Monday, November 11, 2019

The Happy Meal is 40!

The Happy Meal is 40 years old. What better way to celebrate this milestone than with a countdown of my favorite 40 Happy Meal toys? Clink the link and see what you think!

Ahh the excitement of a Happy Meal. At the lovely age of 37, I have managed to live through some amazing Happy Meal toy campaigns. When McDonald's decided to release a flash toy campaign featuring versions of some of the most iconic Happy Meal toys in the past 40 years, it got me thinking. What were some of my favorite Happy Meal toys?

The honest answer is that there are too many. I could write for weeks on my love of various Happy Meal toys. It only made sense though that I do a 40 favorite countdown sort of thing. I am still not sure I placed everything in this countdown. The biggest influence in all of this was the connections I have with these pieces of plastic. Originally posted on Instagram, here is the full countdown with added stories. So grab your favorite McNugget sauce and dip in!

40: Mac Tonight on Scooter- 1988
Starting the countdown is the scrumptious Mac Tonight. A fun and memorable McDonald's character, these toys were not originally on my radar. I must have been heavily eating the Burger King Kids Meal's during this stint, however a few years ago I had a crossover writing event where my dear friend Nick Moose wrote a story for the Diary and I supplied the photos. In this story Nick was portrayed by Mac Tonight and it was such a fun creative experience that I ended up adding a few mac Tonight toys to my collection. This one of Mac on a scooter is my favorite.

39: Super Mario Princess Peach- 2017
I loved the original Mario Bros. toys from McDonald's. They came out around the time of Super Mario 3 and at that age I thought the entire universe had Mario fever. One of the things that seemed unforgivable though was the lack of Princess Peach Toadstool toys. Now McDonald's has released a few Princess Peach Happy Meal toys, but this version in 2017 was high on my list. I was beyond thrilled when I ended up getting her on my first try. Side note, while I have participated in just buying the Happy Meal toy outright, there is something to be said for buying the Happy Meal and opening that box to see what toy is inside. It was truly the first blind box toy, but it also came with food so it makes the whole event even better.

38: Fraggle Rock Mokey- 1987
We all loved Fraggle Rock. How could you not? The one drawback was that the lack of toys for our fave Fraggles. Mokey was my favorite. I am not sure why exactly, I just felt like we were kindred spirits. It was a given that I would go nuts for these Happy Meal toys. The one thing that always drove me crazy about these was that you could not take the character out of the car. Oh how I would try but those darn toys were stuck in place. 

37: Rescue Rangers Gadget's Rescue Racer- 1989
Much like Fraggle Rock, Rescue Rangers had a serious lack of toys to collect back then. Sure there was the cereal figures but my 7 year old heart was dead set on this Gadget toy. She was my favorite of the Rescue Rangers, I wanted bangs just like hers. I also had high hopes that Gadget would be able to come out of her racer. Hopes were dashed when I realized she was stuck in there but it was all ok. Decades would pass before I was able to own any fun Gadget figures. (thank you Funko!)

36: Tiny Toon Adventures Babs Bunny- 1991
Oh those Tiny Toon Adventures. I still laugh and enjoy that animated series, even if there was a lack of really fun toys to collect. Most of my Tiny Toon Adventures collection came from McDonald's and for whatever reason McDonald's was dead set on releasing Tiny Toon toys with the tried and true body stuck in a vehicle. The flip cars they had were fun but it was this series of Happy Meal toys that had utilized some clever gimmicks. Babs and her spinning records was just a delight. I would zoom this car around all over, it was a great car toy to be sure.

35: Animaniacs Hip Hippos- 1994
Let's see, around 1994 I was 12 and my days of getting Happy Meals was hit and miss. I was getting older. I became interested in exploring the McDonald's menu that was not just a small cheeseburger or 4 piece McNugget. I was learning about Large Fries and Quarter Pounders and McChickens! I missed out on the Hip Hippos the first time around, however upon learning through my interviews with Justine Dantzer that she had designed this Happy Meal toy, I had to track one down. I think it is really awesome to own toys that have been designed or sculpted by people I know. It's just a really special thing.

34: Lego Motion Land Laser- 1989
When Lego landed in the McDonald's Happy Meal my head flipped. I wanted them all, no doubt about it, but the Land Laser really spoke to me. With each week that passed and the Lego bags would increase in number, I knew we'd eventually get to 3a. I had a minifigure with long red hair that I would sit on top of the Land Laser and just zoom her around all over the house. It was magical.

