Internationally infamous fast-food chain McDonald’s has been doling out weird, quirky plastic toys since the early ‘70s, and they’ve grown to become a major part of the adolescent Golden Arches experience. The first happy meal prizes were relatively rudimentary: not so much ‘toys’ as cheap, vapid hunks of condensed oil, many were simple finger puppets or silly little figurines of the restaurant’s mascots.
Ronald and his gang of burger-loving pals soon became acquainted with the idea of product placement, however, and happy meal pack-ins started focusing on external children’s brands. From My Little Pony to the Mario Brothers to Ty Beanie Babies, nearly every child-centric product under the sun has, at some point, worked out a deal with the big M.
It hasn’t always been easy, though, and the chain’s controversially fattening food has lead to some health activists crying foul. Not long ago, Disney severed all ties with the restaurant group for fear of polluting the minds of today’s youth. What’s more, while often interesting yet easily forgotten little distractions, some of these happy meal toys were downright strange.
That said, though a good amount of McDonald’s trinkets may have upset some kids and confused some parents, a few of them may have been worth hanging on to after all. Some are now super rare, and, as a result, worth a ton of money. From the crazy to the costly, here are 15 of the weirdest McDonald’s Toys (and 15 that are super rare today).
30 Weird: McDonald’s Changeables
Kids advertising is super weird: while adults probably wouldn’t be drawn to the nearest McDonald’s with the promise of some strange, fast-food centric Transformers rip-offs, children in the late 1980’s were all over it. While visually distinct enough to avoid a lawsuit from Hasbro, McDonald’s Changeables were, as one may expect, small plastic figurines which, much like the aforementioned Transformers, could shift from some mundane object into their true robotic forms in the blink of an eye. The issue here, however, was that, while the Transformers were at least kind of cool, nobody in their right mind would care about a set of robots that can take the form of McDonald's food products.
29 Rare: Mr. Potato Head Kids
There’s a bizarre irony in serving an anthropomorphic potato toy along with french fries, but far be it from McDonald's to allow sardonic critique to stand in the way of product placement. Mr. Potato head is likely among the most recognizable set of retro toys, and is perhaps second only to the likes of Rock ‘em Sock ‘em Robots in terms of nostalgic value for some. Though MR. Potato Head Kids may have been a very strange tie-in, a full set can go for upwards of $70 today. With that kind of money, you could put a down payment on around ten Big Macs.
28 Weird: Nature Watch Gardening Tools
McDonald's typically seems to have stuck to the genre of throwaway movie tie-in garbage when it comes to their children’s toys, but, on rare occasions, they saw fit to break from the norm and take things in a bold new direction. Unfortunately, Mickey-D’s higher-ups, for whatever reason, thought that they would try cornering the child-gardening market and produced a line of plastic gardening ware. Given the shoddy build quality, none of these toys were actually useful in any way, and the most hilarious blunder of all would likely have been the plastic bird feeder which was too small to actually accommodate any birds.
27 Rare: Original Monsters Inc. Toys
Coveted perhaps due to the fact that Disney and McDonald’s aren’t currently on speaking terms, toys branded around the original Monster’s Inc. movie from 2001 are rare and valuable collector’s items today. The film was a box office dynamo which, following in the wake of the uber-successful 1995 fully-animated classic Toy Story, continued to prove that all-digital movies could be successful. While a single piece of this aged set of McDonald’s trinkets could go for somewhere around five dollars, the whole still-in-the-bag cast could bring over $100. Not exactly a fortune, though certainly more than anyone would have considered them to be at the time.
26 Weird: Shark Tale Jellyfish
This ill-remembered animated Will Smith vehicle from 2004 may have been a bit of a box office bummer, but it did spawn a set of… shall we say ‘memorable’ toys. The worst offender by far was the totally weak Shark Tale jellyfish toy. Not only was it completely awful, but the shape of this hunk of plastic was suggestive, to say the least. McDonald’s likely doesn’t put a lot of thought into the quality control of their cheap little happy meal toys, but somebody should have sounded the alarm before this nightmare ever made it into a meal.
25 Rare: McNugget Buddies
Artistically bereft beyond a shadow of a doubt, McDonald's saw fit to take the amorphous, ill-defined shape of their chicken nuggets products and turn them into temporary restaurant mascots. These McNugget Buddies figurines were available during select periods throughout the late 1980’s and early 1990’s and likely upset kids the world over. However, their unique mix of quirky branding and vague horror seems to be irresistible to collectors of fast food paraphernalia, and just one of these toys can go for somewhere around $20 depending on the buyer.
