Tonight’s article is about fast food kiddie bags from the 1990s, which is as close as I may ever come to literally writing about garbage.
Really, focusing on the bags is just my way to highlight five memorable fast food promotions, starring everyone from Spider-Man to Amy Monkey.
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie!
McDonald’s Happy Meal, 1995
I’ve come to dig the first Power Rangers movie. Guess I needed a full twenty years to truly appreciate Ivan Ooze, a sort of otherworldly midpoint between Brother Justin and Ursula. When one could accurately summarize a film with “villain mass produces toy slime that turns people in drooling slaves,” I feel an almost religious need to champion said film.
It isn’t surprising that the movie scored a Happy Meal, but I’m shocked at how good the toys were. I mean, this was Power Rangers in 1995. They could’ve tossed anything in there, and kids still would’ve lost it. Instead we got a set of six legit action figures in accompanying Zords. The figures were on the small side, but they still way overachieved for McDonald’s toys.
UPDATE: I’ve since been told that these figures were actually sold apart from the Happy Meals — which included smaller MMPR doodads — and thus weren’t exactly “free.” Oh well. They did seem a little too good to be true.
Congo Watches & Food!
Taco Bell, 1995
My love for Congo is forever boundless, to the point where I’m not entirely sure that it isn’t my favorite movie ever… or at least a close second to Gremlins 2. It’s a film starring Tim Curry and Ernie Hudson and EVIL CG GREY GORILLAS. Basically, if you don’t like Congo, you’re a prick.
Congo was supposed to be a huge movie, and it kinda was, but certainly not to the “Jurassic Park level” that they strived for. (Turned out that misdirecting heat-seeking missiles with a flare gun just wasn’t a scene that 1995 audiences were quite ready for.)
Of course, by the time anyone realized that Congo wasn’t gonna be the In Thing, it was too late. All the wheels were already in motion, and we ended up with way more Congo merch than was ever really called for. Bad for the producers, but excellent for the Matts.
Congo even enjoyed a major Taco Bell promotion, with everything from cheap gorilla watches to thematic burritos. The co-promotional commercials were absolutely boss, placing a prehistoric version of Taco Bell right in the city of Zinj. Incredible!
Taco Bell Kid’s Meal, 1995
Street Sharks was some brilliant loon’s answer to the age old question, “How can we do the Ninja Turtles, but WEIRDER?” The answer was a quartet of half-men, half-sharks, each looking like a finned, neon Brock Lesnar.
The cartoon debuted in 1994, and every facet of it adhered to lovable mid ‘90s trends. The show was super loud and super colorful and super extreme. You couldn’t watch it without wanting to break stuff and yell.
Such a series wouldn’t have been pushed if there weren’t toys to sell, and yep, Street Sharks had its own action figure line. Ironically, I’m not sure that kids even needed a cartoon to appreciate bulky action figures with shark tops and human bottoms. Liking them just came natural.
I don’t know if Street Sharks was ever hugely successful, but it did well enough to merit a Taco Bell Kid’s Meal. Each of the heroes was represented, but in wildly different ways. There was a water squirter, a hand puppet, a wristband, and some weird figure that split in half to reveal disembodied shark jaws. I want all four, but especially that last one.
Marvel Super Heroes!
McDonald’s Happy Meal, 1996
I’m a little rusty on mid ‘90s Marvel cartoons, but I think this was a “catchall” deal for the entirety of the Marvel Universe, and not meant to promote any one specific thing.
Cheeseburger fans had a shot at one of eight superhero toys, featuring Wolverine, Hulk, The Human Torch, The Invisible Woman, Spider-Man, The Thing, Storm and Jubilee.
(If it’s tough for you to imagine Jubilee on the same level as the others, I’ll remind you that she was a pretty big deal on the old X-Men cartoon.)
I remember these prizes well, not because I was eating Happy Meals in ‘95, but because they were (and still are) such frequent finds at yard sales. Think I’m kidding? If you’re a yard sale hound, count all of the times you’ve spotted Spider-Man in a little blue car with a translucent web poking out from the hood. Billions, right?
Funnily enough, what was arguably the least popular character — The Invisible Woman — ended up with the best toy in the set. Her figure changed colors in water, or more accurately, was drained of color in water. Not a bad reward for eating deliciously oily fries!
McDonald’s Happy Meal, 1992
McDonald’s took a lot of heat on this one. After parents saw Batman Returns, many of them felt it was too dark to be aimed at kids. I guess they were misled by all of the cheerful scenes from the first movie, like when Joker gassed half of Gotham City using poison-filled parade balloons.
Drama aside, this was a great set, consisting of legless figurines driving silly little cars. And McDonald’s didn’t just do a Happy Meal, either. There were Batman Returns collector’s cups, fry containers, puzzle-filled placemats, the whole nine yards. I don’t think I can impress upon you how awesome it was to be a thirteen-year-old at McDonald’s, surrounded by Catwoman and Chicken McNuggets. Valhalla knows many forms.
Thanks for reading about old bags!