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McDonald’s is famous for its Happy Meals that popularised giving kids small toys with their food. Some of the best (and worst) Happy Meal toys were promotional collaborations with other toy brands, upcoming movies, and even sports personalities. We look back at the big wins and colossal failures of the various licensed McDonald’s toys from the 90s.
It’s the 1990s, and you’re in the back of your parent’s car. You’ve spotted three golden arches out the window. You hear the blinker, and your face lights up as you realize you’re about to get treated to a McDonald’s Happy Meal. Why were you so excited? Because, along with your hamburger, french fries, and soft drink, you were about to get your hands on a new toy – yes!
While most McDonald’s Happy Meal toys could never compare to the ‘proper’ toys you wanted from the store, they were free and usually offered enough play value to distract you for an afternoon. Like most 90s kids, you probably best remember the toys that were licensed crossovers with existing toy brands or were designed to promote new movies, tv shows, video games, and more.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane as we look at the best and worst licensed McDonald’s toys from the 90s.
Back in 96’, Cruella De Ville wasn’t the only one who wanted to get their hands on the 101 Dalmations. To capitalize on the buzz around the Disney film, McDonald’s decided to release a full collectible set of all the spotted canines. Each Happy Meal box came with one random Dalmation from the set, meaning you had to eat a lot of Happy Meals if you wanted to get your hands on all of them.
McDonald’s even released a special display case to store all your plastic puppies. The 101 Dalmations are also some of the most valuable Happy Meal toys today, with complete sets selling for between $100 to $200 on eBay.
Michael Jordan was king during the 90s and set a new benchmark for how an athlete could promote themselves by collaborating with major brands like Nike. Unfortunately, this 1992 promotion with McDonald’s was far from a slam dunk.
The Michael Jordan Fitness Fun set consisted of miniature plastic sports equipment, including a baseball, football, basketball, jump rope, flying disc, squeeze bottle, and stopwatch. However, upon getting home with their new ‘fitness’ equipment, kids would realize that the balls deflated too easily and that the jump rope was far too short to actually use. You couldn’t even count on the 30-second stopwatch since it didn’t work half the time.
The McDonald’s X Jordan partnership would eventually be redeemed by a sweet set of Space Jam toys in 1996, and since we couldn’t find a commercial for the Fitness Fun toys, here’s an ad for that instead.
The cute and cuddly Beanie Babies were one of the biggest obsessions of the 90s, and it was only a matter of time before old Mickey D’s would feature them as a Happy Meal toy. Mcdonald’s would release new Teenie Beanies periodically between 1997 and 2000, complete with the official TY tag, but they cost an extra $2 with your order.
Thanks to the craze around collecting every Beanie Baby, this promotion caused a few incidents as people fought over them in-store. One McDonald’s employee in Miami was charged with stealing stock from their restaurant, presumably to sell them later.
Despite the drama, the Teenie Beanie Babies are still some of the best Happy Meal toys released in the 90s. Some sets, like the Mini International Bears, have also become very valuable, selling for upwards of $1000 on eBay in some cases.
If you think that’s impressive, check out our guide to the most valuable Beanie Babies.
To promote the release of Disney’s Hercules on VHS, McDonald’s released a set of character-themed sports accessories. This crossover couldn’t live up to the original Hercules tie-in toy set, which featured cool figures like the Hydra. Instead, we got the Zeus Football and Eye of Fates hacky sack ball.
Still, we’ll admit the Hercules Sports Bottle is a pretty cool bit of merchandise directly from the movie, but it’s not enough to save this promotion from going on the naughty list.
As a beloved staple of children’s pop culture, McDonald’s has released quite a few Power Rangers toys with their Happy Meal boxes over the decades. However, it all started in the 90s with the promotion of the ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers. First, there was a set of Pogs, then came two toy sets to promote the 1995 feature film.
Toy set 1 comprised a few unremarkable gadgets, including the PowerMorpher Buckle, Power Siren, and Alien Detector. Toy set 2 was far more popular since it featured actual action figures of the six rangers and their iconic NinjaZord vehicles.
Each ranger was relatively well made, with an impressive level of articulation. But this extra quality came at a price since, unlike toy set 1, they weren’t free but instead could be purchased with any meal order for an extra $2.
For many 90s kids, these rangers are the epitome of classic Happy Meal toys. In fact, the Red Ranger was even recently reintroduced in 2019 as part of McDonald’s 40th Anniversary toy set.
The plush toys released for this direct-to-video sequel deserve to go directly into your trash can. While it seems like McDonald’s was trying to put in a little more effort with this one, all they managed to achieve was to create nightmare versions of our beloved Lion King characters. While they’re all pretty bad, Timon and Simba look the most disturbing.
