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Is the new McDonald's mascot meant to scare your kids?

Mascots are a symbol of a team. A comedic beacon when things get rough on the field, court or playpen. They define institutions and companies, becoming synonymous with the brand.

Some take things a little too far, in a competitive nature.

And some are just downright creepy.

McDonald’s unveiled its newest Happy Meal Mascot, named “Happy” this week. And, according to Fox News, the red-box mascot, with a wide smile and gleaming eyes, terrified social media users. Some tweeted that their kids — who were the target audience for the "ambassador for balanced and wholesome eating" — were responding negatively to the mascot.

And that might be the point, L.V. Anderson wrote for Slate.

“Happy is, in fact, so intuitively unappealing that I have to wonder if that’s the point. Perhaps McDonald’s wants kids to associate healthy fare with the terror of looking into Happy’s gaping maw, thereby making them less likely to want to eat fresh produce and more likely to want to eat relatively unthreatening chicken nuggets.”

Another theory about the mascot is it is actually meant to connect with alcohol-drinking adults, as the expression on the mascot is not unlike a drinker’s after consuming alcohol, Anderson wrote.

But could Happy actually be a minion — from “the Despicable Me” movies — in disguise? Jason Krell wrote for io9.com that it’s entirely possible the two characters are related.

“Happy is the mascot for McDonald's happy meals in France and Latin America, and he's coming to the United States now,” Krell wrote. “And much like 'Despicable Me's' Minions, he has bulging eyes, big ol' teeth, and some rubbery arms. On top of that, watching Happy in action is like watching any of the minion mini-movies used to advertise the film.”

This isn’t the only creepy mascot in recent days. Some other strange characters who pop up in advertising, like Burger King’s Burger King and the candy man of M&M fame are just two examples of eccentric mascots invading American culture.

And then there’s Lemonhead, the newest mascot of the Lemonhead candy, which is meant to attract a young audience, wrote Cheryl V. Jackson for The Chicago Tribune.

“Typically on products that are nostalgic, you don’t see them refreshed frequently,” Jackson wrote. “We try to be cognizant of what consumers are asking for, and think that through really diligently about how that brand appeals to consumers.”

With all of these mascots coming into American culture, will the country face a problem like Japan, where citizens are concerned about too much cuteness? CNN reported that Japan’s people see many characters during a day, and it may be too much.

“They come in every conceivable shape and size, including some downright bizarre creations, and are often conceived of and designed by amateurs,” wrote Euan McKirdy for CNN, “a fact that is often all too apparent.”

Email: hscribner@deseretdigital.com, Twitter: @herbscribner