McDonald’s has been a global symbol of fast food since its founding, but it has also been a joy distributor thanks to its well-liked Happy Meals. We cordially invite you to embark on a sentimental trip down memory lane with us as we explore the enduring toys that have contributed to McDonald’s Happy Meals being a beloved childhood staple for countless numbers of people. McDonald’s Happy Meal toys have evolved from simple playthings to cultural treasures, from iconic characters that ignited fans’ imaginations to collaborations with hugely successful films that brought the big screen to the dinner table. These tiny gems, which are frequently uncomplicated but teeming with the wonders of discovery, have a particular place in the hearts of both young and old.
Ty Teenie Beanie Babies
If you were a child of the 90s, then you likely had a Beanie Baby. This adorable stuffed animal filled with beans became a worldwide phenomenon, with collectors holding on to them like they were the next Gold Rush. So naturally, McDonald’s got in on the hysteria surrounding the toys. It paid off for many collectors, too, as these Beanie Babies are considered some of the rarest in the lineup.
McDonald’s teamed up with Hot Wheels in 1983 to deliver 15 uniquely designed toy cars to kids. Almost 30 years since their release, a 15-piece set of these cars has become a hot commodity to Hot Wheels collectors, especially if they remain sealed. Knowing this, I wish I had kept all my Hot Wheels!
Potato Head Kids
‘Mr. Potato Head’ may have been a short-lived animated series in 1986, but that didn’t stop McDonald’s and Playskool from teaming up to release a set of figurines to go along with the show. If this series has been relegated to the deep recesses of your mind, you’re not the only one. Still, these figurines are a hot collector’s item.
Ronald McDonald Cloth Doll
Ronald McDonald has been the McDonald’s mascot since 1967. While you don’t see much of him these days, a cloth doll released to commemorate him in 1978 commands a high value on collector’s sites. While it’s nothing special, it is one of the first toys of the mascot released by the company.
Dance your cares away and make sure your worries are for another day with this set that has become increasingly popular with Happy Meal collectors. The Jim Henson show-inspired collection contains four characters in cars with two additional cars for children under age three. Each came with its own Happy Meal box.
Disney tried to reboot the former Don Adams-voiced cartoon with a live-action remake starring Matthew Broderick in 1999. McDonald’s got on board with promoting the movie with an action figure of the titular character in pieces. Collect all eight pieces and you have one of the most incredible action figures released by the company.
This popular series of children’s books saw a promotional tie-in with McDonald’s in 1990 that included four storybooks and four activity books. In addition, each book included the McDonald’s logo in the corner. I have a lot of fond memories of reading these books after munching on a delicious meal from the fast food restaurant chain.
Who wasn’t obsessed with the Power Rangers in the mid-90s? I know I was! McDonald’s got in on the action to help promote the Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers Movie in 1995. The result was a set of small toys featuring the Red Ranger, White Ranger, Pink Ranger, and Yellow Ranger on their Megazords.
Mickey’s Birthdayland Race Cars
A set of five unique pullback race cars designed with Mickey Mouse’s birthday in mind, these vintage toys are favored among collectors because of the subject matter. These days, a complete set of these cars can fetch over $50 on auction sites.
While ‘Bambi’ was an early Walt Disney Studios film that even made adults cry, McDonald’s got in on promoting the movie in 1988. The set of four figurines is poseable, so you can create your own ‘Bambi’ scene!
America’s favorite doll gets a little corporate synergy with McDonald’s from time to time, and one of the most valuable sets is a set of four dolls called the Happy Meal series. Each doll comes with surprise jewelry and unique McDonald’s packaging.
Jim Henson’s brainchild got a daycare-inspired cartoon show in the 1980s with the Muppet Babies. Appearing as small children, each Muppet appeared as a toddler version of themselves. Of course, McDonald’s got involved with the IP and turned the series into a set of four connectable toys. Featuring Gonzo, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, and Kermit the Frog, this adorable set is now a highly sought-after collection.
Star Trek Meal
McDonald’s boldly went where they had never been before with this 1979 Star Trek set. Featuring five different toys, such as rings, a communicator, and a board game, this Happy Meal set commands hundreds of dollars on auction sites from toy and Star Trek fans. ‘Star Trek’ was one of my favorites growing up, and I remember begging my parents to get me these toys.
Another 90’s craze gets a Happy Meal. McDonald’s dipped into the Furby well twice – once in 1998 and again in 2000. The 2000 Happy Meal set is a collection of 12 keychains designed to be unique, individualized Furbies. But, of course, Furbies are back these days, so I wonder how long it will take for McDonald’s to give this another go.
McDonald’s found a winner with this line of toys. Designed to resemble the company’s famous chicken nuggets, the McNugget Buddies were cute, anthropomorphized toys that could make anyone smile. McDonald’s created handfuls of these toys with their own designs and costumes. They were a part of the McDonaldland world of characters. Just don’t dip these in your favorite McDonald’s sauces!