33: Batman Returns Catwoman Cat Coupe- 1991
Even though I have a distaste for figures that are stuck in cars, I made damn sure I got this Catwoman Happy Meal toy. Batman Returns was a huge movie event for me. I can think of a handful of movies growing up where I found ways to get as much merchandise as I could. I have told this story before but it demands to be repeated; I would do pretend flips through my house meowing all over the place purring out, "I am Catwoman, hear me roar!" It was just epic. We were on a family trip to Galveston staying at my aunt's beach house. Of course one of the days my brother and I got Happy Meals for lunch. Catwoman was inside and it was the best part of the trip for me. It was like a weight had been lifted. The tail moving as the car drove along was just purrr-fect. Of course I would then end up falling down the stairs at the beach house due to my clumsy nature, we're talking two flights of stairs, but I landed on my (sort of) feet. My survival had me thinking, "I might just have nine lives like Catwoman!"

32: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Snow White and Wishing Well- 1992
The Wishing Well is not pictured but I loved when this line came out. I am a big fan of Disney Princess movies and when McDonald's decided to release some really nice Snow White toys I was hooked. In many instances, McDonald's would have Happy Meal toys that you couldn't find anywhere else. If I wanted a Snow White figure in 1992, I was gonna be searching for a long time. This was just perfect. I would end up using this figure in many soap opera style scenarios. I had an ongoing series with my toys at that time, it was like a hybrid Knots Landing meets Dynasty type of story. I'd retreat to the loft upstairs and devise this fantasy wonderland neighborhood where all sorts of drama would unfold.

31: Halloween Witch Pail- 1986
Halloween in 1986 was lit. I don't even know how else to say it. Hands down one of the most memorable and fun Happy Meal toys ever. Sure I was a little miffed that the Happy Meal "toy" was on the outside containing my food but there was something utterly magical about these pails. I loved the witch. I loved her lashes but most importantly I loved her mole. I wanted one on my face so badly. These pails were a staple every Halloween, but that witch bucket from 1986 will forever hold a place in my heart.

30: Young Astronauts Space Shuttle- 1991
Space. The final frontier. Love, love, love these Young Astronauts toys. Putting them together was an exercise in patience because the cardboard could tear or bend, but I loved the idea of these space themed toys. They made me want to reach for the stars! They also worked as great dioramas for my smaller toys.

29: 75th Anniversary Wizard of Oz Dorothy- 2013
There was a McDonald's by my house that once had a glass case display of various Wizard of Oz dolls and other toys. I loved it. There have been a few different Wizard of Oz toys at McDonald's but the 75th Anniversary toys were really special. I found myself searching high and low at a fevered pitch for all of these. Glinda was actually my most favorite, however I could not find her in time for this countdown. So Dorothy was it! The cute factor of these were a huge selling point. Also when these came out I was in a particularly rough point in my life. I was witnessing the final chapter of my marriage and a setback in my professional life. Collecting these helped give me a sense of sanity in a world crumbling in chaos. Spoiler alert: with the help of great friends and fabulous shoes I was able to bounce right back.

28: Ice Age Dawn of the Dinosaurs Scratte- 2009
I am a sucker for a toy with a side eye. I never have gotten into the Ice Age movies, but the promotional clip of Scrat and Scratte was pretty entertaining. I immediately went on the hunt for this sly squirrel when she was out at McDonald's. It was pretty fun.  

27: Narnia The White Witch and her Castle- 2005
Sometimes the hunt can prove dangerous. I love a wicked female character and the White Witch was icy wicked! I acquired this figure by begging my friend Patrick to stop by at a McDonald's on our way home from a party one night. They were close to closing and I had remembered that I really wanted the White Witch toy. Luckily they had one. My glee could not be contained, so much so that when I wiggled my way into Patrick's car I slammed my head on the roof of his car getting in. This is something that would only happen to me. "Holy shit are you ok?!" Patrick exclaimed as I saw stars. There had been a loud crack. By the next night at dinner with Patrick and other friends I had become loopy and not like myself. Almost like I was drunk, making a fool of myself at a catfish restaurant with a plate of fries. A trip to the ER later would prove that I had a mild concussion. I was devastated by this but now my friends and I laugh about the time I was so excited for a Happy Meal toy that I got a concussion getting into my friend's car. 