24 Weird: McWrist Wallet
McDonald’s McWrist Wallet was an early attempt at creating compelling children’s toys without devoting much time into conceptual development, production, or overall quality. There may have been some sort of 70’s fad involving miniature wrist-based storage space, but this was likely just a meager attempt by McDonald’s at pawning off bits of useless plastic vaguely disguised as some kind of wristwear. Kids at the time likely wouldn’t have found it too compelling given that the poor build quality likely made it uncomfortable to wear, and the small compartment was too tiny to actually store anything. Who thought this was acceptable?
23 Rare: Furbies
Furbies may have made a small comeback in recent years owing to an emergent youth culture driven by nostalgic millennials, but there was a time during which Furbies were quite literally everywhere. Similar in concept and kitsch-factor to today’s hatchimals, Furbies were weird little fuzzy robots which could move their eyes and utter a couple of rudimentary phrases. For a time, McDonald’s offered an incredibly various amount of pocket-sized versions of these strange birds, and people bought happy meals by the dozen in order to get their hands on each of them. Today, a full set of Mickey-D Furbies can sell for around $1000 or so—go check your attic and see if you happen to have any lying around.
22 Weird: Idol iPod
In the early to mid-2000s, two things in the music world were entirely inescapable: Apple iPods and Idol shows. The former a suave new take on Sony’s old Walkman, and the latter a reality show based on contestants of varying vocal abilities. The combination of these two, then, would have been a match made in marketing heaven. Unfortunately for McDonald’s, the average budget for a happy meal toy likey cannot exceed ten cents, so they had to cut costs by offering up plastic branded iPod facsimiles which could only hold one song; that, of course, being the show’s theme.
21 Rare: Diener Keshi Rubber Toys
It’s hard to pin down exactly what these early McDonald’s toys were intended to be: formed from a simple piece of colored rubber, Diener Keshi figures were essentially intended to look nice and entertain children for around five minutes or so. Very disposable, few have survived to this point, and they have become rare and valuable collector's items. One of a few select pieces of McDonald’s marketing that wasn’t little more than a soulless piece of plastic junk, Diener Keshi toys could bring a nostalgic forty-something right back to their childhood, and they can fetch a pretty penny online these days.
20 Weird: Popoids
Erector sets may have helped to fill the rudimentary architectural ambitions of every child growing up in the 1980s, but, at the end of the day, they were mere playthings capable of captivating little more than the imagination. However, McDonald’s Popoids—strange little scaled-down plastic riffs on the same idea—made erector sets look like NASA-grade construction material. What’s worse is that these things came bundled with a large number of small plastic pieces, which wasn’t a smart move on the restaurant chain’s part and would likely cause a whole bunch of legal trouble if sold today.
19 Rare: Underwater Monsters
As previously expressed, McDonald’s loves their movie tie-ins; in the past, young kids have gone crazy for toys based on Mulan, Despicable Me, 101 Dalmatians, and… The Creature from the Black Lagoon? Well, not really: while the Golden Arches may have served up these abominable figures back in 1979, they didn’t actually have anything to do with the movie. They sure are creepy, though, and they can fetch a pretty penny if the right buyer can be found. These Underwater Monsters may be a degree too creepy for a modern audience, though.
18 Weird: Halloween McNuggets
The already-discussed McNuggets Buddies were a pretty lame attempt on the part of McDonald’s at coming up with a compelling, child-centric mascot. However, an even lazier effort saw the corporation hawking trick-or-treat themed anthropomorphized plastic chicken nuggets at kids in October of 1988. While some weirdos out there may be willing to pony up some serious cash to get their hands on these things, most would prefer to simply forget about them. Of course, the scariest thing about these toys likely would have been the food with which they came paired.
17 Rare: Madame Alexander Dolls
For the uninformed, Madame Alexander Dolls are a series of strangely creepy designer dolls which send collectors into a frenzy while sending chills down the spines of most sane people. Pediophobia aside, rare specimens in this sought-after line of child-sized playthings can go for hundreds—if not thousands—of dollars. In 2007, McDonald's saw fit to hop aboard that gravy train and sold a group of dolls based on the film The Wizard of Oz. Today, these happy meal toys can fetch up to $80, which is sure to have owners clicking their heels in delight.
