As a kid, there was almost nothing more exciting than a trip to McDonald's. Between the life-sized Ronald McDonald statues sitting out front, the epic ball pits and play structures, and -- of course -- the Happy Meals, life was good at America's most popular fast food restaurant.
But we know we weren't the only ones who ever stuck our little hands into the box, bypassed those still-steaming fries, and went straight for the plastic-wrapped prize buried at the bottom. Ever since McDonald's began offering Happy Meals -- the burger-and-fries combo tailored exclusively for youngsters -- in 1979, an exciting mystery toy was included in each and every one. This small action, which increased the overall thrill of the experience, has led to a generation of adults who harbor many fond, nostalgic memories of the tiny surprises which brought them such joy. And as we approach Halloween, you might find yourself with some foggy, still-present memories of some of the spooky seasonal trinkets you once unearthed from the depths of your meals ... trinkets you are simply dying to see again. Here are some Halloween Happy Meal toys we wish would return from the grave.
Oh, Grimace. The giant purple mass with an ever-aloof expression that the world can't help but love (and fear). Many don't realize that the cheery, plum-colored glob was actually introduced in 1971 as a villain intent on stealing milkshakes. But when this original take frightened children, the franchise changed the purple creature's personality into that of a sweet and gentle giant.
As one of McDonald's main mascots alongside his bestie, Ronald McDonald, multiple toy versions of the violet-colored critter have been developed and included in the Happy Meal bag over the years. But perhaps one of the most popular and endearing was that of the mid-'90s Halloween representation. An adorable 2.5-inch pop-up Grimace hidden within a bright orange jack-o'-lantern shell peered over the ledge of his cozy pumpkin at delighted child customers. Something in his mellow, smiling, goodhearted expression seemed to bring to the forefront the warmth and joy of the Halloween season that is sometimes lost in all the spooky scariness surrounding the fall holiday. Isn't it only fair that the kids of today have the chance to experience those same warm fuzzies through holding a tiny, pumpkin-clad Grimace in their hands? We certainly think so.
Haunted Halloween Mask Candy Dispensers
Nothing seems to delight children more than candy dispensers. Just look at the overwhelming success of the company Pez and its track record of mesmerizing the masses with its endless candy-distributing characters since 1949. So, really, it's no wonder the Pez dispenser line of vintage Happy Meal toys scores so highly on our nostalgia meter.
The Haunted Halloween Mask line of 1998 featured all of the prominent McDonald's-branded characters as candy dispensers wearing delightfully spooky masks. There was Birdie as a cat, Grimace wearing a pumpkin, a McNugget Buddy as a friendly ghost, Ronald McDonald decked out as a creepy scarecrow, and the infamous Hamburglar transformed into a monster. There was also a standard witch included in the lineup named the "I Am Hungry" toy. When the little characters' masks were popped open and lifted upward, each was revealed with their mouths open wide, ready to spit out the candies inside. Were these little confectioneries actually any good? We don't remember, and quite frankly, it's beside the point.
Hamburglar Spider Bat
Okay, so we know the Hamburglar, first introduced all the way back in 1971, is supposed to be the bad guy, but we'd be lying if we said we didn't hold a little bit of fondness for him. Whether it's the striped jumpsuit, the awesome tie with burgers all over it, or the single-toothed smile, there's just something appealing about this burger-crazed kleptomaniac. Throw an adorable blue-and-black bat suit into the mix, and the magnetism increases tenfold.
The 1995 Hamburglar Spider Bat Happy Meal toy featured a cute 2.5-inch Hamburglar with a removable spider-bat costume. With his arms spread wide, he looked as though he was ready to offer the customer a hug. Sadly, nearly 30 years down the road, this re-imagined version of the popular McDonald's villain is nowhere to be found within the seasonal toy lineup. We take his strangely charming absence as a minor Halloween travesty.
Ronald McDonald As Frankenstein
Ronald McDonald was first presented to the public via a television commercial in 1963. Love him or hate him, the red-haired, striped-suited clown has become one of the most widely recognized characters in the world. Though he was mostly phased out in 2016, remnants of him remain -- through the McDonald's charity foundation, Ronald McDonald House, occasional appearances, and the memories of long-time customers who remember the days when he sat on the benches outside nearly every location.
