Fact Check: French Fry Ad Featuring 'Sexy Ronald' Is NOT From McDonald's In Japan

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: French Fry Ad Featuring 'Sexy Ronald' Is NOT From McDonald's In Japan Copied Art

Did McDonald's in Japan run an ad campaign that featured a shirtless Ronald McDonald in red briefs overflowing with french fries? No, that's not true: In 2019, this french fry ad was promoting a much smaller Japanese restaurant chain called Yotteba. The artwork at the center of the campaign, "Sexy Ronald," was created in 2011 by a Brooklyn artist who goes by the name Wizard Skull, and the art was used without his permission.

Pictures from the french fry ad circulated widely back in 2019 and have appeared again in May 2021. One example is a Facebook post (archived here) published May 5, 2021. It opened:

I'm sorry to ruin your day so early, but there is a sexy Ronald McDonald ad running in Japan and I can't unsee it.

http://bit.ly/hot-ronald-mcdonald
i'm lovin it

This is what the post looked like on Facebook on May 7, 2021:

RonaldScreenshot.JPG

(Source: Facebook screenshot Fri May 07 19:43:04 2021 UTC)

The shortened bit.ly link included in the screenshot opens an October 2, 2019, YahooNews article titled, "Social media users shocked by topless Ronald McDonald advert." The article features a collection of tweets from late September and early October in 2019 that captured people's reactions to this ad. The article identifies the source of the ad campaign as a popular Japanese food chain, Yotteba, but does not identify the artist.

Wizard Skull, who uses the name "Wizard $kull", creates work featuring familiar pop culture characters such as SpongeBob, the Simpsons, Mickey Mouse, Garfield and Uncle Pennybags but many have been remade with NSFW adult themes. He wasn't pleased that the Japanese restaurant used his artwork without permission. In an October 4, 2019, post on Instagram (this Instagram post was featured in a worldofwonder.net article but is no longer public), Wizard $kull wrote:

Sexy Ronald is going #viral again. Without my knowledge a restaurant in Japan added him to their menu (without permission) and a photo has been going viral, there's been articles in NYpost, yahoo news, @carrottoplive even dressed up as it, and its trending on reddit, tons of meme accounts are posting, and lots local news stations are doing stories about it. #sexyronald #mcdonalds If you see it posted anywhere please tag me or send me the article since many don't mention me. Thanks :)

In an October 8, 2019, tweet Wizard $kull identified himself to a writer:

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  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Southeastern Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


 

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