McDonald's Manager Has Utterly Baffling Explanation For What Grimace Is

Ronald McDonald, with his signature brightly-colored attire, painted face, curly hair, and all-around clownish style, is certainly the best-known of the McDonald's characters. Diners who have been going to McDonald's since they were kids may remember some of the other characters in McDonaldland, from the nefarious Hamburglar to Mayor McCheese, as Mental Floss reports, but there was one that really stood out from the crowd — Grimace.

Grimace is a large purple creature that, well, is kind of a blob. With an avocado-shaped body, black eyebrows, a big smile, and arms that were always open for a hug, Grimace has long seemed to be a friendly creature, albeit one that wasn't really easily identifiable. That is, until Brian Bates, a Canadian McDonald's manager, made a revelation that reverberated through the internet while being interviewed by CBC after winning Outstanding Manager of the Year for the company (via Food & Wine). According to Bates, Grimace isn't some kind of mythical or undefinable creature — he's a taste bud. "He is an enormous taste bud, but a taste bud nonetheless," Bates told CBC in an interview.

The news prompted "Star Trek" legend George Takei to tweet an "Oh dear" into the universe. Former tech editor and current FGH Global director Kyle Daly also vented on Twitter, writing, "Reeling from this." Another commenter posted a bewildered "Uhhhh what." Meanwhile, user @singfourlife raised a darn good question: "But then why name him 'Grimace?' It makes no sense." (It certainly made us wonder: Wouldn't that risk implying that McDonald's food makes taste buds grimace.) 

Grimace through the ages

Perhaps one of the reasons the internet was so startled by the claim that Grimace is a taste bud is that the purple creature has had a bit of a unique, changing backstory through the years. Back in the '70s, McDonald's aired a commercial that featured Ronald McDonald visiting "Evil Grimace," a cave-dwelling, four-armed purple menace who stole cups from McDonaldland (via Food & Wine). The "evil" version of the purple character had some spooky scaly skin and was much more off-putting. However, the McDonald's marketing team quickly realized that Evil Grimace was terrifying to children, so it gave him a child-friendly makeover.

Grimace got a bit of a family history in the '90s when his aunts Millie and Tillie made a single appearance in a television commercial, joining Grimace for a picnic while clad in patterned dresses. In an animated series called "The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald," the fast food restaurant's main hero visited a spot called Grimace Island, adding a bit of geographical background to Grimace. (Of course, unless Grimace Island was a giant tongue, the taste bud explanation doesn't seem to fit.)

To muddy the waters further, a spokesperson for the brand in 1994 explained that Grimace "personifies the child in everyone." Nearly two decades later, in 2012, the McDonald's corporate Twitter account claimed that Grimace is "the embodiment of a milkshake, though others still insist he's a taste bud." Who knew the purple creature had such an evolving story!