All Hail the Hamburglar (1970-1980s)

It’s weird to single out individual aspects of McDonaldland for the sake of pointing out how strange that individual aspect is. The whole idea is strange.  The wonderful thing about McDonaldland isn’t just the absurdity of a fast-food themed magical wonderland populated with less than two-dozen beings each resembling a fast-food menu item or category of foods, it’s that it’s unevenly absurd. Some things make more sense than others.  I submit that Grimace, Birdie, Officer Big Mac, Mayor McCheese, and the Fry Guys fit perfectly in the absurd container just described.  The Mcnuggets and Captain Crook sort of fit.  The Professor and the Hamburglar make no sense in this world. The most flagrant offense to this world, however, is the boss himself: Ronald McDonald.  The only way that he makes any sense is either as McDonaldland’s God, a creator who walks among his creation or as some Christ-like branch of the Divinity, sent to McDonaldland in order to save it. Neither concept is explored in any of the McDonaldland media, so I think it’s safe to assume that McDonaldland is just a flimsy H.R. Pufinstuf ripoff quickly created to sell more fast food.

I blew past my point; let’s talk about the Hamburglar.  This humanoid character lives in McDonaldland as one of its resident criminals, his reason for existence being to steal hamburgers in order to (presumably) eat them.  I don’t want to know what his plan for them is if it’s not to eat them.

Couple of questions right off the bat: Is there an economy? There must be, if there’s theft. What opportunity does everyone else in McDonaldland have to get their burgers that the Hamburglar doesn’t have?

The original Hamburglar, while still human, looks pretty monstrous. To be fair, most of the McDonaldland gang looked pretty rough in the early days with the exception of Ronald who comes across as a pretty cool cucumber. Fairness only goes so far, though – the Hamburglar’s a monster both in concept and appearance.  Facial features aside, his enormous black hat and long cape are upstaged only by his striped clothing which indicates that he’s some sort of ex-convict, recently escaped from some undefined jail in McDonaldland that we can only assume Big Mac is in charge of. Here’s that Hamburglar in some early commercials from the 1970s:

The ’80s Hamburglar gets more digestible; his face gets cuter and his stripes turn horizontal, which shouldn’t make a big difference but somehow it does.  His catchphrase, “robble robble”, is also introduced. McDonaldland may be cuter in the ’80s, but there’s still a darkness present. The hamburgers are anthropomorphized, which introduces a whole new slew of questions. Setting the earlier question of “what is the Hamburglar doing with these burgers” aside, what are ANY of the McDonaldland characters doing with these burgers? They have to be eating them, right? What else would they be eating?

This monstrosity really hits home in “Hamburger University”, where Ronald is instructing a classroom full of hamburgers in how to be proper hamburgers, presumably so that they’ll be at peak form when he, you know, eats them.  Instead, Hamburglar kidnaps them. Tries to, at least. What looks on the surface to be more of a humanitarian crisis to prevent a kidnapping turns out to be a more animalic ‘hey don’t steal my food’ effort.

This Kipling-esque telling on how Hamburglar got his stripes retcons his backstory into something it just isn’t. I suspect it’s an attempt to claim that he really said “robble robble” all along. HE DID NOT.

You can’t really talk about the evolution of Hamburglar without discussing the disturbing most recent iteration – the sexy, fit, smooth criminal Hamburglar.  I refuse to acknowledge him as canon.

Why is he asking me to shush? I will not be an accomplice. Also the tie is just ridiculous on a human man.  Also the striped shirt appears to be vinyl. Have fun sweating, guy!

I’ll end this with my favorite Hamburglar commercial, which is my favorite because it makes the least sense of all of this nonsense.  Why would Ronald go on a cruise with the only two criminals in McDonaldland? Why would Hamburglar steal the steering wheel of the boat, a move which would doom him as well? How do three people crew a ship that large?

I still don’t know why a world like McDonaldland needs crime at all, but if it must then I’m glad that the Hamburglar is the criminal to fill that role.