There was no greater treat as a kid than that once-in-a-blue-moon trip to McDonald’s. Be it because you were out on a road trip, or for some reason or another your parents didn’t want to cook, the anticipation of getting into that Happy Meal box was almost unbearable. We’ve all had that drive home at dusk, snacking on stale fries and rolling a little mini-vehicle with a pop culture character on it across the seat of the car. Happy Meals have marketed themselves perfectly to their core demographic, and while these days the toys included aren’t marketed quite as hard as they used to be, they’re still a key component of the experience.
Superhero figures have been a mainstay of Happy Meal toy lines, used to market new television shows or upcoming movies to children in the hope of getting them to beg their parents for more expensive toys or for movie tickets. Sometimes you get pretty great Happy Meal toys, but there have also been quite a few stinkers. Be it individual figures or entire lines, we’ve compiled the worst of the worst to drag up the memories you have (or have tried to forget).
15 BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES MINI-VEHICLES (1993)
McDonald's did a few Batman: The Animated Series Happy Meal lines, but this one was the first. Admittedly, half of the line is awesome! Batman, Batgirl, The Riddler, and Catwoman are all represented in pretty nifty, 4 points of articulation glory. Scaled to roughly 4” (and properly scaled, even!), these four figures were a real treat. Any kid would have loved to have gotten one of these in their Happy Meal.
But the other half of the line was disappointing. Robin, The Joker, Two-Face and Poison Ivy are represented by gimmicky mini-vehicles: Robin’s motorcycle has a pull-back function, Joker has a battering ram, Two-Face’s car has swiveling alternate designs and Poison Ivy’s car has a chomping plant. Not only were the vehicles largely the opposite of B: TAS’ aesthetic, they weren’t even in scale with the rest of the line.
14 MARVEL SUPER HEROES (2010)
McDonald’s put out this line of Marvel Super Heroes toys in 2010, cashing in on the growing success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Marvel’s push to more feel-good stories with the advent of "The Heroic Age." Unfortunately, they turned out to be less than stellar figures. The figures had very little articulation and very simple, generic paint applications.
Iron Man has wheels on his groin so he can slide along a table, but winds up looking ridiculous. Thing and Hulk have a voice box and a button to make them flex respectively but at the sacrifice of only having neck articulation. The Silver Surfer isn’t just molded poorly, he’s got a surfboard that’s just a slab of plain, silver plastic. This line dropped the ball hard, even for fans of Marvel’s toy lines.
13 SUPER LOONEY TOONS (1992)
Thanks to Tiny Toon Adventures, Taz-Mania and the debut of Cartoon Network, the Looney Tunes brand enjoyed something of a resurgence in 1992. Naturally, this led to Looney Tunes being everywhere for a bit, and that included a line-up of Happy Meal toys that took advantage of the line’s’ relationship with DC Comics.
The four-figure line featured Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tazmanian Devil and Petunia Pig (the line predates Lola Bunny by several years). The four characters become Super Bugs, Taz-Flash, Wonder Pig and BatDuck thanks to snap-on costumes. The figures look pretty cool, but the play value just isn’t there. The figures are stuck in the same, generic hero pose, and thanks to the snap-on, hard plastic costumes, have no articulation at all, making them closer to statues than toys.
12 STAR WARS: CLONE WARS BOBBLE HEAD SHIPS (2008)
Star Wars had more than a few toy lines over the years, and the release of 2008’s The Clone Wars animated film only meant more toys to come. McDonald’s celebrated the film’s release with a series of toys packed into Happy Meals, celebrating not only The Clone Wars but the whole of the Star Wars franchise for the first time ever. Unfortunately, they weren’t great toys, even by Happy Meal standards.
The figures, at their base, were small plastic models of different Star Wars vehicles -- 18 in total. Glued to the top of each figure was a stylized bust of a different character’s head. The molds of the figures were stylized, a halfway point between the look of Clone Wars and the live-action films that predated it. But ultimately, they were just a collection of cheap plastic bobbleheads that failed to impress.