Since Ronald is already a clown -- which is a costume in and of itself -- the concept of him wearing an additional get-up is slightly hilarious. Maybe this delightfully challenging notion is exactly why we love this next retired Happy Meal toy. Ronald McDonald as Frankenstein was a figurine offered up in 1995 Halloween Happy Meals, featuring what appeared to be the popular, green-faced monster. When this costume was removed, however, there was Ronald -- the mascot we all knew and loved. Though admittedly slightly predictable, this reveal felt like the greatest thing since sliced bread when we were youths.
Halloween McNugget Buddies
They were undeniably cute, pleasantly chunky, and outrageously popular -- babies of the '80s and '90s might very well remember unwrapping smiling McNugget Buddy toys as they enjoyed their cheeseburgers. These anthropomorphic plastic chicken nuggets came with removable outfits and various facial expressions. There were Cowboy Buddies, Scuba Diver Buddies, Police Officer Buddies, and Rock Star Buddies. But -- you guessed it -- there were also Buddies decked out in Halloween get-ups come fall on select years.
Ghosts, mad scientists, octopuses, fairies, monsters, and dinosaurs were just a few of the possible costumes a child could expect to find adorning their shiny new Halloween toy. But as adorable and festive as they were, the McNugget Buddies eventually faded and fell from the McDonald's toy lineup, becoming nothing but a far-reaching memory living in the minds of today's generation of grown-ups. However, we do have a bit of good news; though not a true resurrection, a product shockingly reminiscent of the once-popular toy will be available for purchase this year through Funko Pop. Partnering with McDonald's, the company has created an array of Halloween-themed, 3.5-inch tall variants of the original Halloween Buddies. You may not be able to experience the exhilarating feeling of pulling a plastic chicken nugget dressed as a witch from a Happy Meal ever again, but you can pull one out of a Funko box -- so, hey, that's something.
Hello Kitty Halloween Figurines
Developed in 1960 by a Japanese entertainment company called Sanrio, Hello Kitty has become a worldwide phenomenon. You would be hard pressed to find a soul in any country who doesn't recognize her distinctive black whiskers, bright pink hair bow, and little yellow round nose. She has appeared on clothing, on shoes, on backpacks, on television ... and in Happy Meals.
In 2019, McDonald's ran a line of Halloween-themed toys featuring everyone's favorite cat ... in full costume, of course. Princess kitties, pumpkin-clad kitties, mermaid kitties, and superhero kitties were bagged up and nestled beside the fries, ready to be ripped open by tiny hands everywhere. Looking at the colorful, teeny trinkets, it's hard not to be delighted by them, even as adults. Since they were unleashed only a few short years ago, we maintain hope that maybe -- just maybe -- McDonald's might yet give them the resurgence they deserve.
Happy Meal Halloween Boxes
Except for on special occasions or during periods of advertising when some other exciting form of packaging might be offered, the children of today mostly recognize the Happy Meal as coming in one of the standard McDonald's paper bags. But things didn't always used to be this monotonous. Back in the 1980s and '90s, kids' combos always came in brightly colored boxes, usually decorated to match whatever line of toys was offered at the time -- complete with giant, logo-matching "M"-shaped carrying handles.
Those of us who were a part of the generation lucky enough to receive the various styles of vibrant Happy Meal boxes with our orders can probably remember the varied editions that came out come Halloween time. The cardboard shell surrounding our melty cheeseburger and salted French fries was designed to match the creepy season and decked out appropriately in smiling jack-o'-lanterns, bats and ghosts, dressed-up McDonald's mascots, animated McNugget Buddies in costume, mazes, connect-the-dots activities, and more. Given the importance of visuals as they relate to food, it certainly makes sense to us how that simple, stunning box made the moment of actually sinking our teeth into the contents within twice as good. Anything with the ability to indirectly make a product taste even better should be seriously considered for reintroduction ... right?
Monster Crazy Bones
In 1996, a brand new, vast collection of itty-bitty plastic figurine toys came on the scene. They were known as Gogo's Crazy Bones, and despite the simplicity of the concept, they blew up in popularity, becoming a coveted collector's item for kids and adults alike wanting to see how many of the various styles and characters they could accumulate. One of the genius ways in which the company, Magic Box Int., turned its little models into such a major success in a short amount of time was by offering them up as sample toys to fast food joints. And, of course, McDonald's was one of the companies that jumped on board.
