Today we’re delving into fast food and toys, two of the most important things from my childhood. I arbitrarily decided to limit this to a look at movie tie-in toys at McDonald’s. You won’t find TV themed toys. You won’t find Burger King. You won’t find cups except for the one I mention at the end and when I bring up glass ones in the Fievel entry. You will find all of those things when I’m stuck for ideas and I do this column again in a few weeks.
At first glance, it appears that McDonald’s went the safe route with its Hook toys, putting them in vehicles. All of your favorites are here: Captain Hook in a boat, Rufio riding a cannon, some weird Peter Pan who’s not a child but also not Robin Williams-aged on a raft, and…Smee? Jack? Tootles, Tinkerbell, Wendy? Nope. It’s a mermaid! You know that famous Hook character, the mermaid? She doesn’t need a vehicle, folks! Just wind her up and she weakly moves her tail. McDonald’s absolutely crushed the nostalgia game here by having the foresight to include Rufio, but inventing a character and half-assing Peter is amateur-level stuff. Looks like McDonald’s lost their marbles.
An American Tail (1986)
I’ve mentioned on here many times that I’m a reader, so I’m always on board when a fast food franchise makes its movie tie-in toy a book, like An American Tail did in 1986. McDonald’s offered four different American Tail themed story books as its Happy Meal toys. An American Tail itself was a very unique offering in terms of kids cartoon fare, telling the story of the American Jewish immigrant experience, so it’s appropriate that they went relatively high brow with the merch. Whenever a fast food place offered glasses made from actual glass or books, I was convinced that I was getting something of higher than normal quality. It didn’t take much to get me to buy in.
This is legitimately funny. In 1995, McDonald’s partnered with Universal to celebrate the release of Babe, the story of a plucky pig, by giving away little plush versions of the animals that died to provide the 4 piece nugget or burger in your Happy Meal. Okay there was no plush chicken, but who’s to say the duck or lamb isn’t at least partially represented there? This is either hilariously tone deaf or intentionally done, and either way I love it. As toys go, they’re sub- Beanie Baby level stuffed animals, and not much to write home about, but I love the effort.
Muppet Treasure Island (1996)
McDonald’s has had many slogans over the years: “You deserve a break today,” “Did somebody say McDonald’s?” “I’m lovin’ it,” but their Happy Meal slogan has always been, “when in doubt, stick ‘em in a vehicle.” The Muppet Treasure Island toys follow this rule, sticking Kermit, Piggy, and Gonzo in boats and Fozzie in a barrel. These are unremarkable toys, but in this instance they’re standing in for some of McDonald’s truly great offerings that don’t fit the theme of the article, like the Fraggle cars and Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers flyers. So look upon these Muppet toys, ye mighty, and despair this isn’t an article about TV tie-ins instead!
Batman Returns (1992)
Vehicles again? Vehicles again. I almost didn’t include this one since the promotion got pulled, but ultimately I decided to because as vehicles go, these are solid. I especially like that each one has a secondary motion, making the toy a little more interesting (actually a lot like the previously mentioned Fraggles ones). In case you haven’t read it in a million other places, this tie-in was short lived because McDonald’s didn’t care for the darker themes in Batman Returns. Got some sweet toys out of them before they backed out, at least. Also the Batman Returns cups with frisbee tops ruled.
What were your favorite McDonald’s movie tie-in toys? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter.