Retro Commercials: McDonald’s ‘Happy Holidays’ Ronald Ice Skating

I don’t know about you, but commercials can often take me back to my formative years as quickly as any song or movie can. That is why we will continue this semi-regular feature on ’80s commercials that I consider particularly memorable, noteworthy, or forgotten. Television commercials were much more influential back when we were forced to watch them without the luxury to fast-forward through and/or stream shows with limited or no interruptions. Christmas commercials seem to be especially memorable and I have covered “Peter Comes Home” for Folgers and “Christmas Bells” for Hershey’s Kisses already. This issue will cover the “Happy Holidays” commercial for McDonald’s with Ronald Ice Skating.

This is certainly one of the holiday commercials from the ’80s that still stands out to me. From what I can determine, this particular commercial first aired in 1982 and it is probably more memorable because McDonald’s continued to use it at least through 1991 (with only minor alterations as necessary). You know, it’s the one with Ronald ice skating with some children and one boy is sad when he is left out because he can’t skate as well as the others. Ronald, who has moves on the ice like Dorothy Hamill or Brian Boitano, goes out of his way to make the boy feel special. At the end, Ronald just skates off with a Happy Holidays message on the screen. An endearing aspect to this commercial is that it doesn’t directly try to sell one Happy Meal, one hamburger, one french fry; it just simply wishes us season’s greetings.

I doubt this still holds true, but at least at one point not too long ago Ronald McDonald was second only to Santa Claus in terms of recognition. That is pretty amazing and it’s commercials like these that surely helped get him that recognition. Ronald was played by actor King Moody from 1975-1984, so I am assuming that is him in this commercial though they probably employed a stunt double for the figure skating. For a little added interest, the spot also includes some animated forest animals interacting with the live action. Here is the Ronald ice skating McDonald’s “Happy Holidays” commercial

The original cut of the commercial was filmed during August and September 1982, with the original soundtrack being recorded in early October. I doubt they expected it to become an annual tradition for the next decade (except for in 1987 and 1988 when they replaced it with the “Star Wish” commercial). Some new closeups of Ronald were filmed in 1986 (when Squire Fridell played Ronald) and again in 1991 (when Jack Doepke played Ronald), and some shots from the original version were edited, to cater for each new Ronald actor. But we were treated with this great holiday memory for many years and I would humbly suggest that they bring it back to at least mix it in with their other Christmas commercials again now.

That will wrap up another trip down memory lane in the form of TV commercials. I sure enjoy the holiday commercials that do not try to sell anything other than goodwill and that become annual traditions. This one certainly fits that bill and, yep, it is pretty awesome that it came from the ’80s.

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Old School Tim has an adoring devotion to the awesome '80s decade. He loves to relive and share that nostalgia on a regular basis. The Kickin' it Old School blog site has been retired, but you can still get daily doses of '80s goodness on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and anywhere else they let him.