McDonald's character Grimace posing in mirror selfie in bathroom with towel wrapped on head


Who is Grimace?

'It's always "what is Grimace" and never "how is Grimace."'


Phil West


Posted on Jun 15, 2023   Updated on Jun 16, 2023, 6:25 am CDT

With all the hoopla McDonald’s has generated around Grimace, assigning him a June 12 birthday and rolling out a meal in his honor—as the Daily Dot covered on Wednesday—you might be curious to know more about just who and what Grimace is.

Debuting in 1971 in a commercial featuring the motley crew of McDonaldland characters, according to Wikipedia, Grimace is an amorphous purple entity aligned with the fast food franchise’s milkshakes.

According to Fandom, “Now known as Ronald McDonald’s best friend, he was introduced as a villainous character called Evil Grimace who stole people’s shakes. But he quickly morphed into someone known for sharing the joy of shakes with his friends. Toward that end, he is occasionally portrayed as having birthday parties involving several McDonaldland characters, including those attending Grimace’s Birthday in 2023.”

Puzzlingly, some have advanced the theory that Grimace is actually an overgrown taste bud, including Brian Bates, the manager of a McDonald’s franchise in Windsor, Canada, who told Insider in 2021, “He is an enormous taste bud, but a taste bud nonetheless.” McDonald’s social media team went to the “what is Grimace” well the day that Insider article came out, tweeting, “It’s always “what is Grimace” and never “how is Grimace.”

In a recent People article, a spokesperson gave a “he’s whatever you want him to be”-style answer, saying, “Whether he’s a taste bud, a milkshake or just your favorite purple blob—the best part about Grimace is that he means different things to different people. Whatever he is, we’re just proud our bestie makes people happy.”

Fandom reveals that McDonald’s affixed further lore onto Grimace in a 1999 episode of the The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald animated series. There, “He was portrayed as being from Grimace Island. He came from a large family, including his Grandma Winky, aunts Millie and Tillie, his brother King Gonga and his Irish Uncle O’Grimacey, a green version of a Grimace who is associated with McDonald’s green Shamrock Shake.”

The birthday meal, as the Daily Dot reported, consists of “a choice of McNuggets or a Big Mac alongside fries and a purple, berry-flavored shake” which prompted confusion and “purple drank” jokes from the masses. This latest Grimace activation is inspiring some TikTok activity, including a GRWM video from McDonald’s own TikTok site—with content not nearly as cringe as you might expect from a corporation of McDonald’s size and stature.

@mcdonalds gotta look good for my bday #grimacesbirthday #grimaceshake #mcdonalds ♬ original sound – McDonald’s

Despite the purplewashing of a Grimace birthday blitz, though, TikTok content about McDonald’s (as covered by the Daily Dot) largely focuses on frustrations felt by workers throughout the fast-food industry, including whether workers are justified in “acting their wage,” communication issues between customers and workers in the drive-thru line (of the loud and heavily accented varieties), and customers who inadvertently slow down drive-thru times.

We crawl the web so you don’t have to.
Sign up for the Daily Dot newsletter to get the best and worst of the internet in your inbox every day.
Share this article
*First Published: Jun 15, 2023, 4:20 pm CDT