When I was a kid in the 1980s, this time of year meant several things: it meant school was in full swing. It meant that Halloween was over and done. It meant we would have to deal with the carb heavy and protein loaded meal that was known as Thanksgiving.
It also meant Christmas was around the corner, which meant toys.
That meant that the fast food places were upping their toy offerings as well. It was around this time of year that you could get plushes at certain restaurants.
This was back during the time when it wasn’t uncommon to see blow up characters atop your local McDonald’s: things like Santa and his reindeer or a giant snowman would be perched on the roof, alerting every child in the area that Christmas was coming. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems that almost everywhere went out of their way to decorate for the upcoming holiday. Or at least, they did when I was a kid.
Maybe it was because I was actually excited about Christmas. When I was a kid, I did enjoy the holidays. That’s probably why the displays and the decorations looked so incredible when I was younger. I actually cared. Now? Not so much.
Now, it always seemed that the local fast food places–in my area, Hardee’s was the biggest one–picked this time of year to up the ante when it came to their toy offerings. Instead of the usual cheap plastic and paper trinkets, these places offered plush animals.
Oh yeah. For me, this time was paradise. I mean, how could you say “No” to this?
As you can see, McDonald’s offered some. In my area, it was Hardee’s that had the super-majority of these. One year, it was various Disney characters, like Lady, Dumbo and Bambi. Another year, they offered Pound Puppies, since those were the hot toy of the year. Which led into a different promotion, namely Pound Purries. (Before you ask: yeah, I liked that offer more than the pups. Give me cats any day!) There was a promotion that featured Mickey and Scrooge McDuck from Mickey’s Christmas Carol. There was a Shirt Tales promo one year; I got lucky enough to score myself a Pammy Panda and a Digger Mole.
Of course, there were other offers from other places. Apparently, Burger King had a promo featuring some of the Purr-tenders; I had no idea that this had even been a thing or I would have gotten a set. In very few instances did I ever complete any of the sets; the only one that I did? It was the mixed Disney set–not the Mickey’s Christmas Carol group–that I was able to get every plush. The others? I’d maybe be able to get one or two. Being a young kid with no disposable cash in the 1980s kind of bit. It was all up to my mother as to whether or not I could get the whole collection.
Nowadays, you really don’t see things like this offered. These sorts of things are a bit too loaded now; with the concerns about obesity and unhealthy eating habits, Disney has seemingly dropped the concept of Happy Meal toys entirely. The last Disney plush I purchased was a Roger Rabbit that was exclusive to McDonald’s. The last time I heard about a quick service restaurant even offering full sized plush was KFC and that was a Pokemon promotion in the ’90s. McDonald’s did a few Teenie Beanie Babies promos, but that ship has sailed. Beanie Babies don’t have the clout that they did twenty years ago. Other properties seem reluctant to step up to the plate.
This was one of those things that made the holidays a bit more special. This was a once a year thing, something that only occurred at a time that felt more magical than usual. It was one of those things that made Christmas special when I was younger.
I may not be able to collect any new plushies from Hardee’s or McDonald’s, but I can always hit eBay for the vintage stuff. Though they won’t smell like French fries anymore.