Looking Back at McDonald's Happy Meal Toy Promotions from 1990 – 2000

bomb

New Geeze
Writer
Jul 15, 2020
57
101
1599252993864.png
Image: Courtesy McDonalds
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, I went to McDonald's with my kid cousin; she got a Dory Plush. I just bumped into the toy today and thought…ahh…let me talk about them today. But since the list is long (1979 – 2020), I will break the post into two. I will start with the 1990 – 1998 era.

For many kids of the '90s, McDonald's plastic trinkets included in Happy Meals were the best gifts of their childhood. My favourite was the Furby and Tamagotchi mini Keychain.

But if you missed this, last year, on their 40th anniversary, McDonald revived the toys but for a limited edition.

Happy meal toys have made remarkable development since they started to sell children's mills back in 1979. eBay is packed with hundreds of dollars' worth of these antique items.

The toys received praise and criticism in equal measures. Some people accused them of encouraging unhealthy food habits in children and polluting the environment with non-bio-degradable single-use plastics.

Well, the '80s had some nice Happy Meal toys, but if feel the '90s had the best of them all. Now, let’s go down the memory lane and feed our nostalgia.


The Fast Food Wars: McDonald's Vs Burger King
McDonald's was never the same after the launch of Happy Meals in the summer of 1979. Back then, there was a stiff competition between McDonald's and the Burger King. On the other side, Wendy and Hardee were on each other's neck. Eventually, McDonald's and Hardee won the battle. The real revolution started in 1990.

The Drive-Thru competition between Burger King and McDonald's intensified around that time the same as Taco Bell and Wendy's. At some point, Burger King and Taco Bell Chihuahua were the go-to fast food joints with the Gidget the Taco Bell Chihuahua.

Before August 1990, Burger King had loads of kids meal products such as Record Breakers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles badges, etc. Later on, Burger King had two promotions to the hit show, The Simpsons. Those days, Burger King had the edge over McDonald's.



1990
Super Mario Bros. 3 toys (September)
Tiny Toon Adventures toys (October)
The Rescuers Down Under toys (November)

In 1989, Burger King established the Burger King Kids Club. This was during the baby boom in the late 80s. It was officially launched in January 1990.

https://youtu.be/48omeGMwSUY
The McDonaldLand gang by then had been much more iconic in the 20th century than the new Kids Club of Burger King.

The '90s had some excellent Happy Meal toys. Let us go to the bottom of the Happy Meal box, our bagged prize. Back in the days when McDonald's gave up the Styrofoam container and paper Happy Meal box in favour of environmentally-friendly wrappers and Happy Meal Packages.


Super Mario Brothers 3
The year 1990 was the beginning of many technological and industrial revolutions all over the world.

Super Mario Brothers 3 (SMB3) is the most awesome of the McDonalds toys that were released in 1990. It was released in September of 1990 alongside the Jungle Book, Peanut toys, and the Berenstain bears' books.

The Super Mario Brothers 3 was a tone more superior to the others released in the same year. But it was a little disappointing for the NES toys collectors and Happy Meal toys collectors.

The SMB3 promotion was a highlight in the pan promotion for Xennials with the same number of characters in the meal as with Disney's "The Little Mermaid" Promotion of 1989.

The Little Mermaid was more popular than the SMB3 promotion, and both had four toys. There was a lengthy debate after that, on whether the four toys were appropriate to promote SMB3.

The year 1990 signified the drop of Happy Meal Toys. It is the year that King Koopa, Toadstool, Koopalings, and Zelda 2 disappeared. I was not aware that these Super Mario Brothers were the last Happy Meal Toys from SMB in the 1990s. The 90s seemed looked like an appropriate time for the growth and development of the toys.

As a Nintendo lover, I would love the Super Mario Brothers 3 to be more like the Hasbro Super Mario Brothers Cup or maybe the Simpsons Go of the Burger King Kids Club. In the second week in August 1990, it appeared that SMB3 would be distributing two toys per week. I got the second toy, Luigi, at around that time. The Super Mario Toy had a spring underneath for toppling Goombas army, and Luigi would drop Koopa Paratroopers from the table.

The SMB3 required a proper send-off from McDonald's if Nintendo and McDonald's partnership were to continue in 1990. I equally loved and hated the collaboration between these two giants. The SMB3 Happy Meal toys promotion had a fantastic manual art of the SMBe game in its current form in the summer of 1990.

Simply put, the Super Mario Brothers 3 Happy Meal toys were smart but not that much to compete favourably with Burger King at that time. But all the same, the SMB3 was the Kids' favourite cartoon in the early 90s.