26: Barbie and Friends Locket Surprise Ken- 1994
Barbie related items finally make it into the countdown! Oh my goodness my love for the Barbie Happy Meal toys is just insane. I collected them early on but by the time 1994 was happening, like I mentioned earlier, I was getting into the big girl meals. Quarter Pounder with Cheeses. McChickens! Maybe a Big Mac or two! When this Ken came out though I longed for him. Not in a weird way, but more like, "I really need a Ken in my collection!" I ended up acquiring this Ken years ago and it was just the best thing, like reuniting with an old friend you never even knew you needed in your life. 

25: Peanuts Lucy's Apple Cat- 1989
I have a confession to make. I love Lucy. I am not entirely fond of the whole football thing with Charlie Brown, but I have always been fond of that character. I once stole a bunch of Peanuts books from my 1st grade teacher and didn't bring them back until my mom was like, "I didn't buy these books, where did they come from?" I had to return those books to my teacher and explain what I did. It was mortifying but a really good life lesson. Anyways, this is my old Lucy Happy Meal toy. Her apple cart is somewhere. One of my most fond memories of this toy was having her and Janine go on adventures in my Ecto-1. There would be all these horrific ghosts and monsters after them and they would just be fighting them off. The fun was too much.

24: Winx Tecna- 2013
I fell into a rabbit hole in 2012 with my interest in Winx. A group of girls with unique powers teaming up against a threat of magical mean girls, it was like Jem and the Holograms but with wings and magic. It was also a line that did not last long in the States so that it made it into the Happy Meal was something really cool. Also, if you have been following along, 2013 was not my most brightest year. Any chance to find some joy with toys was a good thing.

23: Food Fundamentals Slugger- 1992
Sort of like a Changeable but with human qualities and a hidden notepad hidden inside. Slugger makes the countdown because of my tremendous crush on him. I love meat, what else can I say?

22: Oliver & Company Georgette- 1988
I had a pet dog once. We kept her for six days. She got sick and basically did a liquid number 2 all over the house. It looked like a crime scene. Ever since then I have preferred having fake plastic dogs in my life. Georgette is one that has always stayed around. I love a poodle. I felt like owning this Happy Meal toy was the height of sophistication and class. That opinion still holds.

21: 101 Dalmations Cruella De Vil- 1990
Much like Snow White, McDonald's did a fantastic job providing figures to characters I wanted in my toy collection. My 8 year old self did not really need a Cruella figure, I mean she was cruel. It was in her name. However her coat and gloves were fabulous and I was ready to embrace as much villainy as possible. I am still delighted that this toy exists.

20: Littlest Pet Shop Swan- 1995
Another staple to the Happy Meal is the Littlest Pet Shop toys. Nothing can beat the vintage LPS line though. Yet another toy I missed out on because I had my eyes on combo meals and not the price, but thankfully this Swan has joined my collection. A thing of beauty I say!

19: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Double Trouble Queen/Witch- 1992
The gimmick with this Happy Meal toy was smart and fun. You just opened the dress and flipped the body from either the Evil Queen or the Witch. I loved it. I think a great villain is a must for any toy collection. 

18: Batman the Animated Series Catwoman and Leopard- 1993
Oh this was a big deal. First off I am missing her leopard. If you peruse older posts of the Diary you will find a photo with the leopard. Anyways, there were two animated series that left a lasting impact on me from the 90's: X-Men and Batman the Animated Series. (This is not entirely true, there were lots of great animated series during this decade but those two were really special.) I loved this version of Catwoman. The Kenner action figure was painfully hard to find, but having this version from McDonald's mostly solved that issue. This was just a great figure. 

17: Cabbage Patch Kids Michelle Elyse- 1994
Growing up I was never into baby dolls. I felt like that was something for grown up and not children. So I never went nuts for the larger sized CPK dolls. However I was dazzled when CPK expanded into figures and such. The CPK Happy Meal toys also came out around the holidays so these figures always get me in the holiday spirit. I have managed to collect all of them through the years with Michelle being the final one. I love it!

16: Food Fundamentals Ruby- 1992
Food Fundamentals makes a second appearance on the countdown! Ruby don't take your love to town! From the green bow to the apple notepad, how could anyone not want this?! 

15: Looney Tunes Petunia Pig as Wonder Pig- 1991
This one is pretty self explanatory. It's a Looney Tunes character as a DC Super Hero. But not just any DC Super Hero. A play off of Wonder Woman. Iconic! 