Go-go Gadget Happy Meal toy! To help promote Disney’s 1999 adaptation of the iconic Inspector Gadget, McDonald’s brought out an eight-piece figure of the titular detective that put other toys to shame.
Every time they visited McDonald’s, kids could get one of the eight body parts needed to assemble Inspector Gadget. Appropriately, each body part had its own unique gadget (for example, one arm had a grabbing hand while the other could squirt water), and the fully assembled toy would stand over 11” tall.
In many ways, Inspector Gadget is the perfect Happy Meal toy. Each piece was worth collecting in its own right while obtaining all of them allowed kids to create something unique they couldn’t just buy off the shelf anywhere else.
While the movie this toy was made to promote isn’t well-remembered, for many 90s kids, this was one of their favorite toys they ever got from McDonald’s.
When they launched in time for the 1994 holiday season, Sky Dancers flew to the top of every little girl’s Christmas list. Part doll, part aerial missile, the Sky Dancers could be launched into the air and twirl around like a helicopter before plummeting back to earth.
However, in 1997 McDonald’s seemed to misunderstand the novelty of the Sky Dancers. Little girls who grabbed these toys were let down when they realized they couldn’t actually fly but could only
spin aggressively dance on the spot.
Love them or hate them, Furbys were all the rage during the 90s, and McDonald’s knew that including them in kids’ meals was the best way to capitalize on the craze. These little Furbys were actually quite well made and are now worth a decent amount as collectors’ items (as of writing, a full set of 90s McDonald’s Furbies is selling for a cool $90).
The best part? Unlike their more expensive cousins, these Furbys didn’t wake up during the night with malicious intent. Don’t believe us? We also reveal the truth about evil Furby.
As one of the most iconic children’s toys of all time, there’s been no shortage of Barbie Happy Meal toys over the decades. In fact, Hot Wheels and Barbie would become an iconic Happy Meal pairing that’s been repeated even as recently as 2019.
Unfortunately, Barbie fans were seriously let down in 1991 with these solid plastic figures. Other than appearing very cheaply made, these figures had no articulation or interactivity, and they were just solid blocks of plastic depicting Barbie in different outfits. We just wish McDonald’s had been honest and advertised these ‘toys’ as the paperweights they were clearly designed to be.
There are few cartoon characters as iconic as Snoopy. Other than hanging with the Peanuts gang, between 1998-1999, you could also find him at Mickey D’s. There were two sets of 28 different Snoopy figures to collect (a little more attainable than the 101 Dalmatians), and each represented different places around the world.
Like the Dalmatians, there was also a special display and carrying case for the collection. As you might expect, the true value of these figures is as collectibles, and as of writing, a full collection can sell for over $200 on eBay! Even a single figure can be worth as much as $20 or more to the right buyer, so if you know you have one lying around somewhere, it might be worth snooping around for it.
Since McDonald’s toys are some of the cheapest and most mass-produced toys ever to exist, most of them are only worth their weight in plastic. However, we featured a few standouts in this list, like Snoopy and the 101 Dalmatians, that have decent value as collector’s items.
Like any vintage toy, old McDonald’s toys from the 90s will be worth more in mint condition and as part of a complete set. However, since most of the toys were immediately manhandled by greasy, salt-encrusted fingers, a mint condition specimen is hard to find.
Still, these toys were a cheap distraction meant to be enjoyed right out of the box, so we can’t be too upset they aren’t all coveted collector’s items today.
Even before kids’ meals became a thing, Mcdonald’s had special toys based on brand mascots like Ronald McDonald himself. However, the first real Happy Meal toys came in 1979 and were very simple items like McDonald’s branded stencils, bracelets, puzzles, and spinning tops. While this wasn’t the most exciting start, the same year, McDonald’s would partner with Star Trek: The Motion Picture to create the first of many licensed crossovers.
The 50 Disney McDonald’s toys refer to the eight toys released for Walt Disney World 50th anniversary in 2021. These toys included Mickey in a rocket spaceship, Pluto on a boat, Donald in a teacup, and more.
The Happy Meal toys that are worth the most money today include the TY Teenie Beanies, Robots and Underwater Monsters by Diener Keshi, the ‘Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers, 101 Dalmatians, and Snoopy World Tour. But remember, these toys are typically only worth a substantial amount when they’re in a full set and in great condition.
Lee is curator of nostalgia and a long-time collector of loveable junk. An 80s baby, 90s kid, he knows he had it good when it came to Saturday morning cartoons. Spends his life trying to recapture the dopamine hit of playing Game Boy for the first time and believes Beanie Babies will make a fortuitous comeback. Obsessed with everything (and anything) retro, he is your trusted guide to a world of 90s toys, games and collectables.
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