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updated 5/20/2014 11:16:51 AM ET 2014-05-20T15:16:51

Ronald McDonald has a new friend: "Happy," McDonald's newest "brand ambassador."

The animated Happy Meal box with a frighteningly large grin is intended to bring "fun and excitement to kids’ meals while also serving as an ambassador for balanced and wholesome eating," according to a McDonald's press release. The character debuted internationally in 2009 in France, and has since been featured in advertising in Latin America and other countries in Europe.

Say hello to our newest friend, Happy! http://t.co/CuR3hU8Chj #HappyMeal pic.twitter.com/xgluLaHfcY

May 19, 2014

When Ronald McDonald got a makeover last month, Entrepreneur.com wondered if he was going through a midlife crisis. However, if this new character is McDonald's idea of bringing fun to kids' meals, the company as a whole may just be wildly out of touch.

Related: With Burger King's Slogan Swap, You Can't 'Have It Your Way' Anymore

Ronald McDonald has come under fire from clown-haters and health advocates alike. The first two auto-complete options for a Google search for "Ronald McDonald is" are "evil" and "scary." Additionally, in recent years, a group called Corporate Accountability International has pushed for the burger chain to retire the clown and stop encouraging children to eat McDonald's often fattening food. 

Happy is supposed to be the healthy counterpart to Ronald McDonald's image as an unhealthy burger-and-fry pusher. His debut in the U.S. coincides with the release of a yogurt as a new kids' meal side. 

Related: Midlife Crisis? Ronald McDonald Gets a Makeover, Joins Twitter

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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