1599254507872.png
1991

Tiny Toon Adventures toys
McDino Changeables (June)
One Hundred and One Dalmatians toys (July)
Hook toys (December)
1599253447789.png
Image Courtesy: Ebay.com
Super Looney Tunes
In 1991, the target audience for McDonald's increased. It is the year that they realized that there is a Kid in every adult. With that in mind, they redesigned their toys to fit the kids, teenagers, and some adults alike.

When Home Alone came to the dollar theatres before 1991, McDonald's gave out Tiny Toon Adventures Flip Cars as Happy Meal prizes. But this was not as impressive to the Xennials or Millennials. At the time, Looney Tunes and DC superheroes were a fantastic pair.

The Petunia pig was featured as Wonder woman in this collection. Tazmanian Devil was the Flash(1990 -1991), Bugs Bunn as Superman (dated to Chris Reeves films), Daffy Duck as Batman (the classic 60s show), Bat-daffy was featured in the Bat-Duck mobile (Batmobile).

Each toy came with a comic book that doubled as a colouring book. These are were the most prominent 1991 Happy Meal players from Tiny Toon Adventures, a hit cartoon of the '90s.

The characters in Looney Tunes were designed in a way that you could remove the superhero costume by snapping the two parts. Although I was frustrated by the lack of a Daffy Duck, the U3 toys sufficed.

I remember Super Bugs was Super Looney Tunes' most advertised toy. This made it famous for the kids back then. At the time, cartoon lovers and cartoonists were still mourning Mel Blanc.

McDino Changeables – Haha! You thought you had some Fresh fries picked up? Only to find out it is a dinosaur dressed as French fries. Creative indeed.



1992
Batman Returns toys (June)
Cabbage Patch Kids / Tonka toys


Batman Returns
When I was a kid, I couldn't choose between the CBS toys on Saturday mornings, and the Batman Returns toys from Summer 92.

The Doc Brown in the Dolorean landed McDonald's in trouble for the choking hazard was not written in a larger font for parents of toddlers to see. The application for painting for Doc's Dolorean was not as amazing as its previous version, but the picture of Christopher Lloyd and the name of the Dolorean Car model on the rear made it worth having.

I would personally replace the old Verne's car with a Biff Tannen car. Unfortunately, the Batman Returns Happy Meal toy promo was discontinued in the middle of its run.

Four toys were included: Batman Press and Go Car, Batmobile, Catwoman Cat Coupe, and the Penguin Umbrella Roto-Roadster.

At the time, Burger King also had some special release for kids, like the Archie cars, Capitol Critters, Goog Troop, Aladdin, and Disney Parade. McDonald's robbed Burger King of its popularity in 1992 until Disney Aladdin was released.

In the same year, Burger King updated its Burger King Club logo to attract more kids to Burger King restaurant rather than the Kids Club meal.


1993
Earth Day toys (March)
Mattel's Totally Toy Holiday toys (December)

Dino-Motion Dinosaurs
This was a combination of The Simpsons, Roseanne, and Family Matters. The Simpsons were the most controversial TV family when it debuted in 1990. On the other hand, Jim Henson's Dinosaurs was the best TV Show in 1992.

I couldn't wait to see Baby Sinclair telling him, "Not the Mama” and Knock Earl Sinclair with a frying pan over the head. The series was widely produced in 1992, and Thelma and Louise were the first to be released on tape.

Six toys were given out on the $1.99 Happy Meal; they included Earl Sinclair, Fran Sinclair, Baby Sinclair, Robbie Sinclair, Charlene Sinclair, and Ethyl Phillips. All these toys were fitted with a square button to 'pump up.’

The 1993 Batman, The Animated Series fans were attached to these toys. And every kid would have at least a couple of them in his or her collection. The baby Sinclair toy with a black skillet was great for rollerblading, watching Beverly Hills 90210, and watching Wayne's World movie in the mid-90s.

It didn't matter if I had a Baby Sinclair toy with a black skillet or blue pot, as long as a Baby Sinclair was available in the collection with a kitchen utensil to hit Earl on his head!

Sounds cruel, but hey, these are just fictional characters.


1994
Bobby's World toys (March)
Sonic the Hedgehog toys (April)
The Flintstones toys (May)
Happy Birthday Happy Meal Train toys (June)
Animaniacs toys (July)
Mickey & Friends Epcot '94 Happy Meal Adventure toys

SEGA Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Sonic the Hedgehog, the Slim Super Mario was a mid-90s video game character. I still get a blast of nostalgia and excitement whenever Green Hill Act 1 appears on my YouTube feeds. Yes, it always does, thanks to my '90s search addiction.

Sonic the Hedgehog isn't Super Mario. The 1994 Sonic the Hedgehog Happy Meal toys were better designed than the 1990 Super Mario Brothers 3 Happy Meal toys. Tails, Dr. Robotinik, Sonic, and Knuckles were included in the package, like the toys of 4-and-above ages, with the unique Sonic the Hedgehog prints.

