While it's hard to view the largest restaurant chain in the world as an underdog, it does seem that McDonald's can't get a break these days.
At the start of July, the company launched a major, global promotional tie-in program with the "Minions" movie designed to lift its flagging sales. The promotion includes Minion-inspired menu items (in the U.S., a banana-strawberry Go-Gurt yogurt flavor); videos created by social media stars; a Minions 24-hour takeover of McDonald's' social channels; a dedicated hashtag (#MinionsAtMcDonalds); a Chicago McD's location that's been totally "Minionized"; and Minions Happy Meals that come with talking Minions toys.
But it's likely that McDonald's is now wishing that the toys couldn't talk, as questions about the nature of their utterances are throwing something of a shadow on the program, at least in the U.S.
A grandparent in Seminole County, Fla., Bradley Merten, contacted a local TV station, WFTV in Orlando, saying that he and his family were shocked when the toy that came with the Happy Meal he bought their granddaughter emitted what sounded to them like "What the fxxx."
After listening to the toy, station staff couldn't agree, and contacted McDonald's. McDonald's promptly replied to the station's query: "Minions speak 'Minionese,' which is a random combination of many languages and nonsense words and sounds. 'Minionese' has no translation to, or meaning in, any recognized language. Any perceived similarities to words used within the English language are purely coincidental."
McDonald's also stated: "We're aware of a very small number of customers who have been in touch regarding this toy, and we regret any confusion or offense to those who may have misinterpreted its sounds. The allegation that this toy is saying anything offensive or profane is not true."
A WFTV reporter said that he bought more Happy Meals at the same Longwood, Fla., McD's unit, but did not receive any toys that emitted the same sounds at issue.
Quartz reported other instances of parents saying they believed they heard profanity in the toys' utterances, but also instances of parents, reporters and kids themselves saying that they heard nothing of the kind.
That article includes an embedded YouTube video of the toy making the disputed sounds, recorded by one concerned parent — which was posted on July 8 and had by mid-day July 10 drawn some 1.17 million views.
McDonald's spokeswoman Lisa McComb told ABC 7 in Chicago that the company has no plans to stop distributing the toys. The promotion is set to run through the end of this month.