I always assumed that in order to film commercials in a fast food restaurant, a company would have to shut down operations for a day or two in a scouted location. But that’s not the case, at least not for McDonald’s. It turns out that the house of the golden arches shoots commercials in a particularly Hollywood fashion. In a recent installment of his “Ask Chris” column that answers reader-submitted questions about Los Angeles lore, L.A. Magazine’s Chris Nichols explains that, since 1978, most McDonald’s TV ads have been shot on the chain’s very own restaurant set.
The filming location is called the McDonald’s Production Center, and it’s located in the City of Industry. It boasts 5,000 square feet and features both a soundstage and dining room. There are also two kitchens, one of which is a replica of a real McDonald’s setup for filming purposes; the other is filled with food styling equipment including dry ice, clothing steamers, and a seemingly bottomless supply of sesame seeds.
L.A. Magazine also notes one fun filming trick: microwaved tampons are apparently placed behind coffee cups to make it look like the beverage is steaming hot. Oh, the magic of food styling. I’m endlessly fascinated by this sort of stuff.
This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the first appearance of the McDonaldland characters, whom we’ve previously obsessed over. I hope the McDonaldland crew makes a comeback. I want to see a modern-day Grimace popping out into the dining room, scaring diners with his zany antics. Or Hamburglar pulling off an Ocean’s Eleven–style heist in which he drops in and steals a restaurant’s entire supply of Big Macs.
I also hope that someday, McDonald’s films a commercial in one of its non-standard locations, which we find just as fascinating. (Quick reminder to donate to the Nonstandard McDonald’s documentary fund.) Now that we know there’s some Hollywood magic involved, though, I’ll be keeping my eye on the commercials to see if I can recognize the set each time around, and maybe even pinpoint some other interesting filming tricks. Is there glue holding the hamburgers together?