A Reckoning with McDonald’s 40th Anniversary Happy Meal Toys

There is a popular writer on Twitter who is saccharinely adorable in her tweets. She is always struggling with the same things that toddlers do, like unzipping coats and keeping cereal in the bowl. Yesterday, she posted another one of her twee updates to her hundreds of thousands adoring followers about how quirky she is. And then another, and another, and another.

I mean, I get it. It’s all about being on brand these days, and her brand is sardonically riding the strugglebus. I respect it. Straight up. It’s humor, it’s fun, and I ain’t chugged my sixteen ounce Monster Zero Ultra White yet, the only thing helping me survive the day.

I just thought man, try the constant onslaught of bullshit that’s having kids. My brand is tying everything together in a metaphorical way through pieces of pop culture. So let’s try this. See if you can remember, 90’s kids!

Scrooge McDuck dives into his vault of gold coins. That’s you, except you’re diving into the onslaught of bullshit.

The Dinosaurs in the ABC sitcom look out the window at the apocalypse closing in around them. That’s you, staring into the onslaught of bullshit.

Michelle falls off the horse and gets amnesia. You wish. Nothing can erase the onslaught of bullshit.

Last week, my son almost got hit by a car. I saw it happen in slow motion: his final, defiant bolt into the street, the approaching car of which I suddenly knew its exact speed, velocity, and distance. The neighbor mom, who was a foot closer than me, caught him reflexively. The car slam-breaked, his body held back by a loose grip and primal instinct.

I aged another year, gained another pound in candy weight, and drank another adult beverage later that evening as I dealt with emotional toll of living with my heart outside of my body. This is how I know it’s McDonald’s 40th anniversary for their Happy Meal toys. Not because I care, not because I need to collect 24 hunks of plastic, but because there’s a certain zen in the drive-thru.

That’s the other component of all the swirling bullshit — the suffocating dread that you need to be whipping your kids up GMO-free, no refined-sugar zucchini muffins. You can meal prep these in between head injuries, poop explosions, and riding the dog like a horse, while the half-life of your Monster Ultra Zero and Lexapro wears off.

McDonald’s whispers that it doesn’t have to be this way. McDonald’s sits at the emotional, pulsing core of the bullshit, a glowing God. “I can save you,” it whispers. Get in the drive-thru, get in the fast lane to dinner, bedtime, and time alone with your wife. This is peace, this is the inner sanctum. This is self care.

McDonald’s is doing a special promotion with the 40th anniversary of The Happy Meal, re-releasing several of their greatest hits in blind bags, including the Tamagotchi, the Changeables, and the McNugget Buddy. Last night, I suggested to my kids that we should go do something crazy, like buy eight of them. They were thrilled.

At home, the excitement cooled to muted indifference as we plowed through the blind bags.

Bag #1: LOOK, A POWER RANGER! My son stared blankly.

Bag #2: BEANIE BABY PLATYPUS! I pushed it toward my daughter, who continued chewing her hunk of GMOs.

Bag #3: GRIMACE. “What’s that,” my son said flatly.

Bag #4: MICKEY MOUSE! The kids’ eyes faintly glimmered with recognition.

Bag #5: SCCCOOOOOOORE A MCNUGGET BUDDY FUCK YEAH. I didn’t even care what my kids thought as I quickly stashed it aside for personal reasons.

Bag #6: TAMAGOTCHI! The children registered no response whatsoever.

Bag #7: SPACE JAM!! My daughter asked me to open her GoGurt.

Bag #8: HAMBURGER CHANGEABLE. Finally the kids were excited. They began fighting over it. Playing with it. My daughter eventually won custody of it and slept with it overnight. It came downstairs with her at morning. It is a blessed totem.

Thanks, McDonald’s. You’ve always been there for me from childhood to adulthood. I continue to seek you in the darkness, just as the CEOs devised.


5 thoughts on “A Reckoning with McDonald’s 40th Anniversary Happy Meal Toys

  1. I’m amazed you got 8 different toys. Other blogs (DinosuarDracula) had to specially request the throwback toys. I think my favorite Happy Meal toys were the LEGO sets, and the little pull back racers of all of the McDonalds characters. I loved those cars because they were so small and detailed. At least that’s how I remember them.

  2. I just took my kid to McD’s last night and had no idea these existed. Just looking at the photo and coveting Grimace, Hamburglar and the nugget guys. I remember the plastic grimace hand puppets which always made my hand sweat and my heart happy.

  3. Got one today and it was the My Little Pony from 1998. Sort of disappointed it wasn’t a McNugget Buddy or the hamburger changeable. I wish they would have continued doing in-house characters all along like Grimace and Hamburglar. The McNugget buddies were so cute. It makes me sad my kids didn’t grow up with those characters like I did. They were fun! It sucks that all the McDonalds toys are usually movie tie-ins.

    Also I too watched my son almost get hit by a car a few years ago while crossing with the light in front of his elementary school. The way you described it was spot on. Scary as hell! Time stood still and it all happened in slow mo. I had my other, younger, disabled, child with me so I had no way to catch my son/save him. Luckily a bunch of parents started screaming (as did I) and the idiot who was running the light stopped in time. I then cursed him up a blue steak and the same parents got mad at me for cursing in front of their children. *sigh* I’m glad your son is okay. You deserve all the Halloween candy and Happy Meals you damn well please after that!

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