10. Berenstain Bears
I always liked the idea of everyone in the family being called by their role instead of their name. Why stop at Mom and Dad? Why not just call everyone what they are? (Though if that were true Sister probably should have been called Whiny Brat and Brother should have been called Overly Cautious.) These were made with that spray on felt so you got the sense that they were cuddly, but it also captured and never lost that distinct McNugget smell. Papa came with a wheelbarrow. So that was cool.
Pretty sure Jesus woulda made Mary make sure he got ALL of these. Trees just look sad without a contorted cartoon lobster on them.
8. Mighty Max
When you first get these, you’re like “Oh cool, a big like snow monster head thing.” But then when you open it up, you’re like, “Holy shit! It’s a tiny little world in which my main man Mighty Max can inflict violence on stuff! Take that Polly Lamewad Pocket.”
It doesn’t get more classic than this.
6. Bambi Figurines
How do you take cartoon furry woodland friends and adapt them for real world play? Remove the cartoon, remove the furry, remove the pretty annoying voices. These had hard plastic bodies, movable limbs, and paint that scraped off easily if you played with them in the actual woods, which I of course, did. Believing them to be content back in their natural habitat, I also spent about three days at my cabin making them a birch bark canoe.
5. Christmas Muppets
Everyone agrees that A Muppet Christmas Carol is not only better than most of the other Muppet movies (NOT Muppets Take Manhattan) it’s also far superior to most stage productions I have seen and really puts Mickey’s Christmas Carol to shame. McDonald’s was wise to this and made a baby Kermit, Miss Piggy, and Fozzie that all came with festively colored adornments. I don’t think I ever even got these as part of a meal. My Grandma would just show up at our house with a full set, no repeats. I was certain I lived the most charmed life of any kid this side of Richie Rich.
4. California Raisins
What I can only assume was the biggest marketing success of the International Nut & Dried Fruit Council (which has the hilarious URL nutfruit.org), made nine-year-olds everywhere believe that if you slapped sunglasses and generic brand sneakers on it, it could skateboard. Even if the “it” in this scenario is a shriveled grape. My friend Megan’s family had what seemed to be hundreds of these figurines all along the picture ledge in their kitchen. Sometimes I would rearrange them to form a band that closely resembled the fictional band The Commitments.
3. Polly Pockets
“Micro Playworld.” Have you ever heard a more compelling phrase? As a kid, my basic mandate for toymakers was, “Make it tinier! Tinier godammit!” And it didn’t get any tinier than Polly Pocket and her little seashell of a world. I could stick these things in my pocket and be like, “NBD, just got a tiny WORLD in here.”
2. Teenie Beanie Babies
Beanie Babies were magical, magical creatures that we all loved with infinite compassion and spent the early days of the Internet reading up on. “You got that rare Princess Di?” we’d ask our local pharmacy/gift shop cashiers like junkies looking for dope. How kind of McDonald’s to aid this addiction in even tinier, and thus cuter, form.
I didn’t even like Barbies as a kid, but when it was mini Barbie time at McDonald’s, you better believe I was eating chicken nuggets all week long. There was something infinitely perfect to me about these figures, so compelling that I forced my parents to make sure I got every one. I remember my dad exasperatedly saying to the pimply 14-year-old behind the counter, “I’ll give you two bucks if you stick an extra Barbie in there.” They are now in my parents’ shed.
For more nostalgia, check out Kathy’s Fast Food Toys