11 STORM (1996)
Storm’s had a pretty miserable action figure history, with her figures being few and far between. Her Happy Meal presence is even worse. As near as we can tell, this is Storm’s only Happy Meal figure in existence, and one of only two kid’s meal toys of the character that exists (the other being a figure diorama released by Hardee’s in 1995).
The figure is a pretty poor representation of Storm, too. Molded into translucent blue plastic, Storm is only modeled from the waist up, her body outline obscured by her cape, crossed arms and uncharacteristically bouffant hairdo. The figure rolls along on a set of wheels with a sparker attached to represent her mutant abilities, but the nature of these toys means most of these sparkers likely don’t work anymore.
10 MJ CLIP-ON FASHIONS (1995)
It’s pretty rare for a female character to crop up in a line of superhero toys, especially when said character isn’t a superhero herself. To the surprise and delight of many, Mary Jane Watson was one such figure when this Happy Meal wave hit one year after the premiere of FOX’s surprise hit Spider-Man animated series.
Don’t get too excited, though. In a line that featured incredible 4 points of articulation Spider-Man and Doc Ock figures, Mary Jane got the short end of the stick. The figure is a lump of solid plastic with a coat inexplicably blowing open and no articulation whatsoever. This is to accommodate MJ’s “clip-on fashions,” a set of hard plastic outfits that clipped on. Sure, MJ was a model and actress but when that’s all the figure can do, it really hurts the appeal of finally featuring a female character.
9 BATMAN RETURNS MINI-VEHICLES (1992)
Batman Returns was going to be a blockbuster powerhouse no matter what happened. So when the McDonald’s Happy Meal toy line dropped, kids got excited. Unfortunately, the line wasn’t terribly exciting. It consisted of four vehicles: a Batmobile that shot its front half like a missile, Batman in the Batskiboat, Catwoman in a purple cat car and The Penguin in his “Umbrella Roto-Roadster.”
The toys were fairly bland vehicles with barely sculpted versions of the characters seated in them. But what really hurt the line was the controversy. Batman Returns was rated PG-13 and was damn near an R rating at the time. There was a huge backlash from parents over the tone of the film and what was perceived as a misleading toy tie-in, which is what ultimately started the chain of events which led to Tim Burton leaving the franchise.
8 BATMAN BIKE MIRROR/STORAGE CONTAINER (1996)
The whole of the Batman & Robin Bike Accessories line bears mentioning, but only in the sense that they’re wildly underwhelming. The Storage Container probably sticks out the most, as it's’ exactly what it says it is: a small, empty, black plastic container you screw to your handlebar with a Batman sticker on it.
The other alleged Happy Meal toy was a bike mirror; again, in simple black with a Batman logo on the back and a small figurine of Batman inexplicably in a position where he’s made to look like he’s flying along on top of the mirror. The only piece not mentioned here, a mountable drink container stylized to resemble the Batmobile, narrowly avoids scrutiny in that it at least looks alright and serves a purpose.
7 MIGHTY DUCKS IN A PUCK (1997)
The Mighty Ducks animated series from 1997 was... an odd duck (pun intended). Inspired by the Anaheim hockey team of the same name, this sci-fi action/adventure show spent just shy of a year as a heavily marketed part of ABC’s Saturday morning line-up, and with good reason. The show had high-quality animation and a stellar cast of voice acting talent that included Tim Curry, Tony Jay, and Jennifer Hale.
And while the toy line that released was similarly well-made, the Happy Meal offering was rather anemic. The line consisted of four toys, featuring team leader Wildwing, his brother Nosedive, combat specialist Mallory and the roguish Duke L’orange. The figures were just modeled from the waist up and sat in rubberized hockey pucks that rolled on ball bearings, making them perhaps the least exciting Mighty Ducks toys to be released.
6 COLOR CHANGE INVISIBLE WOMAN (1996)
The Thing and The Human Torch tend to get quite a few kid’s meal figures, but mainly because it’s pretty easy to pull off. The Thing is just a big chunky figure of some sort (a 2010 figure had only neck articulation and a speaker for a tinny voice box) and Human Torch is some variety of generic figure made of translucent plastic (some versions incorporating a light-up effect).