Chip’ n Dale Rescue Rangers
There’s something about McDonald’s and Disney that goes together like peanut butter and jelly. The Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers set features all four characters in cars to commemorate the 1989 cartoon success.
My Little Pony
McDonald’s and Hasbro have teamed up multiple times through the decades for a My Little Pony Happy Meal. The pairing’s first outing came in 1984 with a set of bookmarks featuring characters from the show. McDonald’s returned with another My Little Pony Happy Meal in 1998 and has been releasing them steadily since the show returned as ‘My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’ in the late-2000s.
McDonald’s again found a way to make their food into fun figurines. Taking McDonald’s meals and merging them with a Transformers theme gave us the Changeables line of Happy Meals. Kids could turn fries, drinks, and even a burger into a figurine for fun.
A Bug’s Life
Disney-Pixar’s 1997 hit about the lives of bugs naturally needed a Happy Meal tie-in. The result was an eight-figurine set to commemorate the film’s December release. This set was one of the best McDonald’s Happy Meal toys to date.
Batman Car Figures
McDonald’s had to get involved in the Batman film marketing bonanza. While missing out on the 1989 hysteria surrounding the Tim Burton-DC Comics relationship, they did swing for the fences with the 1991 release of four toys tied to the sequel ‘Batman Returns.’
That’s precisely what happened here. Disney and McDonald’s gave Happy Meal fans a reason to spend a whole pile of money in 1996 with this set. Imagine a McDonald’s Happy Meal set that managed to need 101 pieces to complete the whole collection. Each of the 101 Dalmatians gets an individual toy, creating one of, if not the biggest, Happy Meal collection.
Despicable Me 2
It’s nifty to see a modern set on this list. This 2013 set features 12 different Minions to promote the release of Despicable Me 2. The collection manages to tap into the craze of the cute little monsters while also helping promote the film series.
Diener Keshi Figures
Diener Keshi designed several sets of rubber figurines for McDonald’s in 1979. Two of the sets, Robots and Underwater Monsters, were among the first toys released in Happy Meals, making them exceptionally collectible these days.
Is there anything more 90’s than a Garfield tie-in? Your aunt’s favorite comic strip and your older cousin’s favorite plush toy that clings to back windshields got a Happy Meal toy in 1989. The four-figure set features Garfield and Odie in various vehicles.
Lion King Stuffed Toys
The Disney tie-ins seem endless, but McDonald’s doesn’t seem like they’re slowing down anytime soon. For example, ‘The Lion King,’ one of Disney’s most successful animated films, found its way to McDonald’s with a line of stuffed toys that included Timon, Pumbaa, and Simba. The Pumbaa toy was my favorite of the bunch.
Michael Jordan Fitness Fun
The ’90s were the decade of Michael Jordan. From shoes and socks to shirts and everything in between, it was impossible to avoid the Chicago Bulls‘ most outstanding player. Jordan used his marketing savvy to get his own line of Happy Meal toys known as the Fitness Fun line. Kids could play with each toy outside.
Muppet Treasure Island
Because the Muppets could not stop themselves from classic literature reimaginings – we’re also looking at you, Muppet Christmas Carol – this set of four tub toys in Happy Meals was a hit with kids.
McDonald’s and everyone’s favorite dough for kids have teamed up many times for the Happy Meal. McDonald’s has even licensed their Happy Meal to create a meal set for Play-Doh fans. There was nothing better than Play-Doh when I was a kid, and that’s why this set is one of the best McDonald’s Happy Meal toys.
Simba from ‘The Lion King’
I talked about the plush series of Lion King Happy Meal toys earlier, but this one gets its own entry. As the main character in the iconic film, Simba got his own toy that many people still hold on to almost 25 years later. Who can blame them?
Charles Schultz’s most famous member of the Peanuts gang became a Happy Meal toy in 1998 and 1999 as a set of figurines to commemorate different countries. The Snoopy World Tour set even came with its own collectible display case for those who wanted to show off.
Snow White from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’
As Disney steadily re-released their classic animated films on VHS in the ’90s, McDonald’s would routinely team up to help promote. ‘Snow White and her Seven Dwarfs’ managed to get this treatment in 1992 and 2001. Each time, McDonald’s delivered a set for any Disney fan to enjoy.
A McDonald’s and Bandai team-up saw a Happy Meal in 1998 with the release of the Tamagotchi Toyz line. This set of nine toys celebrated the Japanese LCD toy craze that had everyone carrying around a digital pet.
The Little Mermaid
Another Disney classic finds its way into the Happy Meal. Disney and McDonald’s gave us a Happy Meal pairing for ‘The Little Mermaid’ in 1989 and 1996. While many fondly remember the 1989 set, the 1996 set is more well-known, featuring eight figurines from the Fisher-Price company.
Tiny Toons Flip Cars
Warner Brothers had a hit with this subtle re-imagining of classic Looney Tunes cartoon characters as new, hip characters for the early 90s. As a result, this set of four Tiny Toon Adventures toys became must-haves for kids traveling through the drive-thru line of McDonald’s with their parents.