McDonald’s has been ruthlessly targeting children for decades, promising them not only the sweet and salty flavors kids can’t get enough of, but also Happy Meal toys. This gimmick to get kids to make their parents visit the fast food chain started in Kansas City in 1977 and went nationwide in 1979.
1. Ronald McDonald Plastic Glove Puppet
A relatively early, low-budget give-away from the fast food magnate was this simple, stupid Ronald McDonald hand puppet.
This horrible idea for a toy was made from the same material as plastic bags — you know, the things on which kids can totally choke and suffocate.
2. Michael Jordan Fitness Toys
Michael Jordan could have sold ice to an Eskimo in the 1990s. Helping sell Happy Meals was child’s play to Jordan, which was technically the point.
The basketball legend teamed up with Mickey D’s to create “fitness-themed” toys. Never mind the fact that it’s nearly impossible to get a workout throwing around a 2-inch ball or using a stopwatch that only ticks off 60 seconds at a time.
3. The Jellyfish from “Shark Tale”
Jellyfish should really only be viewed while in the water. While on land, real jellyfish look like gooey snot blobs on the beach. McDonald’s attempt at a three-dimensional, land-based version of a jelly fish is much more disturbing than a snot blob, though.
It’s pretty bad when saying that this looks like it could be a psychedelic mushroom is the tame comparison to make. Clearly, this jellyfish looks more like—what’s the polite way of putting this?—an intimidating erotic device.
4. Madame Alexander Dolls
Speaking of adult-themed toys, these giveaways were a little too lifelike for children.
Much like the Beanie Baby craze of 1997, it’s likely that these happy meals were designed for parents to steal the toys from their children before unwrapping so that the fancy dolls could be sold on eBay for a huge profit in the future—if only the parents could play the waiting game long enough. Oh yeah, and these toys are crazy creepy!
5. “American Idol” mp3 Player
Millions of Americans dreamed of ditching their local McDonald’s dining rooms in favor of the limelight thanks to the likes of Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson, and Paula Abdul. These American Idol toys let children dream of auditioning before the judges without the harsh commentary from Cowell.
The mp3 player was a huge evolution from plastic glove puppets, but unfortunately these music players only had one song, the theme from American Idol—no, not “One Shining Moment,” the weird techno beat song that played in and out of commercial breaks. Awesome.
These toys were McDonald’s answer to the question, “How do we cash in on the concept of ‘Transformers’ without having to pay Hasbro for the rights to their idea?”
Kind of an odd attempt, but hey, maybe it worked.
7. McTickle Feather Sponge
It’s like a feather, only it’s a sponge—that way it can be used to soak up children’s tears of disappointment.
Is McDonald’s secretly an underground kink club or something? Who thought that a kid’s tickle feather would be a good idea?