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Fridays with Jim Korkis: McDonalds in Downtown Disney

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

Things are constantly changing on Walt Disney World property. The McDonalds restaurant near the All Star Resorts at the intersection of Osceola Parkway and West Buena Vista Drive was closed last October and reopened in May of this year with solar panel awnings offering guests some shade as well as collecting some energy to help fuel the restaurant.

This restaurant is now larger. Inside are markers on the floor with fun facts about solar energy. Stationary bicycles off to the outside of the restaurant, if pedaled fast enough, will light up the Mickey D sign.

However, this is actually the location of the second full McDonalds on Walt Disney World property. The first was at the former Downtown Disney (now Disney Springs) between the Lego Store and the T-Rex restaurant, called Ronald’s Fun House.

In December 1997 it opened as part of the ten year arrangement with Disney that included fries being served at Fairfax Fries at Disney’s Hollywood Studios; fries, chicken McNuggets and McFlurrys at the Refreshment Port in World Showcase in Epcot; the Frontierland Fries Wagon at the Magic Kingdom, and Restaurantosaurus at Disney’s Animal Kingdom that offered an enhanced McDonalds’ menu that included hot dogs, mandarin chicken salad and more, in addition to the usual McDonalds’ offerings.

The Orlando Sentinel reported on the Disney Springs venue in September 1997 that “Ronald’s Fun House features specially designed rooms and decor inspired by Ronald McDonald and other McDonaldland characters. Ronald’s Fun House will feature “Ronald’s Dining Room,” with a formal 20-foot serpentine dining table, “Birdie’s Music Room,” featuring a giant French fry organ, and “Grimace’s Game Room,” with an interactive video/game wall. Located on the east side of Downtown Disney, the new restaurant will be open for business 365 days a year.

“We are excited about the opportunity to bring the food, folks and fun of McDonald’s to guests at Walt Disney World Resort’, said Brad Ball, McDonald’s senior vice president, U.S. marketing.”

Guest entered the Hamburglar’s Kitchen through a golden archway. Inspired by the prankster in the McDonald’s franchise, the area had a lobby highlighted by a black-and-white striped floor to match his clothes, with red tiles shaped like the Hamburglar’s tie. A larger-than-life Happy Meal train moved on an overhead track while guests ordered their food.

There were three interior dining rooms and an outside patio. Ronald’s Dining Room included a twenty foot long serpentine table that sat twenty-two people. It also included a space to purchase branded gift items and apparel.

Birdie’s Music Room was designed to look like the inside of a bird house. The room contained a French fry organ created to look like a McDonald’s red French fry box.

Grimace’s Game Room was decorated in the character’s signature purple color. An interactive game wall entertained children as they and their parents dined.

Brad Ball stated, “This new restaurant is a good example of the way our two brands can team up to provide unique experiences for families that only McDonald’s and Disney can deliver.”

Within five years it was among the top five McDonald’s restaurants in the United States and in the top one percent in the world in sales volume.

In addition to providing a 10,107 square foot restaurant to guests, this McDonald’s also featured a separate indoor 2,000 square foot area adjacent to the guest section with seating for a hundred Disney cast members. It was open twenty-four hours a day exclusively for cast with McDonald’s food served from eight am to three am. It also included vending machines.

This McDonald’s closed on April 30, 2010, and was walled off as parts of the exterior McDonald’s decor were removed. The restaurant was converted into Pollo Campero, a Latin quick-serve Chicken restaurant, in November 2010. On March 19, 2014, Pollo Campero closed. The entire building was demolished by the end of the month.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Off to Never Land: 70 Years of Disney’s Peter Pan and Final Secret Stories of Walt Disney World!

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