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Last Updated: Monday, 26 September 2005, 13:39 GMT 14:39 UK
Clownish burger icon crosses over
Ronald McDonald
Ronald McDonald is no longer in the spotlight in Japan
Ronald McDonald, the garish clown recognised worldwide as the icon of the fast food restaurant chain, has been taken off the menu in Japan.

In new advertising, he has been replaced by a woman sporting a bikini and high heels, The Times reported.

The rebranding exercise is part of a global effort by McDonald's to promote healthy living and to emphasise other products rather than burgers and chips.

Ronald McDonald will continue to appear in adverts in other countries, however.

Wider menu

In recent times, the 42 year-old veteran of thousands of promotional and advertising campaigns has lost weight.

He has been slimmed down in an effort to better represent McDonald's menu, which now features a wider choice of fruit and vegetables.

The Japanese campaign is the latest attempt by the US firm to improve its image, which has been hurt by concerns about growing obesity levels.

It is designed to appeal to mothers and young adults.

While the new character continues to wear red and yellow - in sympathy with McDonald's 'Golden Arches' heritage - the old-fashioned baggy trousers and huge shoes have disappeared.

Exercise routine

Recent efforts to modernise McDonald's advertising have seen Ronald McDonald don a tracksuit, juggle vegetables and take part in various sports including synchronised swimming.

McDonald's Japan, which is 50% owned by the US firm, recovered last year after a two-year decline in its business.

It operates more than 3,700 outlets after first opening in 1971.

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