Mac Tonight: what happened to the 80s McDonald's Mascott?

Mac Tonight: what happened to the 80s McDonald's Mascott?

Before online streaming platforms became popular, and when DVR was only a flash in the eyes of cable companies, people used to watch television and had no choice to sit through endless commercials. Nowadays, people ignore ads and try to skip commercials whenever they are watching a programme. Thus, the advertisement goldmine of the yesteryears is probably gone. But since everyone was forced to watch ads, many memorable ones have stood the test of time. One of them was the fictional character used by McDonald’s called Mac Tonight.

Mac Tonight
Mac Tonight. Photo: @macintoshtonight
Source: Instagram

McDonald’s focused on the marketing orientation of its restaurants from the onset. It became a mastermind of marketing towards specific markets. In the late 1980s, the company used Mac Tonight, the main antagonist in Five Nights with Mac Tonight, to market its restaurants.

The fictional character was best known for its crescent moon head, sunglasses, and piano-playing. Also, Mac Tonight used a song derived from Mac the Knife to make the marketing campaign even more memorable. But what happened to the 80s McDonald’s mascot? Here is everything you need to know.

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What happened to Mac Tonight?

Mac Tonight was an advertisement campaign that ran from 1986 to 1997 and had 29 commercials in total. For three years, Mac Tonight gave McDonald’s an advantage over its competition at a time when Burger Wars were rampant. Its success saw the company expand to include in-store experiences, in addition to commercials.

But in 1989, Darin’s son sued McDonald’s, claiming that the Mac Tonight song (derived from Mac the Knife) used in the commercials infringed upon his father’s trademark without permission.

He then filed a lawsuit and an injunction to force the first food company to remove the song from its ads on TV and radio. As a consequence, McDonald's stopped using the character to promote its products.

In 1997, Mac Tonight reappeared for the USA market. The new ad featured Mac surrounded by individuals working in offices, allowing their hair down to eat a Big Mac and fries. But because it was years since people had seen the campaign, it did not make sense hence lost its attractive value.

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In 2007, Mac Tonight emerged for the Southeast Asian markets, specifically Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines. But unlike the traditional Mac, the Moon Man McDonalds was a CGI-animated Mac Tonight. Unfortunately, that campaign did not last long either.

As of 2021, Mac Tonight no longer appears in commercials in the United States. However, some McDonald’s restaurants in the USA have pictures and statues of the character.

Creation of Mac Tonight

Mac Tonight
Mac Tonight advert. Photo: @macintoshtonight
Source: Instagram

Why did McDonald come up with Mac Tonight? McDonald’s created the fictional character Mac Tonight to increase dinner sales in South California. But the popularity of Mac Tonight was growing by the day, especially the Mac Tonight mask and the song accompanying the commercial.

As a result, McDonald’s expanded its campaigns to other American cities, specifically on the West Coast. By 1987, the company took the movement nationwide and made the character feature on national advertisements that went on air.

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Who performed Mac Tonight? Actor, contortionist, and mime artist Doug Jones performed Mac Tonight for 27 commercials out of the 29 that aired.

The McDonald’s character featured a moon-headed crooner who always wore his sunglasses at night. It is a character that catapulted Doug to his career in the television and film industry. The actor worked on Mac Tonight between 1986 and 1997.

However, Dough did not voice the entire commercial. Instead, the commercial was voiced by Roger Behr between 1986 and1990. Because of the shape of the character, many people referred to it as McDonald’s Moon Man.

What were the lyrics for Mac Tonight?

Mac Tonight lyrics played on the world of a popular song made by American singer Bobby Darin called Mack the Knife. However, the song that played over the commercials was known as It’s Mac Tonight. That song was a variant on Mack the Knife but had McDonald’s-themed lyrics. The lyrics features in the original 1986 commercial were:

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When the stars come out to play, babe A twinkling show, ooh -- dinner! -- out of sight Yeah, the nighttime is golden light time -- big dipper! At McDonald's (showtime), it's Mac Tonight!

But there were also other lyrics used from 1987 commercials, like the following:

When the clock strikes half-past six, babe, time to head for golden lights, it's a good time for the great taste -- dinner! At McDonald's, it's Mac Tonight. Come on, make it Mac Tonight!

The lyrics made people identify with McDonald’s as a brand and an excellent restaurant to enjoy a burger.

Mac Tonight discontinuation

Mac Tonight
A woman sitting next to Mac Tonight. Photo: @macintoshtonight
Source: Instagram

When was Mac Tonight discontinued? Darin’s son initially filed a lawsuit and an injunction stopping McDonald’s from using the song in the ads. But he eventually dropped the suit, allowing McDonald’s to resurrect the campaign. Ultimately, McDonald’s choose to discontinue the character in 1990.

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Why did McDonald's get rid of Mac Tonight? The lawsuit filed by Darin’s son forced McDonald’s to stop airing the commercials. As a result, the company retired the Mac Tonight character after four years of using it to market its restaurants.

After dropping it in 1990, McDonald’s tried to resurrect the ad in 1996 and 1997 for the USA market after Darin’s son dropped the lawsuit.

McDonald’s tried to emulate Mac Tonight in many different ways. For example, it featured the character behaving in an adult manner by wearing a suit, shooting pool, and dancing to disco.

But many people thought the new reinvention did not make sense. Finally, in 1997, the attempts to look for inspiration from the past were too late, forcing the company to drop Mac Tonight altogether.

Mac Tonight was a fictional character used by McDonald’s for its nationwide commercials. The campaign ran from 1986 to 1997. In 1989, McDonald’s dropped the ad because of a lawsuit against the song used in the Mac Tonight advertisements. Although the character reappeared in 2007, it only targeted the Asian market. As of 2021, Mac Tonight no longer appears in commercials in the United States.

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