The McDonald’s Ads That Mimicked ‘H.R. Pufnstuf’

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Here’s a little interesting piece of pop culture history that want to share with you all! Did you know that McDonald’s once ripped off Sid and Marty Krofft’s TV show of live-action, life-sized puppets, H.R. Pufnstuf?

McDonaldland

Back in the early 1970s, McDonald’s ad agency consulted with the Kroffts’ about doing an ad campaign called McDonaldland that was similar in look and feel to H.R. Pufnstuf. McDonaldland’s characters would be adaptations of the ones from the Kroffts’ popular Saturday-morning show.

The quality of this video isn’t very good but it shows the trippy McDonaldland TV commercial from 1971, which I think you will agree looks A LOT like the Kroffts’ H.R. Pufnstuf:

Here’s another:

Here’s the song’s lyrics:

Get yourself ready for a trip through McDonaldland,
Take along a friend and grab ahold of Ronald’s hand,
Follow Ronald McDonald through the land of apple pie trees,
and don’t be surprised if you meet Big Mac and Big Cheese.
There are thick shake volcanoes, you’ll even find a french fry stash
Now just turn around and see if you won’t find a hamburger patch
as you’re heading for…A McDonald’s…in McDonaldland.

McDonaldland

 

McDonaldland

 

Mental Floss tells more of the story:

“According to Hal Erickson’s book Sid and Marty Krofft, the ad men asked the Kroffts some pretty specific questions about their creative and technical processes, right down to what fabrics they used and how they got the characters’ mouths to move.”

In short, the Kroffts’ were told the campaign was cancelled, but, in 1971, the McDonaldland commericals began to air. So, they sued and won.

The Kroffts sued McDonald’s for ripping off their idea and technology, and the legal battle stretched until 1977. …In the end, the Kroffts won $50,000, and according to Erickson’s book, ‘have regularly collected checks from McDonald’s, while the hamburger people have done their best to keep the particulars of the case out of the public’s earshot.'”

From Wikipedia:

“McDonaldland itself, as it was depicted in the commercials, was a magical place where plants, foods, and inanimate objects were living, speaking characters. In addition to being the home to Ronald and the other core characters, McDonaldland boasted a theme park of “Thick Shake Volcanoes”, anthropomorphized “Apple Pie Trees,” “French Fry Bushes” (where McDonald’s French Fries grew from bushes), “The Hamburger Patch” (where McDonald’s hamburgers grew out of the ground like plants), “Filet-O-Fish Lake”, and many other fanciful features based around various McDonald’s menu items. In the commercials, the various beings are played by puppets or costumed performers, very similar to those used in the popular H.R. Pufnstuf TV show.”

H.R. Pufnstuf is a lot of fun, as are all of the Krofft brother’s creations. You can get the complete series on DVD:

HRPufnstuf


Products from Amazon.com

images via Jordan Smith, Mental Floss
  • Julius Pringle

    This article is wonderful! I love it!

  • rsavaiano

    Even though McDonaldsland and characters were an obvious rip off, I wish McDonalds would bring them back. So cool.

  • Lori Wilkinson Baldwin

    Thank you for the article and posting these way-out commercials! That was a trip! I had only a very hazy memory of those commercials and had no idea about their scandalous background! By the way, is today’s secret word: CHEESEBURGER?

  • Helen Gircko

    Impressive! You encyclopedia of pop culture, Pee-wee! Thank U!……

  • Candy T

    This is a wonderful article. Did you yourself get money from pixar Pee Wee as they have stolen many character ideas from you? How do you have time to put so much research into your log when you are filming your new movie??? Can we see some new photos from the set???

  • Norm the Skull

    I remember working for McD in the early 80`s. I had the chance to wear all these costumes at a book fair.
    I was every character except Ronald. That was a good time…

  • Where’s grimace nowadays? And birdie? Oh and Mac tonite… Remember him?

  • Kelly Ann

    Is there a petting zoo at the McDonaldland Factory Farm? I wanna go!!

  • laura valentina

    Love this Retro blog Pee-wee! It brings back memories of the film pufNstuff and the food of McDonald’s. Wonderful blog as always I look forward to reading more of your future blogs.

  • Sidd & Martey Kropht were on some serious acid!

  • Dale

    Does anyone remember the McDonaldland Tour? A big semi would arrive at your McD’s and then open up/transform into a big stage with sets reminiscent of the commercials and Ronald, Grimace and the gang putting on a show. Heck, I remember when the French Fry Guys were newly-introduced characters in the world of McDonaldland.

  • Kathryn O’Connor

    I thought I dreamed that

  • Kathryn O’Connor

    I forgot about Captain Crook

  • Memories

  • Mimi L

    Ronald is the only clown that didn’t freak me out! And I’m too young to remember HR pufnstuf. He looks super trippy though!

  • Mimi L

    I’d like to add that I am a member of the Pee Wee’s playhouse generation!