Ah, the tradition of the McDonald’s Happy Meal toy. Throughout the decades, there’s been some rather interesting and odd entries in the history of these fun sized amusements. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the most ridiculous McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, based on some pretty huge movies.
Star Trek: The Motion Picture - Glitter Iron Ons - 1979
Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a movie that still causes people to scratch their heads. So it’s kind of unsurprising that, out of a decent set of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, there’d be at least one to make you wonder just what was going on. If you thought the criticism of Gene Roddenberry was spicy, imagine being the person to greenlight glittery iron ons in the shape of various characters and the Starfleet insignia.
E.T.: The Extra-terrestrial - A Pull-Out Poster - 1982
There’s a ton of toys you could market from the world of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial; just ask anyone who played the infamously buried Atari game. At least there was an effort made in that home entertainment venture, as the McDonald’s Happy Meal “toy” was a collection of four posters to hang on your wall. And before you ask, no that Michael Jackson photo with E.T. wasn’t one of them.
The Real Ghostbusters - School Supplies - 1987
The Real Ghostbusters was a cartoon that was inspired by 1984’s Ghostbusters. That comedy hit had a pretty extensive toy line on a human scale, which may have been why when marketing this series to McDonald’s, school supplies were the chosen vehicle. “Something strange in the neighborhood” doesn’t even begin to cut it.
Hook - Peter Pan’s Tub Toy With Wheels - 1991
Ok, here’s a wild concept: a series of tub toys based off of Steven Spielberg’s Hook. Now take that a step further and give the kids a toy with Peter Pan that still has wheels. Yes, it’s technically multipurpose for play in that respect; but if that was the intent, why wasn’t the entire line made that way?
Batman Returns - The Penguin And Catwoman’s Ridiculous Cars - 1992
Hoo boy, were the suits at McDonald’s mad about Batman Returns. And they weren’t up in arms for the ridiculous vehicles given to The Penguin and Catwoman as a result; though that could have certainly carried a discussion. Apparently, Tim Burton’s grimmer sequel had some elements that made the company question how they’d turn it into a toy line. The answer: pretend you’re making toys for Adam West’s Batman for anyone who wasn’t Michael Keaton.
Space Jam - The Nerdlucks Toy - 1996
The entire line of Space Jam Happy Meal toys were kind of ridiculous, especially when you linked them all up into a huge basketball court of zaniness. Even then, most of the toys included had some sort of Basketball element included; save for one. The Nerdlucks skulking around in a trench coat has nothing to do with Michael Jordan’s sport of choice, and is actually kind of creepy when it moves.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie - A Line Of Stationary Ships - 1996
How, how, how do you have a toy line for Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, and there’s no Megazord? Ok, so the individual figures and vehicles were cool; but they didn’t connect into the singular beatdown machine that kids knew and loved. That’s a huge missed opportunity there.
The Hunchback Of Notre Dame - Esmerelda’s Tambourine - 1997
Disney was the king of McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, especially with the studio dominating the slots open at Mickey D’s. So some movies were understandably going to be harder than others to make toys out of. The Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of those hard cases, especially when Esmerelda’s Tambourine was included to drive even the most good natured parent up a solid stone wall.
The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride - Timon’s Plushie - 1998
Oh Timon, sweet Timon; look how they massacred our boy. The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride had a line of plushies to its name when McDonald’s came a’callin’, and that was a natural fit. If only they hadn’t done one of Simba’s adopted dads so dirty, giving him a figure that looked creepier than he did mischievous.
Peter Pan - Captain Hook Spyglass - 1998
What is it with Peter Pan or Pan-adjacent projects that makes for weird Happy Meal collectables? Admittedly, the Disney classic made for some so-so toys that mimicked adventure gear, like a spyglass. But when that visual aid has the appearance of being part of Captain Hook himself, it’s most definitely a disturbing case of toys gone wrong.
Mulan - Ling’s Spinner Top - 1999
Hey, remember that scene in Mulan where she and her fellow soldiers spin into battle? Yeah, neither do we. A couple of those on-screen compatriots of hers suffered that very fate when it came to the home video promotion in Happy Meals. Ling in particular got the short end of the stick, as his smile is twisted into something that looks way too sinister for a Disney hero.
