Monday, October 16, 2006

Hallowe'en In McDonaldland

There was once a golden age of fast food kid's meal toys, which started about fifteen years ago more or less, that brought with it a shorter golden-age-within-a-golden-age of fast food Hallowe'en kid's meal toys. For a few years it seemed that every fast food joint reserved the month of October for toy promotions that were, if not directly Hallowe'en related, at least horror-themed. And when I mention 'horror-themed' I'm thinking especially of Burger King's classic Universal Monsters action figure set, possibly some of the best things ever given away free in a sack of burgers & fries.

McDonald's reigned as the Hallowe'en fast food king for several years, giving us toys that were not only Hallowe'en-related, but were also based on the chain's McDonaldland cast of characters. In the toy & movie tie-in world of the kid's meal any toy representations of a restaurant's mascots was a bonus.Today's post focuses on those McDonald's Hallowe'en toys of years past...

Once upon a time, the second best thing about a McDonald's Happy Meal apart from the toy was the fact that the food came in it's own special box. Even as an adult, being handed your food in a brightly decorated cardboard carrying case as opposed to a generic paper sack automatically makes any meal a fine dining experience. Nowadays, the boxes are rare, they seem to only show up two or three times a year and when they do, there's only a single version of them available per promotion. Back in the day there would be four different boxes available with every four week promotion, a different box and toy for every week. By the time the 'Haunted Halloween' promotion rolled around they were down to just two boxes-

I would never have guessed that it was Grimace hiding beneath those mouse ears!

One of the more popular Happy Meals promotions, it would seem, were the dress-up McNugget Buddies. The first batch was a non-Hallowe'en related set that you could dress-up as fire fighters and scuba divers and the like. The next two batches were both Hallowe'en themed-
I'm just guessing as to which McNuggets belonged to which set. The four above are dressed in more classically inspired spooky outfits so I'm guessing that they were part of the first Hallowe'en group. The four figures in the picture below fall into a more desperate-seeming category of 'made-up monster' (exactly what is that guy on the far left supposed to be?) which makes me think that they belong in the second group. My McNugget collection is by no means complete as I know I'm missing at least a Frankenstein's Monster and a mummy.

The McNuggets had so much fun dressing up in costumes and came back with so much post T-or-T loot that eventually the rest of the McDonaldland gang had to get in on the act. Can you guess which character is which in the photo below-

... it's nearly impossible to guess, I know! That's Ronald as Frankenstein, the Hamburglar as Hairy Spider Bat Guy, Grimace in the sheet and Birdie the Early Bird as the conjoined twin pumpkins.

The last batch of strictly Hallowe'en inspired McDonald's toys again featured the McDonaldland characters in costumes, but these doubled as tiny Nerds candy dispensers as well. Just lift up the mask and yummy Nerds would pour out of a hole in the characters face-
That's the Hamburglar, a McNugget (Randy McNugget I believe) and Birdie in the picture above and Grimace, Ronald and short-lived, little-loved and justifiably-forgotten I.M. Hungry below.

For the next few years McDonald's ditched the toys in favor of less interesting, but it would appear more popular, trick or treat bags and buckets. The bags were interesting, if not way too small for actual trick or treating, while the buckets were just plain boring. I know that seems like a strange thing to say from someone who collects plastic Hallowe'en trick or treat buckets and who one day dreams of opening a store selling nothing but, it's just that the McDonald's buckets were a little plain and worse, cheaply made. The first batch of buckets were all orange and jack-o'-lantern faced but in later years they would add a white ghost and a green witch to the mix. They repeated this same promotion for three or four years so you can still come across oodles of these buckets in thrift stores everywhere. Somewhere in all of this they did produce a couple of decorated buckets that I did kind of like-

The drawings are neat (I especially like the cross-eyed ghost) and the bat-shaped handles are cool.

It's been years since the last great fast food Hallowe'en promotions (those being the Burger King Simpsons promotion that repeated for a couple of years) but every year I hit all of the fast food joints in the area in the hopes that something cool and sinister (other than the food itself. Ha!) will turn up at the bottom of my bag. The only thing of any interest this year came from Taco Bell, who seem to be handing out lips with their kid's meals. Scary lips that is. I got a jack-o'-lanterns mouth and what I think is a scarecrow's lips so far. McDonald's Happy Meals are currently featuring Barbie, who's scary in a different way. Burger King's toys are based on (surprise, surprise) the latest non-Disney computer animated movie and Wendy's restaurants, in what has to be the stupidest corporate decision ever, are giving away stuffed Peanuts figures which are not based on It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown! Dummies.

P.S. I just made up that plastic pumpkin store thing, but now that I think about it... how cool would that be! I have a new dream!

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