Happy would be all too happy to play with forever.
McDonald’s is betting that, rather than take the risk, most children will instead turn to its low-fat Go-GURT strawberry yogurt, a treat of reassuringly synthetic origin that doesn’t resemble Gary Busey with third-degree burns, just like today’s kids crave.
“Happy” will be introduced to the next generation of vegans on May 23.