Grimace, the fuzzy purple McDonald’s mascot who loves milkshakes, is actually a taste bud

Ronald McDonald and Grimace with arms outstretched standing on street at Macy's parade
  • Grimace, the purple mascot from McDonald’s, is apparently supposed to represent a taste bud.
  • Grimace was originally called “Evil Grimace” and was scaly, had four arms, and stole milkshakes.
  • But it scared kids, so McDonald’s changed the name and the number of arms, and made Grimace fuzzy.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

If you’ve ever stopped to wonder “What, exactly, is Grimace?” there’s some good news. Or some bad news, depending on how you look at it.

Because Grimace is not just an anthropomorphic purple blob – he’s a taste bud.

That’s according to Brian Bates, the manager of a McDonald’s franchise in Windsor, Canada, who was recently named Outstanding Manager of the Year for his leadership during the pandemic. Bates spoke with CBC News about the accomplishment and cleared up confusion regarding Grimace’s identity.

“He is an enormous taste bud, but a taste bud nonetheless,” Bates told CBC.

Bates’ revelation is, frankly, shocking, and is even more confusing when you consider what McDonald’s itself has said about Grimace in the past. The company’s corporate Twitter account discussed Grimace’s identity in a tweet in 2012, implying that Grimace is both the “embodiment of a milkshake” but also maybe a taste bud.

A spokesperson for McDonald’s did not respond to Insider’s request for comment on Grimace’s species.

But when you consider the original iteration of Grimace, perhaps this all makes sense. The mascot was originally dreamed up, not as a hapless purple blob, but as a scaly, many-armed milkshake fiend named Evil Grimace who resided in McDonaldland with Ronald McDonald, Hamburglar, and the Fry Kids.

(Grimace had family members too: In March, he was visited by his Uncle O’Grimacey, who shills Shamrock Shakes.)

Roy Bergold, McDonald’s former chief creative officer, discussed Evil Grimace in a 2012 column at QSR Magazine, a trade publication for the fast-food and fast-casual industry.

“There have been characters created as mascots for quick-serve companies that admittedly scare little kids. We inadvertently created one at McDonald’s and had to make some quick changes to correct our mistake,” Bergold wrote.

He continued: “The original Grimace was scaly, mean-looking, had four arms, and had no charm whatsoever. He scared kids. 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.”

Grimace as we know him today came to form in 1972, according to Mashed, but Evil Grimace hasn’t been totally scrubbed from the internet: You can still find Evil Grimace merch on eBay or watch him in action, arms loaded with milkshakes and Cokes, in vintage McDonald’s ads on YouTube, though they are a bit frightening.

So while we may never know exactly what Grimace really is, we do know one thing: Like many of us, that blob really loves McDonald’s milkshakes.