Sunday, February 21, 2021

[YouTube] McDonald's 1970's & 80's Products & Promotions

Recently McDonald's has been stormed by Pokémon fans and scalpers who want to resell the Pokémon trading cards included in Happy Meals. That led to me thinking about the items I'd get at McDonald's when I was a kid. Most were small things, typically plastic doodads branded with McDonald's characters, such as Ronald, Grimace, Hamburglar, Mayor McCheese, and Captain Crook. There were some Happy Meal promotions that included real toys as well, like Hot Wheels cars and basic LEGO sets, but most of the movie and cartoon licensed Happy Meal toys didn't become common until the '90s. This is a look at a variety of merchandise that was either available in stores or in McDonald's restaurants primarily during the 1980s, though some did originate in the '70s. Of course, I've stuffed way too many things into this post and video as I'm prone to do so it is a bit long.

School Supplies
This is a mix or rulers, paper clips, Grimace erasers, and a Ronald pencil topper. The ruler with the stencils melted around Captain Crook which likely occurred in storage.

Basic Plastic Objects
A random assortment that includes a flying disc, wrist case (?), rings, top, and lock puzzle. Not sure what the wrist thing is supposed to be. It fits like a watch with a Captain Crook cover that opens and can hold small things, such as coins. The bright green color made me think it might glow in the dark but it did not in my tests. Below that are three rings representing Halloween, Ronald, and Captain Crook, and then a green top. I don't have all the pieces of the McPuzzle Lock; I believe it should be four parts that rotate and unlock once a character face is completed.

Other Happy Meals Goods
I'm not sure how to group all of these things but these are probably all from Happy Meals. First up are a cardboard tag and beach balls promoting the 1984 Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles. The inflated beach balls are wrinkled because they'd lose some air every time I tried to put the plug in. After that is a pull back car with Ronald in it. There is an incomplete jigsaw puzzle that included all the pieces before I misplaced them. Next to the puzzle is Mac Tonight on a skateboard making him twice as cool with kids. While doing some research for this post, I stumbled across a story about a lookalike character that has become a symbol of racism. Of course, I'm not showing the toy because of that but it may have been one reason the character faded from McDonald's ads. The toy is from 1987 when Mac was a crooner trying to convince the masses to eat fast food. The stickers at the bottom are meant to be placed on a Happy Meal container itself. Rather than the cardboard boxes or paper bags, the container for these stickers was a two piece (easily breakable) plastic railroad car (four were available). Also, these particular stickers are from Canada which I must have visited in 1982. 

The first two glasses were used by my family and while Grimace is a bit faded, Hamburglar's colors are still strong. These would not have been free I don't believe and were likely sold at the restaurants alongside a food purchase. After that is a set of three Garfield glasses though the complete set would be four. These I sort of remember getting as this promotion ran at a time when my mother, sister, and I were visiting my great grandmother in a nursing home, and we'd get dinner at McDonald's on those days. Around that time was also when I got Hot Wheels cars which I'm not including here since they are simply standard cars that were available in stores too and don't have McDonald's branding. A couple of those cars can be seen in the Hot Wheels Service Center post. I expect I have some of the LEGO sets seen in the ad above too though they'd just be pieces mixed in with my other LEGO bricks at this point.

Books & Stickers
The heading doesn't quite cover everything as this bunch has the McDonaldland Fun Times, a calendar, postcard, stickers, Magic Pads, and Santa Claus: The Movie activity books. The Fun Times was a free magazine for kids to enjoy that was published every other month. Not sure where I got the 1983 calendar though it could have been sold at restaurants. It has a Mattel rebate offer inside that can be seen on the blog's Facebook page in the toy ads album and I also scanned some of the pages for the activities album. Sets of McDonald's stickers were sold in stores and as the price tag shows they were a steal at 20 cents (being from Odd Lot that would not have been the original price). I like the picture on the postcard but it had a very old piece of masking tape on it that tore the image when I tried to remove it. Magic Pads have three pages that appear blank until a pencil is rubbed over them to reveal a character and quote. The activity books are a promotion for Santa Claus: The Movie which I have no recollection of. 

Promotional Pieces
I've posted the 1984 Halloween sign a few times before which was for people handing out McDonald's gift certificates on the holiday. Used in last month's blog update is the 1986 NFL promotion with a reward based on the outcome of the game shown. Denver won the game on this card so it could have been redeemed for a free medium Coke. Also, Steve Grogan who is pictured did not play in that game. Last one is a combination of an ad with a record from 1988.

Random Goods
In this group we've got a watch, patch, magnet, plate, and two ornaments. The watch is digital and if I recall correctly my sister had one with a red band. The patch is an iron-on of officer Big Mac from 1978. Also from 1978 is the Ronald magnet. Although I believe the plastic plate of which I own two was used, the artwork still looks quite nice. The clear plastic ornament is based on the 1984 made-for-TV movie A Christmas Carol and the other is a 1983 Norman Rockwell ornament.

Here are two actual toys or at least parts of toys. McDonald's was so popular that Remco made seven action figures (or dolls) of the McDonaldland characters in 1976. Although I don't own any, I've got the Ronald outfit. The other toy is a McDonald's employee that was included with a 1974 Playskool set. No idea if the set is still around, it could be at my parent's house as could another restaurant set from Mattel's Barbie toy line.


Decades ago McDonald's was home to many kids' birthday parties and as the ad to the right says, it's a happy place to have one! The paper hat that features excellent art of the characters must have been handed out at birthdays, however, in the two photos I'm sharing, my sister is wearing an employee style hat. Not sure if I ever had a birthday party at McDonald's but my sister definitely had two and I found a photo of a Burger King birthday as well, and once again that was my sister's party.

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