16 Weird: Good FUNdamentals Food Figures
Governments and businesses alike have been trying to get kids to stay on the right path for quite some time: while federally-ordained campaigns ran rampant in the 90s, people like Michael Jordan and Mr. T joined in to keep kids healthy and active. In tandem to most of these messages were, paradoxically, McDonald’s restaurants, which sought to teach kids healthy eating habits while simultaneously serving them heaping helpings of processed trans-fats. 1993’s Good FUNdamentals clashed with the public’s perception of the fast-food chain and may as well have encouraged kids to eat the plastic from which they were made.
15 Rare: Snoopy World Tour Figurines
Everybody loves Snoopy: this lovable beagle is right up there with such animated canine greats as Scooby Doo and Clifford the Big Red Dog. As such, it stands to reason that McDonald’s would want to reel kids into their stores with the promise of a series of collectible Peanuts figurines featuring the hilarious hound. There were 28 in total, and they depicted Snoopy clothed in a bunch of different garb from around the world. These are now valuable collector's items, of course, and a full set can go for upwards of $300. Not bad for a couple hunks of cheap plastic.
14 Weird: Ronald McDonald Sunglasses
In the wake of Stephen King’s It and the creepy clown epidemic of 2016, it’s safe to say that nobody likes clowns. In fact, there may be a minority of Mickey-D’s higher-ups disgusted with the fact that, by way of a long tradition with the character, they’re stuck with one as a mascot. What may have been worse, however, were these ultra-creepy Ronald McDonald-themed sunglasses. McDonald’s is no stranger to clever, self-aggrandizing marketing ploys, and they apparently saw fit to slap these weird spectacles on the heads of their patrons. Though they may initially appear to be good conversation starters, nobody—and I’ll repeat—nobody is going to talk to you while you’ve got these things on your head.
13 Rare: Mr. Men Plushies
Mr. Men was a British children’s television show which first aired in the 1970s and featured a host of one-dimensional characters. Though the show initially failed to catch on in the United States, it experienced something of a resurgence in the late 2000’s. McDonald’s was quick to pick up on the trend and offered a series of Mr. Men-themed toys in their restaurants in a campaign which persisted all the way into 2017. Collectors or happy meal aficionados may have more than a few of these things stuffed somewhere in their attics, though the $80 price tag associated with the full set may have some ruffling through their storage.
12 Weird: Ronald McDonald Hand Puppet
New ventures are bound to succumb to a few slip-ups, and McDonald’s shouldn’t necessarily be faulted for pushing a few stinkers out the door when they first started bundling toys with their happy meals. That said, this awful Ronald McDonald hand puppet is still worthy of some criticism. Beyond lazy and unimaginative, this so-called toy was quite literally nothing more than a bag with the corporation’s mascot drawn on the side. Whoever came up with this concept was either given five minutes to come up with something or lacked a fundamental understanding of what a toy even is.
11 Rare: 101 Dalmatians Toys
Disney’s 101 Dalmatians is a much older movie than most realize: released all the way back in 1961, the film has gone on to be one of the most well-remembered animated movies of that era. Though the restaurant chain was still in its infancy at that point, McDonald’s would capitalize on the motion picture's popularity years later. Releasing an actual set of 101 figurines, this movie tie-in likely stands as one of the company’s most ambitious. Collectors at the time must have been anxious to grab these toys before they were gone, and the Golden Arches actually sold display cases which could accommodate all one-hundred plus figurines. A full set will net you about $70 today.
10 Weird: Fry Kids
Not content to let McNugget Buddies stand as the strangest food-based marketing gimmick in company history, McDonald’s outdid themselves with their 1989 Fry Buddies line of toys. Though amorphous and vague, chicken McNuggets were at least somewhat identifiable, and an anthropomorphic pile of fries seems to stretch the margins of creativity and make the store’s previous efforts come across as mundane. What’s your favorite literal pile of fried potato slices: the pirate? What about the chief, or the one on roller skates? For those wondering, this may, in fact, hold the Guinness World Record for worst idea for a toy ever.
9 Rare: 2017 Super Mario Toys
Parents of young children may well be kicking themselves for throwing away their kid’s set of seemingly useless Super Mario McDonald’s toys last year. For whatever reason, they have become a bit of a rare collector's item, and these plastic figures from the Mushroom Kingdom stand to prove that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. A complete eight-piece set of these toys can bring in around $50 less than a year after their availability window came to a close, and those earnings could help to finance future happy meal-based investments.