14: Barbie with Hair You Can Style! Western Stampin' Barbie- 1992
When Barbie came out with rooted hair for the Happy Meal it was a game changer! I was surprised to see this happen and I wanted them all! Here's the thing. Growing up my parents entertained me with a few Barbie dolls from the toy store, but eventually they wanted me to give all that up. So while I wanted the regular Western Stampin' Barbie, I more than happily settled for the Happy Meal version. That was the exciting thing about the Barbie Happy Meals. It was a way to own a particular Barbie that you were a fan of when you couldn't get the regular doll in the toy store. Also hailing from Texas, this was just a must have.

13: New Food Changeables Robo-Cakes- 1989
A Changeable finally makes it into the countdown! One of the most memorable and beloved Happy Meal toy campaign ever. There were many to choose from, but Robo-Cakes made the cut. Honestly though any of the Changeables could have made it and probably should have. I remember having a ton of them in this Crayola Crayon storage seat. I would invite Thomas over, he was a few years older and lived next door and I just thought he was so cute. I'd show him my Changeables and he'd tell me more about Transformers and it was just really fun. He hung around the older kids in the neighborhood and they also taught me about Freddy Krueger. Lovely times.

12: Halloween Birdie- 1995
She is missing her pumpkin, but having the McDonald Land characters in Halloween costumes was pretty great. Birdie was my favorite and this figure was perfect because aside from that mini pull back pink car, there really needed to be a decent Birdie figure. 

11: Masters of the Universe He-Man- 2003
The most powerful man in the universe met the happiest meal in the universe and we all felt like we had the power. I was wondering why there was no Teela, but I was just happy to see a He-Man toy at McDonald's. This was truly a great toy, it looked just like the larger action figure! It's just perfect. 

10: Barbie Rappin' Rockin' Barbie- 1991
I love Barbie. I truly do. And when she decides to step out in a mini with giant crimped hair and a Flavor Flav clock necklace, I can't help but love the silliness of it all. She had to be in the top ten.   

9: Halloween McNugget Buddies Witchie McNugget- 1992
If the Halloween Witch Pail made my Halloween in '86, than Witcie McNugget made my Halloween in '92. Seeing a return of the McNugget Buddies was great, but add on the Halloween theme and you have a total show in for the top ten. When these came out my head was ready to explode. I didn't think we'd ever see the McNugget Buddies again. Here's hoping they can make a full return! 

8: Alvin and the Chipmunks Brittany with Juke Box- 1990
It's Brittany bitch. One of my most favorite Happy Meal toys. I love the Chipettes. It's hard to pick a favorite but I love that at least one of them was in the line up in 1990. My original Brittany was lost but luckily I was able to come across a new one a number of years ago. Having her back in my collection was a nice full circle moment. I have written about her before on the Diary and here she is in the top ten. 

7: Epcot '94 Adventure at Walt Disney World Daisy in Germany- 1993
This was a tough one. I loved so many of the toys from the Epcot Happy Meal. They were really nice toys for a Happy Meal. This is one of the best Daisy Duck figures ever made. It's just perfect and has aged really well in 26 years.

6: Happy Meal Starring Barbie, Lights n Lace Barbie- 1990
When this campaign came out it was a really big deal. I don't know about the rest of you, but it was a really big deal to me and my toy collection. I loved the idea of Barbie figures that were not in regular Barbie scale. Lights n Lace was the very first one I got and from the bright pink with pearlized paint, my heart was just singing. I would pose my arms just like her and pretend I could be that fabulous. Love it!

5: Funny Fry Friends Rockin' Roller- 1989
Much like the McNugget Buddies, the Funny Fry Friends had a lot of mix and match playability. These were so much fun and the Rockin' Roller was just an essential feel of the 80's and was a nice way to close out the decade. 

4: The Little Mermaid Ariel- 1989
Meant to be bath time toys, the Little Mermaid Happy Meal toys were anything but for me. I loved the movie so much and getting an Ariel figure was the best. I remember the night I got her. I was with my grandmother and my older cousin Donna. We had stopped by the McDonald's next to Astroworld and I was jumping for joy. My cousin Donna was more preoccupied with gluing on her fake nails. I was intrigued, so Ariel and I sat together while I messed with the nail glue. I ended up gluing my fingers together and I was so scared when they stuck because I thought, "What if I can't play with my toys?" And then I had a second thought, "If my fingers were stuck together, what would happen if I glued my legs together? I could become a real life mermaid!" Luckily I never did anything that dumb and my fingers eventually became unstuck. Mess.

