What Is Grimace? McDonald's Manager Clarifies Burning Question About Beloved Character

The lovable, spherical-shaped, purple character Grimace has always been one of McDonald's most recognizable faces — even if fans never knew what he actually is

Grimace
Photo: Ronald McDonald/Instagram

Ronald McDonald is a clown. Mayor McCheese is a cheeseburger. Birdie the Early Bird is a bird. The Hamburglar is a thief. Mac Tonight is a Moon. And the Fry Kids are, well, fries.

But what the heck is Grimace supposed to be?

The lovable, spherical-shaped, purple giant has always been one of McDonald's most recognizable characters, with his bright smile and his arms always open for a hug. But fans have never quite known exactly what he's supposed to be.

That is, until now. Late last month, Brian Bates — a manager of a McDonald's in Canada — revealed the answer to the Golden Arches' biggest mystery, telling CBC News that Grimace "is an enormous taste bud, but a taste bud nonetheless."

Bates was recently named outstanding manager of the year, CBS News reported. In the over 1,400 restaurants across Canada, that puts him in the top 10 percent of working managers.

The purpose of Grimace, Bates told the outlet, is to show the food tastes good.

Grimace and other McDonald's mascots
Ronald McDonald/Instagram

McDonald's offered some clarification in a statement to PEOPLE.

"Whether he's a taste bud, a milkshake or just your favorite purple blob – the best part about Grimace is that he means different things to different people," the spokesperson said. "Whatever he is, we're just proud our bestie makes people happy."

The company has addressed the subject before.

In 2012, McDonald's Corp tweeted from their official account that Grimace was "the embodiment of a milkshake, though others still insist he's a taste bud." The account tweeted something similar in 2014, saying "Grimace lore says he is the embodiment of a milkshake or a taste bud."

But there's also been a slew of other Grimace incarnations, like those seen on "Grimace Island" in a 1999 episode of the animated series, The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald. Or Uncle O'Grimacey, who comes by every March to introduce the Shamrock Shakes.

Grimace was first introduced back in 1972, as "Evil Grimace." He had the same purple shape but four arms, and in a commercial at the time, swiped all of the cups from McDonaldland to stop anyone from having milkshakes or Coca-Cola.

"The original Grimace was scaly, mean-looking, had four arms, and had no charm whatsoever," Roy T. Bergold Jr., McDonald's previous vice-president of advertising, told GSR in 2012, adding that "Evil Grimace" was inadvertently scaring their child customers. "We changed him to a soft, plush, two-armed blob of a sweetheart who only wanted McDonald's milkshakes and to hang out with Ronald."

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Regardless of Grimace's origins, hearing the news that he's a taste bud left fans on social media less than thrilled.

"Reeling from this," one user wrote, while another exclaimed, "I'm not ok."

"I could have gone the rest of my life never having learned this," joked someone on Twitter.

Star Trek legend George Takei perhaps summed it on simply on Twitter, writing, "Oh dear 😳."

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