If you’re around my age – and even if you’re not – you should be able to remember a dozen times when McDonald’s sweetened the Halloween season. From McBoo pails to the costumed McNugget buddies, Ronald McDonald has often seemed like Halloween’s Santa Claus, always ready to reward the burger-eating boys and girls with marvelous plastic baubles.
Course, not all of the “spooky Happy Meals” were exclusively for Halloween. Actually, some of the best ones weren’t. Here’s the case in point!
From 1987, it’s The Real Ghostbusters Happy Meal! I don’t know if it’s accurate to say that RGB was the hottest cartoon of its time, but it was certainly one of them, and it was one of those rare franchises that everyone seemed to love.
It was just such an “untouchable” property. Nobody ever spoke ill of that show. Even as kids grew older and began shunning the things they enjoyed only a year prior, RGB always stayed on that weird pedestal. People talked plenty of shit about Garfield, but nobody messed with Peter Venkman.
Its Happy Meal series was one of my favorites, because it so completely hit every note that made Happy Meals such major moments in our lives. The set had amazing boxes (easy candidates for “best ever”), and the free toys were wonderful, even despite the fact that they adhered to McDonald’s sometimes-standard of giving us toys that weren’t exactly toys.
You’ll see what I mean in a minute. Let’s eat!
Okay, so my recreation of a 1987 Happy Meal had to cut a few corners, because today’s Happy Meals are a bit different. (Chiefly, you get a baby-sized serving of fries, along with a package of apple slices. Also, if this spread was truly faithful to its time, the art on the cup wouldn’t look like graphics from a PSA about stranger danger.)
Complicating matters was my decision to pile all of it on an old blue blanket. I don’t know where that fits in, and I have no idea why I did that.
However, while creating this, I did finally come up with the proper way to describe the stink of McDonald’s food. It’s like someone used vegetable oil to make paper mache. Think about it for a few minutes. You know I’m right.
And oh, what’s that little thing on the bottom? Behold, my prize!
The Real Ghostbusters Happy Meal toys had a “school supplies” theme. There was a pencil case, an eraser, a pencil topper, and then on the highest possible end… this! The Stay Puft pencil sharpener!
It was BY FAR the best prize in the set. You could completely ignore the fact that Stay Puft’s feet were capable of sharpening pencils, and just use him as an action figure. Most of us did.
I am very happy with this prize. I’m also very happy about the box it came in.
Happy Meal boxes were often just as important as the toys. For around ten minutes, nothing in the universe meant as much to us as those boxes. We’d all grown up watching our parents lazily eat while paging through a newspaper, and this was our version of that. The crime is that so few of us kept our boxes intact for longer than lunch lasted. The artists behind them went through so much trouble to give us not only great art, but a bonanza of games and activities. Some Happy Meal toys were only fun for a minute, but the right Happy Meal box could keep you entertained all day.
The highlights begin with the “Ecto’s Defectos” puzzle, where we’re to name all of the things wrong with the Ecto-1. Most would be satisfied with “there’s a fucking ghost in the driver’s seat,” but if you look closer, there’s a flat tire, a missing door and a busted bumper.
But yeah, I think “ghost driver” would be Family Feud’s #1 answer.
“Bedtime Surprise” is a weird one. It’s an easy puzzle, where you just need to match the ghosts to their color-coordinated slime trails. Since that only takes three seconds, you’ll have plenty of time to wonder if the green one is meant to be the spirit of a pickle. And hopefully, you’ll stop there, because there’s something about ghosts “ejecting” over sleeping Ghostbusters that’s better left uninvestigated. With apologies to the theme song, I am afraid of these ghosts.
“Total Confusion” is my favorite puzzle of ’em all. Here, you’re challenged to count the number of ghosts trapped in the Ecto-Containment Unit. (Thirteen. Be sure to spot Stay Puft’s cameo!)
Some of the best art to come out of RGB happened when it was time to create hordes of – for lack of a better term – “generic ghosts.” Ghosts that didn’t necessarily have names or origins. Free of those burdens, the artists just drew whatever popped in their heads, planning nothing and only adhering to the style guide’s core tenets.
I love that. The “foot soldiers” in other cartoons usually looked like clones. In RGB, every last one of them was distinct. Whenever a story involved the Containment Unit coming unglued, it was pure acid.
Lastly, we have “Ghost Busted.” It seems poor Slimer has broken into pieces after zipping through Egon’s ghost net. (Obviously as a nod to the TV episode where Slimer did just that. Course, on the show, he didn’t break into pieces – he broke into a horde of miniature Slimers!)
You’re supposed to pop out all of Slimer’s parts to reassemble him. To do so means that you’ll seriously devalue your Happy Meal box. I say, “You only live once.”
IT WAS WORTH IT. Jigsaw puzzles are almost never this easy. Even when they are, the final product is never Slimer!
I give this Happy Meal an “A.” And keep in mind: Aside from the other prizes, there were also other boxes, each with a completely different set of strange puzzles and activities.
All that, and deliciously oily fries to boot.