McDonalds Happy Meals were created in the mid-70s by McDonalds marketing manager Bob Bernstein. He took the idea of a kids size portioned meal and added the toy element to it when he noticed his sons excitement when he pulled a small toy from a box of cereal. The Happy Meal officially rolled out nation wide in 1979 and the fast food world was never the same! Myself and many other people believe the Happy Meal hit it's stride in the mid-80s to early 90s when the toy offerings were almost as good as anything you would find on the shelf at Toys R Us. I grew up with these toys and have very fond memories of playing with them. These are my favorites from the 1980s!
Fast Macs (1985)
I was big into small pull back cars around the time these guys came out. My favorites were the Penny Racer cars put out by Takara. This set consisted of 4 cars including Ronald, Hamburgler, Officer Big Mac and my favorite of the bunch Birdie! She was my favorite because she was the only pull back car that I received during this promotion and she was AWESOME! I always questioned what Birdie was meant to represent? Fry Guys were French fries, Mayor McCheese was a cheeseburger was birdie meant to represent chicken? Was I eating Birdie with every delicious bite of my McChicken Sandwich!!! No, eventually the mystery was solved and she was created to represent the early birds who woke up for a nutritious McDonalds breakfast. Mystery solved and tears diverted!
Fraggle Rock Cars (1988)
I was a huge fan of Fraggle Rock! My Mom even got me and my brother a Weekly Reader subscription so we could get the Fraggle Rock books and record! I still read those books to my kids today. Jim Henson really knew how to capture kids imaginations and these toys let us use those imaginations to come up with our own Fraggle adventures in the comfort of our own homes. I had all 4 of the vehicles and would use them to race other cars only to leave them in a puff of healthy vegetable dust!
McDonaldland Boats (1986)
Sometimes the toy you received with your Happy Meal was the box! These boats came in 2 pieces and your food was inside! These came with sticker sheets and you could decorate them however you wanted. Some people may have felt cheated by getting these "toys", but I loved mine. I would put my G.I. Joes or Bionic Six or whatever characters I wanted into my McDonaldland boat and float them around the pool, tub or even the puddles in our driveway. Eventually they did crack or break, but man were they fun when they were in one piece!
Muppet Babies (1987)
Jim Henson does it once again with the Muppet Babies! These were outstanding toys, because unlike the Fraggle cars you could actually remove the characters from their vehicles and have them mingle with your other action figures. I always wanted to recreate the Star Wars episode of Muppet Babies and now I could! The original line included Kermit, Gonzo, Fozzie and Piggie. It wasn't until years later that I learned an Animal toy was made for Canada! Luckily I scored one pretty easily on E-bay and he was reunited with his adopted brothers and sister. Also, I just learned that the Canadian version of Gonzo was barefoot whereas the US version had shoes! Why?
In the late eighties into the early 90s Garfield was huge. You could find him everywhere from fruit snacks, to TV, to your Moms car window. I loved Garfield, so when these came to McDonalds I had to have them. The only one I did eventually get was the jungle version in the blue Jeep. The only thing that would have made this line better would have been if they included more removable characters like Odie or Nermal. Still totally cool though!
Well, there you have it...my top 5 Happy Meal Toys from the 1980s. Of course this is just my opinion. What were your favorite Happy Meal toys? Grab a Big Mac, contemplate what the hell Grimace is supposed to be and let us know in the comments below!