Restaurants, particularly fast food establishments, have dramatically changed since the 1990s. Fast food has "grown up" in several respects and has turned its back on former customs. Fast food establishments still offer up toy promotions and variations on a kid-friendly Happy Meal, but they all seem more sanitized and catering to the largest audience possible.
Fast food toys were a lot more surprising and risky in the '90s, for both better and for worse. These prizes weren't always satisfying, but they'd manage to be memorable due to just how weird they were. In a way, fast food toys even felt like rare treasures to be collected. Accordingly, Here Are 20 Fast Food Toys From The ‘90s That Make No Sense.
20 Good FUNdamentals Food Figures
There's always an ongoing war between fast food and happy meals being fun and them being healthy or instructional. The Good FUNdamentals Food Figure was an attempt at a compromise between these two ideals, but the results are just disturbing. Turning nutritional food into pin-up type characters is not the right approach to make them popular.
19 Wild Wild West Sunglasses
The '90s were a simpler time where all that anybody really needed to be happy was a giant mechanical spider wreaking chaos. Will Smith has had plenty of hits and flops throughout his career, but Burger King banked big time on the success of Wild, Wild West, leading to disastrous results. It's hard to believe that many people would want Jim West's "iconic" sunglasses, let alone a super cheap quality version of them. To be fair, Burger King couldn't have known how much the film would falter.
18 Toothbrush And Toothpaste
It's one thing to give out toys that push an educational or nutritional agenda, but McDonald's took things to a whole other level when they seriously warped the definition of what qualifies as a "toy." During a brief period of self-awareness, McDonald's transformed their Happy Meals into "Hygiene Meals" where toys were replaced with travel-sized tubes of Colgate toothpaste. The horror.
17 Michael Jordan Fitness Toys
Michael Jordan is almost synonymous with the 1990s. The basketball player had a huge pull in every market and so it's not that surprising that McDonald's would eventually try to harness that star power. The Michael Jordan Fitness Toys have become a bit of a joke over the years and it's easy to see why. The set features cheap versions of a Frisbee, a soft basketball, several stop watches, and a water bottle. It just feels like celebrity endorsement gone wrong.
16 101 Dalmatians Figures
There's something almost maddeningly admirable with what McDonald's did for their 101 Dalmatians promotion. It's an idea that speaks much more to the obsessive collector habits that are now rampant. McDonald's actually produced 101 different Dalmatian models to completely exploit kids with addictive personalities, yet in the end, they're all basically the same dog toy!
15 Halloween Pails
Sometimes fast food promotions will try to think a little outside of the bun with their toys and at times an item with a use can be more rewarding than something that's actually fun. McDonald's Halloween Pails are a nice idea in theory. It's cute to give kids something to carry their candy in with various spooky designs, but it's basically just a bucket. Maybe if they came with candy in them. It's letting the holiday do the heavy lifting here.
14 Inspector Gadget Body Parts
This actually may be the most brilliant, intricate toy that McDonald's ever put together. The problem here is that it's such a complex idea that it was too much for most people to fully assemble. This promotion for the live-action Inspector Gadget film involved each toy being a different body part, which had some spy function of its own. Together they all formed Inspector Gadget. It's a smart, ambitious idea in principle, and makes sense for the character, but it's also very strange, especially when your toy is just an arm or a leg.
13 Space Rescue Toys
There are times when fast food promotions are particularly lazy, but they at least have the luxury of a popular brand name to fall back on. This kind of synergy is paramount, but there are also opportunities when chains would try to create their own brands and lines of characters. The Space Rescue Toys are the worst, most lifeless version of this idea. These are bland toys that aren't nearly as fun as they sound and are more or less useless.
12 Camp McDonaldland Survival Kit
Much like with the Michael Jackson Fitness Toys, it's possible to see what McDonald's was going for here, even if that vision didn't fully come together. Camp skills and wilderness survival tactics are the aim here, but none of these toys are going to save any lives or even improve anyone's outdoorsy nature. These are just terrible versions of camping supplies like a canteen, utensils, and the world's smallest collapsible cup.
