STUDIO: Warner Home Video
MSRP: $14.98
RATED: Not Rated
RUNNING TIME: 31/35 Minutes
Meet the McKids
McKids Jam: Making of the Video
McKids: Name that Instrument
McKids Backyard Expedition
I’d Like to Be

The Pitch

You trust Ronald McDonald to feed your kids, don’t you? Why not let him babysit?

The Humans

Ronald McDonald, a gaggle of precociously cute youngsters

Try as he might, Ronald found his fateful summer at the Catholic cheerleader camp hard to forget.

The Nutshell

Ronald McDonald plays buddy and mentor to a team of multiethnic child models, whom he encourages to be active and inquisitive. In Get Up and Go With Ronald the McKids experiment with a variety of physical activities, including aerobics, cycling, soccer, and rock ‘n’ roll. In Treasure Hunt with Ronald the McKids try to learn more about the world by visiting the library and zoo, and circling the globe in a hot air balloon. Every so often the lesson is interrupted by a Kidz Bop style song that reinforces the main points.

The Lowdown

These days, especially after watching Super Size Me, I must confess I feel little affection for the Golden Arches. I’ll grudgingly eat there when it’s truly the only available option, but I feel dirty and worry that I’m shaving days off my lifespan, a sensation not dissimilar to voting Republican.

Chicken nuggets are people!

However, there was a time in my childhood when McDonald’s seemed as enchanting as the Magic Kingdom itself, in no small part due to the endearing commercials that drew kids into the magical world of Ronald McDonald. The best of those spots are really quite classy, worthy perhaps even of Disney. 80s kids may remember the oft replayed Christmas spot in which Bambi-like animated woodland creatures look on while Ronald takes kids ice skating.

So I still have a soft spot for the ol’ redhead, corporate pied piper though he may be, and his gentle presence makes a line of McDonald’s produced children’s entertainment seem far more palatable. In fact, far from the noxiously commercial nightmare I feared, these programs make no mention at all of McDonald’s or even food, save for the "I’m Lovin’ it" jingle closing out the end credits. Of course, one might argue that Ronald alone is enough to trigger tantalizing visions of greasy mounds of trans fats.

No thanks, I’d rather not see it again.

One wonders what the primary objective was for this curious collaboration between McDonald’s and Warner Video. The exercise theme of the first disc suggests to the cynic a PR effort to ward off criticism of the chain’s contribution to child obesity, but the second disc’s knowledge quest offers no such easy explanation. Can it be that McDonald’s is putting forth Ronald as their Mickey/Barney to try to grab a share of the highly lucrative children’s DVD market? It’s one thing for trendy brands like MTV and ESPN to venture into entertainment programming for twenty somethings, but I question the cache of a burger chain with children and especially parents. It’s hard to imagine parents at Best Buy deciding what would really light up their kids’ faces on Christmas morning is not Dora the Explorer, Blue and his clues, or Big Bird, but Grimace’s eating binge enabler.

In any event, the McKids Adventures turn out to be surprisingly decent kiddie fare with positive messages and respectable educational content. They’re a bit superficial and unable to match the heart of something like Mister Rogers, but that’s asking a lot in this day and age.

An apple pie a day keeps Charmin in business.

As it is Ronald is an adequate stand in for Rogers, though his mannerisms are more in line with Mike Myers’ Cat in the Hat and his ever voluminous hair, no longer the classic Afro, lends him a vague resemblance to Margaret Thatcher. We learn that Ronald has a penchant for terrible "jokes," drives a station wagon that is shaped but hopefully doesn’t smell like his shoe, and has apparently moved to Canada, as the production is set in Vancouver. I would question his patriotism, but I can’t fault him for seeking cheaper diabetes treatment.

The kids are the blandly pleasant sitcom variety far removed from the genuine article, but are harmless enough. If the script makes one serious misstep it’s that the one kid unable to ride a bicycle is, you guessed it, the lone Asian.

"OK, FIVE Shamrock Shakes, but not up front."

I have to confess I found the pseudo pop songs surprisingly catchy for children’s educational programming. They’re not going to send you running to iTunes, but are easily tolerated if the tykes insist on watching while you do the crossword. Oh, so you don’t think I do the crossword, huh? You know, I’m not even going to dignify that with a response, because Ronald doesn’t approve of lying.

I would have to think that for most Big Mac junkies the series’ high point would be the "rock concert" where Ronald solos wildly on the keyboard and surfs the crowd. Though one could also make a case for the Shaolin Soccer homage in which Ronald saves his own shot.

"I get up, and nothin’ gets me down…"

If you buy these for your kids get ready to be the laughingstock of the schoolyard for the foreseeable future. Still, know that you could do far worse, and not even national health insurance covers Ronald’s Propecia habit.

The Package

The cover art is suitably bright and descriptive, although Ronald looks more creepy than lovable, especially in his peeping Tom pose on Treasure Hunt.

The extras are surprisingly plentiful, if very brief. In volume 1 the kids introduce themselves and give us a behind the scenes look at the rock video. What goes on at the undoubtedly crazy wrap party isn’t shown, but reportedly Birdie is expecting. Also included is a modestly challenging game in which the player matches sounds to their respective musical instruments.

"Easy there kids. It’s not under warranty anymore."

On volume 2 the McKids talk about their career ambitions, none of which involve pointy paper hats. Finally there’s the "Backyard Expedition," in which a couple of McKids search for wildlife in an average suburban yard amazingly infested with rabbits, turtles, frogs, snakes, and even skunks. If that were my mortgage I’d be calling for a backyard extermination.

5.5 out of 10