The coveted Happy Meal toys were more addicting than any pile of greasy fries and more fun than a sweaty McDonald's PlayPlace.
Hidden under your cheeseburger and apple slices, these fun plastic trinkets were what brought magic to each red and yellow box you begged your parents to buy you while growing up. So let’s take a moment to appreciate the best Happy Meal toys of the last 20 years.
Tamagotchi keychains – 1998
For those of us who never got to have a real Tamagotchi, this was the next best thing. You had most of the interactive fun that came along with the digital 8-bit creatures, just without the eating or pooping.
Inspector Gadget body parts – 1999
It may have been weird to open up your Happy Meal box to find the plastic leg of the bumbling '80s TV show detective Inspector Gadget, but each part had a fun role to play from the arm squirter to the siren hat. And once you collected them all, you had a full Inspector Gadget action figure ready to take on Dr. Claw and any other baddies to come his way.
Mini Furbies – 1999
If you were somehow immune to the haunting, soulless stare of regular Furbies, these colorful plastic owl-like creatures were a sure bet. They weren’t fuzzy and didn’t talk like their full-sized counterparts, but their toes, beaks, ears and characteristically maniacal eyes would move with the push of a button.
Tarzan action figures – 1999
All your favorite “Tarzan” characters came in plastic figurine form in 1999 Happy Meals. You could collect a log-riding wind-up Tarzan, an umbrella-launching Jane, a bongo-playing Terk and even a wind-up Tantor that was as big as your hamburger.
Spy Kids toys – 2001
These interactive gadgets let kids squirt water from a headband, lob plastic discs into the air with a spy launcher, tell time with a spy watch and look cool while doing it with a pair of spy glasses. With these techy plastic toys in hand, you would be ready to fight evil alongside Carmen and Juni.
Disney figurines – 2002
To celebrate its centennial, Disney teamed up with McDonald’s to produce its beloved 100 Years of Magic figurines. McDonald's distributed 100 different collectible figures of animated characters standing atop golden bases, and kids undertook the impossible quest of collecting them all. My personal souvenir from the craze is a plastic Dumbo figurine that sits on my desk.
Lilo & Stitch toys – 2004
Disney returned two years later with Lilo & Stitch figurines that came with tubs of Play-Doh. By pushing globs of Play-Doh into the figurines’ bases, the clay would ooze out of other holes, creating Lilo’s hula skirt, Stitch’s antennae and extra arms and Pleakley’s long, flowing hair. Jumba’s figurine, on the other hand, came with a mold to create Play-Doh versions of your favorite experiments.
Spyro and Crash Bandicoot games – 2005
McDonald’s diners could tag along on adventures with their favorite purple dragon Spyro or zany anthropomorphic bandicoot Crash with each Happy Meal. The hand-held, flip-screen video games had simple premises, such as collecting gems or finding keys to doors, but they were a lot of mindless fun.
Nerf toys – 2009
The mini nerf gun toys would eject little orange rods to topple yellow plastic boxes or lob tiny footballs through field goal posts. Though not as fun as full-out nerf gun battles, they were just interactive and mesmerizing enough to keep you busy while you munched on those nuggets.
Pokémon toys – 2015
Aspiring Pokémon trainers could catch Pikachu, Wobbuffet or one of three legendary Pokémon — Kyogre, Rayquaza and the guardian of the seas himself Lugia — in their Happy Meals. The plastic figurines also came with Pokémon cards to add to your collection.
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