There is no other video game kids' meal toy promotion that has ever matched the influence of Super Mario Brother 3 Happy Meal toys, but Sonic the Hedgehog came close.

Around this time, Burger King gave McDonald's a run for their money by doing a Lion King Toy promotion. But Sonic the Hedgehog blasting off with Dr. Robotinik and Knuckles battles were still ranking high in popularity.

This promotion was similar to Super Mario Brothers 3, but more advertisement was done. The Sonic Hedgehog 3 Happy Meal campaign had all Sonic boxes and bags on it, but the Super Mario Brothers 3 happy Meal toys had a placemat with all four toys displayed. Many contend that the toy promotion for Super Mario Brothers 3 was the best Happy Meal promotion in the 1990s.

This list can go on and on endlessly. But I will list the remaining Toy promotions here; then I will keep adding details momentarily.
1995
Spider-Man toys (January)
Babe toys

1996
Muppet Treasure Island toys (February)
Marvel toys (May 17-June 14)
Babe toys (June 14-July 11)
Aladdin and the King of Thieves toys (August 10-September 12)
Space Jam toys (November)
101 Dalmatians toys (November 27-January 2)
Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection toys

1997
The Hunchback of Notre Dame toys (March 7-April 3)
Hercules toys (June)
Sleeping Beauty toys (September)
The Jungle Book toys (October 3-23)
The Little Mermaid toys (November 28-December 25)
101 Dalmatians toys (December 26-January 29)
Walt Disney Masterpiece Collection toys

1998
101 Dalmatians the Series toys (December 26-January 29)
Hercules toys (January 30-February 26)
Peter Pan toys (February 27-March 26)
My Little Pony/Transformers Beast Wars toys (March 27-April 16)
Disney's Animal Kingdom toys (April 24-May 21)
Ty Teenie Beanie Babies (May 22-June 18)
Mulan toys (June 19-July 16)
Tamagotchi Toyz (July 17-August 13)
Hot Wheels/Barbie toys (August 14-September 10)
Disney Video Favorites toys (September 11-October 1)
Ronald and Pals Haunted Halloween Nerds Candy Dispensers (October 9-October 29)
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride toys (October 30-November 26)
A Bug's Life toys (November 27-December 24)
Recess toys (December 25-January 21)

1999
Mulan toys (January 29-February 25)
Winnie the Pooh: Sing-A-Long With Pooh Bear clip-on (February 26-March 25)
Furby toys (March 26-April 22)
Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog toys (April 23-May 20)
Ty Teenie Beanie Babies toys (May 21-June 17)
Tarzan toys (June 18-July 15)
Inspector Gadget (July 16-August 12)
Hot Wheels/Barbie toys (August 13-September 9)
TBA (September 10-16)
Doug's 1st Movie toys (September 17-October 14)
Halloween Pails (October 15-28)
Lego toys (October 29-November 25)
Toy Story 2 toys (November 26-December 23)

2000
Tarzan toys (January/February)
An Extremely Goofy Movie toys (February/March)
Furby clip-on toys (March 24-April 13)
Teletubbies toys (April)
Power Rangers: Lightspeed Rescue (April/May)
Dinosaur toys (May/June)
Ty Teenie Beanie Babies toys (June/July)
Fingerboard/Hello Kitty toys (July/August)
The Tigger Movie toys (August/September)
Hot Wheels Toys/Barbie toys (September/October)
Crazy Bones (October 13-November 2)
Disney's Video Showcase toys (November)
102 Dalmatians toys (November/December)
The Emperor's New Groove toys (December 15-January 11)

References:
  1. McDonald's Happy Meal (USA)/List of toys. (2020). Retrieved 4 September 2020, from https://kidsmeal.fandom.com/wiki/McDonald's_Happy_Meal_(USA)/List_of_toys
  2. Wikipedia.
Conclusion

I will keep updating the article with the other Toys until we talk about all the toys from 1979 – 2020 and beyond.

Also, I apologize for not having many photos; there are very few royalty-free photos for these toys. But I will keep updating the article regularly with the relevant images. You know, pictures speak 1000 words.

Is the above list conclusive? If not, let me know the toys that I have missed on the list.

Let me know in the comments below your favourite Happy Meal toy(s). Share your thoughts about McDonald's back in the '90.
 
Last edited:

Abizaga

Omega Geeze
Admin
Jul 13, 2019
2,726
530
I know right? Do you remember the animal transformer ones? i had the manta ray and the panther!!
 
  • Like
Reactions: Grizzy{w}

Abizaga

Omega Geeze
Admin
Jul 13, 2019
2,726
530
YES! i still remember visiting my cousins as a kid around the time of the King of Thieves one and I got a genie toy with a cake cart or something like that.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Grizzy{w}