11 Hercules Plate Collection
There's a fine line between toys and collectibles, and even though many of the silliest fast food promotions have retroactively turned into collectibles, there were still times when chains tried to blur those lines even further. Plenty of kids probably would have loved toys based on the Disney movie, Hercules, but instead what they got were these gaudy display pieces. Not only are these collector's plates not toys, but they also seem like the kind of thing that kids may break. In the end it's all just dishware.
10 Bendy Ronald McDonald
When you have a mascot like Ronald McDonald at your disposal, it's only logical to utilize that character whenever fast food promotions need an extra boost. In the '70s and '80s there were several misguided Ronald McDonald toy ideas, but the '90s weren't much better. A bendable plastic Ronald McDonald is as basic as it gets and it looks like they weren't even trying here.
9 Halloween McNugget Buddies
These bizarre McNugget abominations have managed to become collector's items in certain circles, but that doesn't make them any less strange. Not only do these toys oddly anthropomorphize chicken nuggets, but they then deck them out in Halloween outfits which make them even more disturbing. It's also just a weird idea to be able to dress up your food…
8 BK Kids Glo Force Figures
Burger King may have the King as their mascot now, but back in the '90s there was a much bigger feeling of inclusivity with the BK Kids Club. The Kids Club was popular, but these Glo Force figures introduced glow in the dark and space-bound versions of the crew. In the end, these relatable kids looked more like aliens and monsters. Kids like things that glow in the dark, but this experiment was likely more disturbing than it was worth.
7 Life Savers Freaky Fellas
It's always interesting when a beloved product tries to pivot with some disastrous promotion that doesn't provide them any good will. Such was the case with the Life Savers Freaky Fellas line of toys. These things are weird little monster receptacles that weren’t toys as much as they were containers for your Life Savers. Imagine a less functional Pez dispenser. It was a strange gamble for Burger King.
6 McDonald's Water Games
Water-based games that had fun with air pressure and bubbles were a serious fad in the '90s (and occupied many a waiting room). The toys are great time killers and not overly difficult, so McDonald's jumped on board with their own versions. The only problem here is that McDonald's took a rusty toy and made it even more problematic. They look fine, but they're very difficult to make cooperate.
5 Walt Disney Collector Series Cups
Fast food chains were always trying to team up with Disney because basically whatever they turned out as a result had massive appeal with kids simply by connecting to animated movies. For instance, the Walt Disney Collector Series Cups aren't toys, but rather flimsy, plastic collectible glasses to wash! They're deeply reminiscent of the Hercules plates and even though they look nice, many kids would have probably just preferred a toy.
4 Looney Tunes Space Jam Set
The most disappointing thing about this disastrous product is that it could have been great if there was just a little more effort applied. Each toy in the Looney Tunes Space Jam Set featured a character as well as a part of the basketball court they'd connect to. Poor planning led to the court not even fully connecting if you had all the pieces and it can't be "fully" assembled.
3 Potato Head Kids
Films like Toy Story have helped relics like Mr. Potato Head remain relevant over the years. It's not a bad idea to feature some riff on the toy in a Happy Meal, but the decision to introduce Potato Head Kids is seriously confusing. These are basically just bratty little versions of Mr. Potato Head. Why were young versions needed? Clearly the original toy was meant for kids!
Sometimes ripping off someone else's great idea is all that's needed to grab an audience. That's exactly what McDonald's pulled with their line of Changeable toys (think less interesting Transformers). These toys were nightmarish hybrids and three series were released in '87, '89, and '90. Granted, the McDino Changeables line that followed in ’91 was much better, but it took some time to get to that point.
1 Glow In The Dark Trolls
Troll dolls may still be around in limited capacities, but they were a major cultural force back in the 1990s. The major gimmick with trolls was their outlandish hair or jeweled navels, but this promotion went in another direction. In an effort to be as '90s as popular, glow in the dark trolls were issued, but they just looked scary and were lacking the charm that made them popular in the first place.
These are all of the weirdest and most useless fast food promotion toys from the '90s, but there are even more out there. Sound off over your favorites in the comments below.
Sources: TheThings.com, BuzzFeed.com, Urbo.com