But poor Susan Storm only got one figure that we could find, and what a doozy it was. This Invisible Woman figure, released in the 1996 Marvel Super Hero wave, is by default an unarticulated, solid lump of plastic with a strange, slightly translucent, white paint job. Dunk her in cold water, and Susan turns visible by means of a heat-sensitive paint job that you can barely see in even ideal circumstances.
5 DC SUPER HERO GIRLS/JUSTICE LEAGUE ACTION (2016)
Another of McDonald’s infamous split-gender waves, this offering was meant to have something for girls and something for boys. What it was, though, was a disappointment. The crux of the line had five Justice League Action figures (including Superman, Batman and Green Arrow) and five DC Super Hero Girls figures (including Batgirl, Wonder Woman, and Supergirl). The figures have limited articulation at best, but do look pretty nice.
But split throughout the line were six costume accessories. For boys, it was “masks” of Batman, Hawkman and Green Arrow, which basically amounted to costume glasses with no lenses and moderate molding. For girls, it was worse. While Wonder Woman’s tiara looked alright despite the cheap, neon yellow plastic, the rest of the line underwhelmed with a pair of Batgirl glasses and a Supergirl hair band.
4 THE JOKER HORN (1996)
Batman gets plenty of play in kids meals, but that means he gets some weird toys. Sometimes you get figures with solid designs and passable articulation. Sometimes you get a solid plastic figure with sloppy paint. But a 1996 tie-in geared towards helping kids get active may have been the most bizarre Happy Meal toy of them all.
Tying into The New Adventures of Batman & Robin shortly before it made the jump to The CW, this set of bike accessories included a Joker Horn. Designed to be screwed to your handlebars, squeezing the horn, which was modeled to resemble the head of Mark Hamill’s iconic Joker, would produce a pretty weak horn noise. It didn’t help that the molding was just off enough to look strange, making the novelty of the horn more terrifying than anything.
3 SPIDER-SENSE PETER PARKER (1995)
Spider-Man stories typically go out of their way to establish a consistent, obvious symbol or style that means Peter’s Spider-Senses are activated. The animated series would use a weird negative photo filter strobe effect as it zoomed in on Peter, usually, while he screamed “Spider-Sense!” just in case viewers didn’t catch on.
This McDonald’s figure tying in with the series instead pays homage to the original comics style for Pete’s Spider-Sense, a half-mask design. To create the effect of the power triggering, the figure has two heads: one regular, and one with Spider-Sense triggered. The problem is this effect is triggered by rotating the torso using an arm. This means the figure, already losing points for being a generic looking Peter Parker figure, is also saddled with a bulky, ugly chest design and a measly one point of articulation.
2 WOLVERINE (1996)
Wolverine’s had his fair share of Happy Meal toys, including a 2010 Marvel Super Heroes wave atrocity where he had no articulation, atrocious body proportions and his action feature was popping a pair of short, poorly molded claws. But even worse is this figure from the 1996 Marvel Super Heroes wave, which is barely a Wolverine figure.
Depicted from the waist up with barely any detail (even his black torso stripes are gone), Wolverine is plopped into a Blackbird that is almost as big as he is. The Blackbird’s unique special feature: press the rear fins forward, and a set of claws spring forth from the Blackbird’s wings. There’s not much, if any, play value here, and the design of both the Blackbird and the Wolverine figure itself look pretty poor, all things considered.
1 THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 (2014)
This might be the worst toy line McDonald's ever put out, superhero or otherwise. Tying in with the release of The Amazing Spider-Man 2, this was another split-gender wave, with toys aimed at boys and different toys aimed at girls. The boys side of things was alright. There was a Spider-Man with light-up eyes, an Electro with dead eyes and a “trading card tin.”
The girls line of the wave is a bit of a slap in the face, though. Rather than an action figure, there’s a clutch. Rather than mini-vehicles, there’s a headband. Even the “trading card tin” is replaced with a “heart sticker tin,” literally a heart-shaped piece of aluminum with sheets of cheap stickers included. There was even a bulky, gaudy heart-shaped ring that doubled as a watch.