Inspector Gadget - Assemble Your Own Inspector Gadget - 1999
Ok, so here’s a toy that’s both ridiculous, but also ridiculously fun. Thanks to Matthew Broderick’s live-action Inspector Gadget movie, kids had the opportunity to collect all of the parts to make their own Go Go Gadget Tie-In! Even if it was fun, it was a pain to try and collect those parts. Or, even worse, keeping them all together, while trying not to think about which part of this disassembled person was the most fun to tinker with.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - The Witch’s Head Bag Clip - 2001
Bag clips are a trend that seemed to crop up in McDonald’s Happy Meal toys in the early aughts. Sometimes, the results could be cute, even if the whole enterprise seemed useless. And then there were things like the bag clip of the Evil Queen’s Witch form, which felt like an instant nightmare just waiting to happen. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night, forgetting this was clipped to your backpack.
Chicken Little - Chicken Little Whizzer - 2005
Disney’s Chicken Little is another solid base hit for movie tie-ins when it comes to Happy Meal toys. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t room for blunders, as the CGI feature actually saw a couple of its toys become a bit of a nesting doll scenario. To truly get something like the Chicken Little Whizzer to run, you needed to get the top to spin and then put it into the vehicle it belonged to. If you’re curious to see how much that doesn’t work, there’s video out there to satisfy your curiosity.
Hotel For Dogs - Stuffed Dogs - 2009
The concept of Hotel for Dogs included so many Rube Goldberg-style devices and contraptions that could have been turned into one gigantic playset. Instead of using such imaginative delights as the McDonald’s Happy Meal tie-ins, all kids got were a bunch of stuffed dogs. To be fair, they are cute and aren’t nearly as creepy as The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride stuffies from the '90s; but it’s still pretty underwhelming.
Night At The Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian - Larry & The Giant Squid - 2009
Night at the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian has a mostly cute line of entertaining figures. And whoever designed this line gets some bonus points for making the Einstein bobblehead from the Ben Stiller movie a part of the fun. However, some of those points are deducted yet again, as a result of the severely weird “Larry & The Giant Squid” toy sticking out from the pack.
Avatar - Pandora’s Creature Toys - 2009
James Cameron’s Avatar had a merch blitz as voluminous as any movie of its stature would deserve. When it came to the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, those efforts seem to have been a bit lax. While each of the figures have a cool glowing feature to them, the animals aren’t exactly the most mobile creatures; which in turn kind of robs that cool factor just a bit.
Star Wars: Episode I In 3D - Spinner Toys - 2012
It feels a bit surprising that the upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows don’t have the same sort of Happy Meal toy support that previous entries have had. Then again, if the drawing board results in anything like the spinner toys crafted for The Phantom Menace’s 3D release in theaters, then perhaps that’s why we haven’t seen Ahsoka or The Mandalorian gracing a Happy Meal box just yet.
The Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary - The Wicked Witch Of The West - 2013
While it certainly seems weird to have McDonald’s Happy Meal toys themed off of The Wizard of Oz, the reality is all the stranger. That much is true in the form of the Wicked Witch of the West, one of cinema’s greatest villains, looking downright cuddly in this set of collectables. The more you think about it, the odder it is that a woman who got an entire episode of Sesame Street banned from TV looks this approachable.
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 - Fashion Accessories - 2014
The practice of gender-divided toys at McDonald’s doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. But even the traditional Hot Wheels/Barbie giveaway makes more sense than this Amazing Spider-Man 2 collection, where the “Girls” side is mostly fashion accessories. Gwen Stacy was more resourceful than that, and you know it Mickey D’s!
The Lego Movie - Lenticular Cups - 2014
What’s the first toy you think of when you think The LEGO Movie? That’s right…lenticular cups? With a history of LEGO sets in the past, you’d think that McDonald’s would have come up with a Happy Meal giveaway that would embrace the Master Builder in everyone. Instead, kids were treated to a bunch of cups that had moving images on them. Odd flex, but certainly not the oddest LEGO toy McDonald’s would put out.