8 Weird: Dinosaurs
Dinosaurs was a truly bad mid-90s sitcom which centered the lives of a family of ‘dinosaurs’ as they bumbled their way through a prehistoric society which bore a startling resemblance to our own. While the puppeteering may have been exemplary, the show was anything but, and it’s remembered today as more of a late-night blight than a televised treasure. McDonald’s offered a gross series of Dinosaurs toys during the show’s lifetime, furthering the confusion concerning the show’s intended audience. These lifeless plastic nightmares must have kept many a kid awake at night nearly three decades ago.
7 Rare: Power Rangers
Power Rangers is such a bizarre show: a strange mashup of Eastern and Western humor and culture, this series has probably turned the heads of many a concerned parent. It has been on for quite a while at this point, and it’s been going for even longer in the Land of the Rising Sun. There are plenty of dedicated fans of this quirky show, of course, so it makes sense that a full set of McDonald’s 1994 Power Ranger happy meal toys would go for upwards of $300. Perhaps they could be swapped for a full set of Mickey-D’s Underwater Monsters toys.
6 Weird: Play-Doh Mini Packs
Just about every kids loves play-doh, but, as most parents will tell you, they shouldn’t ever be left alone with it. For whatever reason, kids the world over have run into issues as a result of ingesting the stuff, and, thanks to McDonald’s and the company’s own play-doh ice cream maker, food and play putty may be irrevocably linked. In the late 1980’]s McDonald’s actually gave out small packs of the stuff in happy meals. This sounds like a great idea on paper, but I would be willing to bet that a few kids went home with a little more than hamburgers and french fries in their stomachs.
5 Rare: Inspector Gadget
Inspector Gadget was a mid-80’s cartoon series which revolved around the wacky exploits of a detective fitted with a suite of biomechanical enhancements. It spawned a couple of films, comics, and other childhood paraphernalia, though the property wouldn’t necessarily grow to eclipse many of its competitors. That said, McDonald’s toys associated with the show sell for ludicrous amounts of money, and single pieces of this short-lived toyline have been known to go for around $300! As Inspector Gadget himself might say, Wowsers!
4 Weird: McDonald’s Tickle Feather
The fact that early McDonald’s happy meal toys were lazy and cheap has already been established, yet there are a few products that simply go above and beyond in terms of total thought-depraved carelessness. The McDonald’s tickle feather was, as one might assume, a feather kids would use to tickle each other. Packaging actual feathers in children’s meals may have been slightly weird, so the company opted to make these things out of sponges instead. It’s impossible to tickle someone with a sponge, and its equally impossible to figure out what Mickey-D’s toy design department was thinking at the time. Well, it seems pretty likely that they didn’t have one at all.
3 Rare: Despicable Me 3 Minions
Yet another rare toy from not so long ago, it seems that the minion fever brought on by obnoxious six-year-old kids and the posts from their equally annoying forty-five-year-old mother-of-three-cats aunt has driven the market price of these silly little figures up almost exponentially. 2017’s Despicable Me 3 may have been an easily-forgotten extension upon Dreamworks' property, but the toys were certainly hard to forget. A full set of these things can go for upwards of $350 roughly a year after the release of the film, and the stampede of parents currently rushing to check if their kids have any of these things is nearly audible.
2 Weird: An MC Hammer Toothbrush
Quite why McDonald’s ever thought to put MC Hammer’s face on a toothbrush and sell it to kids is beyond me, and even small children would have been able to point out the fact that this once-famous rapper has literally nothing to do with dentistry. MC Hammer’s Hammerman toothbrush was made available in McDonald’s restaurants in conjunction with the release of his ill-remembered cartoon of the same name, and the concept surrounding this tie-in ‘toy’ is as befuddling as the fact that MC Hammer once had a cartoon show. Nobody wanted these, and nobody save for McDonald’s toy historians ever cared about MC Hammer-related oral hygiene.
1 Rare: Ty Teenie Beanie Babies
The mid-1990s saw a slew of collectors clamoring for their own suite of Ty’s new line of stuffed animals, and this demand soon resulted in prices inflated beyond an amount which any sane person might pay. The rarest beanie babies sometimes sell for upwards of half a million dollars, so it’s safe to assume that Ty early adopters go their money’s worth. While not quite as valuable as the genuine article, a complete collection of McDonald’s Ty Teenie Beanie Babies can net the seller somewhere around $100. The price is likely to increase as the years go on, however, so it may be wise to hang on to these stuffed playthings for just a little longer.