In 2000, the burger chain joined forces with Magic Box Int. to produce the Happy Meal Monster Crazy Bones; a set of 24 different Halloween-themed Gogo's characters resembling ghouls, spiders, ghosts, and mummies which were packaged up and distributed in kids' meals. They were so cool, apparently, that even when the popularity of the Gogo's began to wane a few years later, people continued collecting them. A surprising number of sellers remain active on sites like Ebay, Etsy, and even Amazon. So, while the brightly colored mini characters may never be waiting at the bottom of a Happy Meal again, there is definitely hope of getting your hands on them if that's your prerogative.
Vinyl Trick-Or-Treat Bags
One of the most exciting elements of preparing for a night of hardcore trick-or-treating back in the day was selecting the bag that would be used for candy accumulation. Not too big, not too small ... the proportions mattered if it was going to be a successful night full of collecting Hershey's chocolate and other goodies. In 1990, McDonald's swooped in with a practical Happy Meal addition which certainly fit the bill -- plastic Halloween trick-or-treat bags.
Three different styles of candy-carriers were introduced to kids in the midst of planning their perfect Halloween nights. The first featured the most adorable little smiling witch; the next, a hauntingly happy ghost; the third, a lovable, harmless looking take on Frankenstein's famous monster. Thousands of trick-or-treaters touted McDonald's bags complete with giant yellow "M"-shaped handles on October 31st of that year ... a move of marketing genius if you ask us.
Ghost Glow-In-The-Dark Pail
Aside from toting the standard bag for candy harboring, another great option for trick-or-treating is a pail -- especially for toddlers with small hands who may not be able to manipulate a malleable plastic bag as they candy catch. Perhaps the idea for the Happy Meal Buckets was developed with these youngest customers in mind. On select years dating as far back as 1986, McDonald's served its Happy Meals inside Halloween-themed plastic pails -- ingeniously turning fun buckets into not only the food carriers, but the take-home toys themselves.
Various designs were introduced over the decades; orange jack-o'-lantern-themed buckets, green-colored witch-themed buckets ... and our personal favorite, the ghostly glow-in-the-dark pail from that very first year of '86. Just looking at the vintage container is enough to stir up memories of getting home and inhaling our burgers at lightning speed so that we could disappear into a pitch-dark closet and watch our new treasure light up like a flashlight in the dark.
Interestingly, after a long hiatus, the pails have had a recent resurgence. In 2022, Happy Meals were once again presented in Halloween buckets during the month of October at McDonald's. The familiar, happy ghost design was included -- but without that magical glow. Maybe this year, the revival will continue -- but will our ghost be injected with that classic neon hue? That remains to be seen.
Madame Alexander Dolls
Thanks largely to modern horror flicks, dolls and Halloween now seem to go hand in hand. We guess it was inevitable that at some point, Halloween-themed dolls would be offered up to our kids as toys in Happy Meals ... despite how creepy we adults find them.
Still, there is something eerily appealing about the costume-clad Madame Alexander dolls of 2003. Maybe it's the impossibly delicate little fabric get-ups on the Halloween Pumpkin Costume and the Halloween Leopard Costume dolls that bring us back to those long-gone golden years of playing dress-up. Perhaps it's the tiny hat on the head of the human pumpkin, or the little ears on the hood of the faux leopard which further enhance the intrigue. Either way, we think we'd be alright with these two cute, delightfully eerie Happy Meal toys coming back from the dead ... even if their stares give us profoundly mixed feelings.
The Peanuts Pail
In 1966, what would become one of the most classic holiday movies of all time aired on CBS for the very first time. "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" revolutionized the holiday, forever leading people to associate beloved Peanuts characters like Snoopy, Woodstock, and Lucy with Halloween. And we know that you can still hear poor, trick-or-treating Linus' voice in your head as clearly as we can when he says the words: "I got a rock."
In 2016 -- the year marking the 50th anniversary of that initial airing -- McDonald's ran a Peanuts-inspired Happy Meal collection celebrating everyone's favorite Halloween movie. Kids' McNuggets, apple slices, and fries came out in trick-or-treating pails in alternating orange or blue. The scenes featured on the front were wrap-around familiars from the movie, with smiling images of Snoopy, Linus, and Charlie Brown. It feels impossible that joy could emanate from brightly colored plastic -- but McDonald's, alongside the art of Charles Schulz, made it happen. If the franchise could bring back the pails that made kids and adults alike smile from ear to ear during the spooky season, that'd be great. We want to take all that infectious jubilation trick-or-treating with us, after all. Let's just hope that if the day ever does come where we are able to do just that, we end up with a bucket-full of candy ... not rocks.
Read the original article on Mashed.