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How Mayor McCheese Helps Explain a Plausible Theory of Time Travel

McDonaldland, the setting of McDonald’s marketing efforts throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, was a magical place populated by talking cheeseburgers, fry goblins, and whatever Grimace was supposed to be. While it may seem like the stuff of delirious fantasy, McDonaldland stayed grounded in one regard: time travel. In fact, if you want to better understand a specific theoretical aspect of time travel endorsed by Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking, look to McDonaldland—specifically, Mayor McCheese.

Between 1971 and 1985, Mayor McCheese served as the mayor of McDonaldland. While McCheese was a integral part of McDonaldland in its early years, he was slowly phased out and didn’t appear again in any official capacity for McDonald’s (save a single Sears advertisement) until 1999. Because he is a politician, there naturally was a scandal involved.

In 1970, ad agency Needham Harper & Steers approached Sid and Marty Krofft, the creators of H.R. Pufnstuf, about using characters from the hit children’s show for a campaign they were pitching to McDonald’s. Before any progress could be made, the agency told the Kroffts that the campaign had been canceled. However, the next year, McDonald’s aired the first of their McDonaldland commercials, and the Kroffts believed that the feel and design were directly plagiarized from the world they had created for H.R. Pufnstuf. They sued the McDonald’s Corporation, and much of their case revolved around Mayor McCheese’s similarities to Pufnstuf.

The case went to trial in 1973, and lawyers for McDonald’s argued Mayor McCheese was sufficiently different from the Kroffts’ creation:

"'Pufnstuf' wears what can only be described as a yellow and green dragon suit with a blue cummerbund from which hangs a medal which says 'mayor'. 'McCheese' wears a version of pink formal dress—'tails'—with knicker trousers. He has a typical diplomat's sash on which is written 'mayor', the 'M' consisting of the McDonald's trademark of an 'M' made of golden arches."

Neither the jury nor an appeals court bought this defense, and the case was settled in 1977 with the McDonald’s Corporation ordered to pay damages to the Kroffts. McDonaldland had become extremely popular by then, but it was around the time of this legal headache that McDonald’s started to move away from the campaign. One of the first casualties was Mayor McCheese, who stopped getting speaking roles in ads and was seen less and less until 1985, when he appeared in his final commercial for the fast food company (it also starred Mary Lou Retton).

Mayor McCheese appears in the McDonaldland universe only once more, and his presence is thanks to a time machine (and theoretical physics).

In 1998, McDonald’s commissioned Klasky Csupo, the production company behind popular shows like Rugrats and Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, to make a series of direct-to-video cartoons based around a rebranded Ronald McDonald (he was skinnier and had sideburns). Six episodes of The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald were released on VHS. In the penultimate episode, “Have Time, Will Travel,” Ronald and company discover a time machine. It is through this time machine that we finally reunite with Mayor McCheese:

“This was part of McDonaldland … in the ‘70s,” Ronald says as he steps out of the time machine and into a disco where Mayor McCheese is partying.

“Well I’ll be a burger in bellbottoms,” Mayor McCheese says. “I just learned the latest dance craze: The Hustle!” McCheese then performs a rather accurate version of The Hustle for 15 full seconds.

Now, if you are familiar with Stephen Hawking’s work on space-time and how it relates to humanity’s potential to engage in time travel, you will know that this encounter with Mayor McCheese recalls a major paradox: “If sometime in the future we learn to travel in time,” Hawking writes, “why hasn't someone come back from the future to tell us how to do it?”

According to Hawking, there are plausible explanations for this:

“A possible way to reconcile time travel, with the fact that we don't seem to have had any visitors from the future, would be to say that it can occur only in the future. In this view, one would say space-time in our past was fixed, because we have observed it, and seen that it is not warped enough, to allow travel into the past.”

Carl Sagan made a similar argument during an interview with NOVA in the 1990s: “Maybe backward time travel is possible, but only up to the moment that time travel is invented. We haven't invented it yet, so they can't come to us. They can come to as far back as whatever it would be, say A.D. 2300, but not further back in time.”

So, time travel may indeed be possible, but you can’t go back any further than the point at which the time machine was first invented. This kind of thinking would make Ronald McDonald and Mayor McCheese’s disco reunion impossible unless the time machine had already been invented by the 1970s. Well, it just so happens that McDonaldland did have a time machine, and they had it at the precise moment for this scenario to be plausible.

In the 1975 McDonaldland commercial “Time Machine,” Ronald, McCheese, and Grimace encounter a time machine. The year is important here. When they go back to the ‘70s in The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald, Mayor McCheese says he “just” learned a new dance, "The Hustle." And when did Van McCoy release his smash hit single “The Hustle”? You guessed it: 1975.

Mayor McCheese’s return is only made possible because McDonaldland adheres to the strict laws of time travel. It's the reason two pieces of McDonald’s marketing ephemera made nearly a quarter-century apart and by different creative teams could remain so in sync. It also could be why McDonald’s wasn’t sued again, for this was the same Mayor McCheese from 1975, two years before the lawsuit with the Kroffts was settled.

Science is so elegant when it's simple like this.