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water - Straw Toppers - 2015
Oh… what inspires talking straw toppers under the sea? The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, that’s what! The superpowered cinematic adventure of that pineapple dwelling Nickelodeon character yielded a set of “toys” that allowed kids to put their straws in, with different sayings being spouted out as a result. We’re sure the kids remembered this one for a good five weeks.
The Lego Batman Movie - Collectable Tins - 2017
The lack of a LEGO set for any movie based on that toy line seems like an automatic missed opportunity. The LEGO Batman Movie wasn’t the first, nor was it the last case where exactly that sort of thing happened. What’s more, there were a couple “collectable tins” included in this collection that did exactly what they said on the tin. Not exactly the Bat-Action kids are looking for with their Happy Meals, is it?
The Lion King - Timon’s Figure - 2019
Alas poor Timon, McDonald’s did you dirty. As if his Lion King II: Simba’s Pride plushie in 1998 wasn’t traumatizing enough, the live-action Lion King remake in 2019 gave the world a totally bland representation of this Hakuna Matata believer. It’s hard to tell which is worse, but both toys are a disservice to a top tier Disney sidekick.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - Emperor Palpatine’s Bag Clip - 2019
One has to think that the bag clip of Emperor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid) from Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker was hidden from the public for two reasons. The most obvious cover is that his presence in the ninth Star Wars film was a huge secret. However, when you look at how horrific the end result was, the second reason for not including him in the adds is all too clear.
Avengers: Endgame - Thor’s Figure- 2019
Every toy line has its entries that look oddly close to the actor it’s supposed to resemble, and one that’s way off the mark. Poor Chris Hemsworth found himself in the latter camp, as the Avengers: Endgame toys gave us a Thor that’s so derpy looking, it’s almost enough to still demand a re-do after all these years.
Soul - Character Bag Clips - 2020
Soul is not an easy movie to make toys for, so some slack could be given towards the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys that came out of the Disney/Pixar meditation on the afterlife. Of course, this is the set that would have benefited from something like that tambourine included in The Hunchback of Notre Dame’s Happy Meal toys; seeing as Joe (Jamie Foxx) is all about music. But let’s not worry about that, as a series of odd looking bag clips was clearly the move for this existential movie’s tie-in.
The Lego Ninjago Movie - Lego Ninjago Journal - 2017
LEGO movies consistently got the short end of the stick with the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys. The Lego Ninjago Movie is a prime example of that, as the entire non-LEGO toy collection included, among other busts, a journal. Remember kids: you aren’t really a Ninja if you’re not journaling about your secretive battles!
Ralph Breaks The Internet - Racing Cars - 2018
Nothing says Ralph Breaks The Internet like a whole line of racing cars designed to invoke the feeling of… the previous movie’s big gimmick. What’s even stranger is that some of the Disney princesses are represented, but not all, in this odd toy based crossover.
The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part - Rex’s Bag Clip - 2019
Bag clips with hidden toys/games are what The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part ended up having to show for its Happy Meal toy collection. Most were cool, with Rex’s bag clip being totally boring, as all it had was grid paper and colored pencils. In a line that included a maze that used a magnetic pen, this is pretty meh.
Frozen 2 - Olaf’s Launcher - 2019
The launcher toys for Frozen II kind of fit, as launching your favorite characters on wheels is technically a simulation of skiing on ice. At the same time, Olaf’s missile-esque shape looks less like a toy, and more like a weapon of mass annoyance on a slow Saturday afternoon.
Eternals - Ikaris’ Figure - 2021
On one hand, it has to be so cool to see your first Marvel Cinematic Universe action figure if you’re an actor like Eternals’ Richard Madden. But on the other side of that coin, it has to be heartbreaking to see your likeness wonked out to the point that the McDonald’s Happy Meal toys went to. Especially when they don’t really do much to begin with.
Though McDonald’s isn’t the only restaurant to make these sorts of mini-collectable delights aimed at kids, you have to admit they’ve had some of the most interesting strike-outs. It’ll be interesting to see what entries make future lists of such disasters, and the reasons for why and how they flew too close to the sun.