Here’s an odd one. Watch this British TV spot for McDonalds real quick:
A few things:
A. I barely get the joke about “Four of your funky neons…” and then “Let’s try some of that liquid stuff in them…” Maybe there’s some alien backstory I missed. Do these aliens eat plastic cups? Is that what I’m supposed to assume?
B. What does the British voice-over say at the end? “Not of”? “Not Earth?” UK readers, help me out.
And C. Why do those aliens look so damn familiar?
Actually, I think I’ve got the answer to C locked down. I’m pretty sure McDonalds stole them from Joe Dante.
Remember Explorers (Joe Dante, 1985)?
It’s the one where Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, and that other kid put a junked Tilt-O-Whirl car inside this computer-generated force field thing dreamed by Hawke and put together by Wolfgang the scientist (Phoenix).
YouTube the whole thing if you feel like it. The computer-controlled force field allows the kids to navigate around town for a while before zooming off into space and being swallowed by a huge spaceship. Inside the spaceship, they meet this nutty alien named Wak:
Now take another look at that commercial if you need to. I really think the McDonalds commercial aliens are just dudes inside slightly remodeled, re-purposed Wak costumes from Explorers. Can’t really prove it, of course, but the evidence is striking. Same green skin. Same long, bony, suction-cup fingers. Same up-curved, creepy, insectoid tail:
The oddest thing about it is that the McDonalds TV commercial borrowed from a movie that’s so critical of TV. Wak and his sibling alien Neek turn out to have gotten really warped ideas about humanity from watching tons of TV via signals broadcast into space. They think we all just talk like talk show hosts and want to kill aliens. The McDonalds aliens, on the other hand, use their 30 seconds to try and convince us that we really need to go out, buy huge sodas, and collect all the neon plastic cups we possibly can. Pretty warped notion there, too.
It all sort of makes me wish McDonalds had ripped off a different character from Explorers: Heinlein, the mouse that Wolfgang has trained to touch sensor pads which allow him to speak.
I suppose the most McDonalds-appropriate thing Heinlein says is his meekly delivered “I WOULD LIKE…CHEESE.” But by far the best thing he says—and what we and Joe Dante should’ve probably said to McDonalds a long time ago—is “GO TO HELL.”