3: McNugget Buddies Rocker McNugget- 1988
And then there were three. The Rocker McNugget gets her own star studded set with flaming orange hair, heavy blue eye shadow and candy yum yum lips. I loved everything about this growing up and as an adult that love is still there, maybe even stronger than ever! Rock out with your nuggets out!

2: Muppet Babies Miss Piggy- 1986
It's a tale as old as time. Child tricks her parents into driving all over the city of Houston to find a Miss Piggy toy at McDonald's. I truly feel sorry for my parents and the lengths I made them go to in order to find the toys that made my heart flutter. As much as I love Gonzo and Fozzie, I was tired of getting them over and over! I had no other choice but to beg my parents to call every McDonald's in the phone book and then drive through bad weather to track one down across town. The spoiled nature of the story is very Miss Piggy and deserves the number 2 spot. Plus the toy managed to be exactly what I wanted, a figure that could be removed from the vehicle!

1: New Food Changeables Turbo Cone- 1989
Coming in at number one is the one and only Turbo Cone. I can't express how much I love this toy. When the New Food Changeables came out I remember looking at the line up and thinking, "Wait a sec, I think that soft serve cone has red lips and blush with lush shades of pink and green as accents!" I loved it. Everything about the toy was just so cool and I hoped I would get one in my Happy Meal. My parents both worked, my dad owned his own business and my mom was always working some sort of job or another so we would get Happy Meals somewhat frequently. They were easy and fast and while my mom tried to make lunches from home, there were just those days where the drive thru was the easiest bet. We were in her big Caprice Classic, listening to fun music on the radio. I was in the backseat taking a sneak peak into the Happy Meal and low and behold I noticed it was the Turbo Cone. I was thrilled. It was just a great day. One I have held with me ever since. 

There you have it. My top 40 favorite Happy Meal toys. Should I have eaten so many Happy Meals in my life? My primary care physician would probably say no, however I have a lifetime of memories that I enjoy recalling. Happy 40th Happy Meal! May you continue to delight people of all ages for many more years to come!

What were some of your favorite Happy Meal toys? Leave a comment and let me know! Thank you for enjoying this countdown! It was a lot of fun putting this together. See ya'll soon!


  1. The various Mario and Nintendo figures over the years were always quite cool. I've worked a lot of them into my World of Nintendo and Pokemon displays.

    I also loved the Sonic the Hedgehog toys as a kid. There weren't many videogame based toys back in the early 90s and having a toy of Sonic and Tails was a dream.
    You mentioned the MOTU figures and while I don't have a complete set yet, they are pretty neat. I have He-Man and Skeletor from the series.
    I remember the Power Rangers toys from the first movie being a big deal. Not only were there some cool accessories but they had the extra deluxe rangers with zords that were legitimate action figures. It was always cool when you picked something up that felt like a legitimate action figure.
    Of course,I gotta Mention the Might Max sets from one of the promotions that focused on various popular Mattel brands. While they had no loose figures inside, they definitely fit the spirit of Mighty Max and they fit right in with my collection.

    1. Oh my goodness I remember being so excited for the Sonic toys too! It is very true, at the point in time you could not find much by way of video game toys. It's not like it is now. I do think it is great that you have worked those toys into your World of Nintendo and Pokemon displays! That is just really cool.

      I loved the Power Rangers toys you mentioned. I wanted to include the Pink Ranger, but I remember them being a add on to your order, so I did not include it on the list. William Bruce West knows more about it.

      I never got the Skeletor from the MOTU figures, but I know one day I will. I also remember the Mighty Max sets! My brother had so many of them. They were pretty cool!

  2. Quite the eclectic collection. Some of these I remember, others are completely new to me. I would hardly have believed Happy Meal Toys have been around that long. Since they’re meant to be small and be lightweight kids entertainment, it’s easy to take them for granted and only appreciate their uniqueness years later.

    Obviously to a kid there’s both excitement and importance in getting the anticipated toy, and I’m pleased to see you haven’t lost that joy and that there are fun stories to go along with each one as well.

  3. Nice list! I saw some of my favs. Really makes me want to compile a favorites list. Mine would stray a bit into other fast food toy offerings. McDo was the staple, but Hardee’s, BK, and a few others had some great classic toys too.