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Food
7 Places To Grab a Bite of Elvis
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Photo by Keystone/Getty Images

August 16, 2017 marks the 40th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s death, reportedly from hypertensive cardiovascular disease associated with atherosclerotic heart disease. Just 42 years old at the time of his passing, the King of Rock 'n' Roll had a reputation for loving rich, decadent food as much as he loved music, with the infamous fried peanut butter and banana sandwich being one of his favorite delicacies.

While we can’t recommend them as part of your daily diet, there are Elvis-inspired indulgences to be found at eateries across the country. If you’re ever in the mood for a taste of Elvis, here’s where to go.

1. THE ELVIS MARTINI // FORT WORTH, TEXAS

With roots stretching back well over half a century, Forth Worth's T&P Tavern used to be a rail station stopover for notables including Elvis Presley himself. To honor their history, the bar offers the Elvis—a martini flavored with peanut butter, banana, and bacon.

2. MR. LUCKY'S // LAS VEGAS, NEVADA

Brian Brown

There’s decadent, and then there’s Las Vegas. To match the city’s reputation for excess, Mr. Lucky’s—the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino's 24-hour diner—can reinvigorate patrons pulling all-nighters with the King. It’s an enormous plate of 14 banana pancakes served with Nutella, whipped cream, powdered sugar, and 14 slices of bacon. Before ordering, don't forget to tell your family you love them.

3. JOHNNY J'S // CASPER, WYOMING

In 2008, then-presidential candidate Barack Obama paid a visit to Johnny J's while on the campaign trail.
EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

Johnny J’s specializes in burgers named after influential rock stars, including Chuck Berry, Bill Haley, and, of course, Elvis Presley. With the Elvis, patrons can expect a slab of beef topped with red chili and melted cheddar jack cheese, served open faced—without a single banana in sight.

4. BROOKLYN FARMACY & SODA FOUNTAIN // BROOKLYN, NEW YORK

This reworked early 20th-century pharmacy underwent renovations for reopening in 2010. Like any proper soda fountain, they're all about sundaes and milkshakes—including The Elvis, a vanilla ice cream topped with peanut butter, banana, and candied bacon.

5. MEMPHIS MOJO CAFE // BARTLETT, TENNESSEE

Mojo's

The Memphis Mojo Cafe and food truck are go-to spots for burgers, but it’s their dessert that will send Elvis fanatics into a sugar frenzy. Their Elvis Dippers are Nutter Butter cookies dipped in maple waffle batter, deep-fried, and dunked in butterscotch banana cream.

6. OATMEALS // NEW YORK, NEW YORK

The menu at OatMeals offers something for everyone, even if that someone is into Sriracha-covered oatmeal. But the standout might be The Elvis, a bowl of oats topped with peanut butter, banana, bacon, and sea salt.

7. MARLOWE'S RIBS & RESTAURANT // MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE

Marlowe's Ribs & Restaurant

Just a few minutes from Graceland, it’s almost a prerequisite that Marlowe’s Ribs & Restaurant would have a surplus of Elvis-inspired items on their menu—and they don’t disappoint. Among their specialties: the Elvis Burger, which comes topped with bacon, smoked ham, and American cheese. For dessert, the Crispy Creme Banana Foster Sundae—a donut with vanilla ice cream, peanut butter sauce, sauteed bananas, and whipped cream—is a modern take on some of the King's favorite treats.

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К.Артём.1, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0
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environment
How IKEA Is Using Technology to Reduce Its Food Waste by 50 Percent
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К.Артём.1, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

IKEA is much more than a place to find ready-to-assemble furniture. The chain is also a culinary giant, serving, among other Swedish delicacies, millions of meatballs each day. Food is such a large part of the brand that IKEA is now funneling resources into reducing waste in its cafes, Fast Company reports.

The plan is to cut food waste in IKEA’s restaurants and smaller bistros in half by the year 2020. To do this, the company has already implemented some innovative technology in many of its locations. As of May 2017, approximately 20 percent of all IKEA stores had added trash bins with specially-designed digital scales beneath them for measuring tossed food. After throwing away items, like old salmon or surplus cinnamon buns, employees use the touch-screen above the bin to document exactly what went into it. The screen responds with statistics about the food’s cost and its contribution to IKEA’s carbon footprint.

As staff members use the system, it collects data that will eventually be used by the restaurants to modify their production practices. Seeing that waste peaks at certain times of day, for example, lets IKEA workers know they should be preparing less food during that timeframe. And if one type of food is more likely to end up in the trash can than others, they may respond by ordering less of it.

Another consequence of the system may be preventing food waste that was never necessary in the first place. The United States wastes about 40 percent of its food each year, and a lot of that product is salvageable. By engaging with its employees every time they chuck something into the garbage, IKEA is forcing them to think about the larger impact that food waste creates.

The digital scales have already saved 80,000 pounds of food, or about $1 million. The chain is now installing them in all 400 of its stores across the globe. The initiative is the latest step in IKEA’s march toward making food a more central part of its business. Within the past year alone, IKEA has launched a cookbook-inspired marketing campaign and teased the possibility of some standalone cafes.

[h/t Fast Company]

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