?Before Happy Meal toys were universally labeled as nothing more than plastic traps used to trick kids into the habit of eating the kitchen concoctions of one Ronald McDonald, they were as common a piece of Americana as the food items that populated the cheery boxes they came in. A trip to McDonald’s was not only a chance to spend time with Mom and/or Dad, chill (or, dare we say it, exercise?) in the custom playground and chow down on some unfortunately delicious food, it was also a great opportunity to lock up an exclusive toy, commonly tying in with a popular fad or franchise.
But, we’re not only here today to wax nostalgic about what the Happy Meal meant to us in its prime. While its glory days could very well be behind it, there’s still much to celebrate in Nerd-dom. You see, plenty of nerdy properties were given the Happy Meal treatment before the dust settled, succeeding in improving our nerdy lives by inducing ridiculous glee. Long ago, TR featured some of the lamest Happy Meal toys ever — now here are 10 of the best and nerd-friendliest toys that accompanied our burgers and fries. Feel free to add your favorites in the comments!
McDonald’s had more than a couple of actual Transformers-themed Happy Meal sets, but they were always kind of a disappointment. Usually they looked awful, they didn’t transform, and/or they could only move their arms. When compared to normal Transformer toys, they sucked. But they managed to avoid that problem with Changeables — yes, the robot modes were lame, but their other forms looked just like McDonald’s food and food packaging. And there’s just something intriguingly bizarre about a robot that transforms into a styrofoam container of pancakes.That robot is seriously in disguise.
9) Sonic the Hedgehog 3
?While Sega and McDonald’s have had several dalliances since these were released, the Sonic 3 set is arguably the purest of the famous blue speedster’s appearances as a Happy Meal toy, mostly because the Sega promos that followed involved handheld games instead of plastic prizes. While Knuckles and Robotnik were kind of off — only the Tails and Sonic toys did a great job of capturing the characters’ attributes (Tails flew, Sonic raced) — it was still cool to have the foursome immortalized in plastic fast food lore. It’s also worth noting that the Tails flyer could get some serious height — or cause some serious damage when aimed at a little brother’s face. Seriously, Tails has never, ever been cooler than in this toy.
8) He-Man and the Masters of the Universe
?The figures in this set, promoting Mattel’s then-new relaunch, were pretty great. Not only were their sizes and sculpts about a stone’s throw away from what you’d expect in a toy store, the accessories plentiful and the articulation for the most part swell, but many of the figures included action features and projectiles. And unlike the regular MotU toys, you didn’t have to sift through 18 rows of unsold He-Man and Skeletor figures to get them.
7) Super Mario Bros. 3
This set included a jumping Mario, a racing Luigi, a pump-powered Koopa Paratroopa and a Goomba. Yes, Bowser and Princess Toadstool were dishearteningly missing, but we like to imagine that Ronald McDonald established mathematically that the universe would implode had such perfection been reached, leaving them out to save us all. What a guy.
6) Marvel Superheroes
Any nerd not experiencing jubilance at finding a miniature version of The Hulk or select members of the X-Men in his Happy Meal should probably go ahead and turn in his license and move to another way of life. Plus, the color-changing-when-frozen Invisible Woman figure makes for excellent drink d?cor to this day.
5) Batman: The Animated Series
The figures were the real stars here — the Batman, Catwoman, Riddler and Batgirl toys all captured the look of their animated counterparts nicely. The vehicles didn’t make a terrible amount of sense (with the exception of Robin’s bike) but they were kind of creative in their own right; for example, you could flip around the front and back of Two-Face’s car to transform it from posh city cruiser to wrecked beater, symbolizing which half took over behind the wheel for the evening. Cool.
4) Back to the Future: The Animated Series
For a long while, this Happy Meal set was strangely one of few ways to recreate memories from the BttF franchise, which made them quite special for those who wanted toys with which to act out their favorite scenes. Now, if the fact that Einstein appears to be piloting a locomotive composed entirely of sparkly toothpaste and strawberry swirl pops seems a bit off, we’d like to kindly remind you that this set was based on the animated series, although even then, we’re not sure if it makes a terrible amount of sense. Since it’s Back to the Future though, Einstein could be driving a Corvette while dressed in a robe and we’d still attempt to buy it on eBay.
3) Spider-Man: The Animated Series
Spidey’s ’90s animated series got a nice rendition by the folks at Mickey D’s. The set included four figures and four vehicles and while it did suffer from the inclusion of several cars that were pretty lame, and an MJ figure that was essentially a glorified paper doll, there was still plenty to love. Outside of solid recreations of Spidey and Doc Oc, it included Spider-Sense Peter Parker which captured one of Pete’s most famous powers nicely.
2) Super Looney Tunes
It’s hard to forget this set, as there were few things more awesome in Happy Mealdom at the time than snapping a plastic rendition of the Scarlet Speedster’s red leotard around a Tasmanian Devil figure and transforming him into Taz Flash. The set also came with Daffy, Bugs and Petunia along all with their own DC-inspired alter egos.
1) Lego Batman
?Competing with the nerdiness of a premium that combines Lego, Batman, video games and Happy Meal toys is a difficult task indeed, which is why this set tops the list. While the Lego element is essentially limited to an aesthetic device (you don’t really get to build anything in the traditional sense), the figures are larger than standard minifigs and feature different poses. They also have codes on the back to be used with the game the set is based on. Lastly, the vehicles are nice as well, firing missiles and doing their game counterparts justice. So yeah – winning.