I don’t eat at McDonald’s. Not anymore. Sure I drive around and see fast food restaurants that call themselves McDonald’s but it’s a lie. That place is gone. I know because I’ve been there. To the real McDonald’s. The McDonald’s of the 1980’s.
McDonald’s never really did much in the way of food variety but what it did, it did well. Their menu was so simple and elegant that it could have been poetry…or a song. In fact, it was a song!
You had burgers, fish and chicken all served on buns. Then your finger foods: fries and Chicken McNuggets. (Chicken McNuggets were so ingrained into my childhood brain, that for much of my young life, I didn’t understand the concept of a nugget not being “Mc”. In my life all nuggets were McNuggets.) Adults ate strange and mysterious foods. Sandwiches with special sauce…Sandwiches so sophisticated, that the components had to be kept in separate compartments to prevent cross contamination and a huge upset in the balance of cool to hot sides.
The meals I enjoyed didn’t have special packages or special sauces. They had something really special…a prize. A prize that was a toy to whatever quality cartoon franchise had the deal at the time. There is a reason people still collect with McDonald toys from the 1980s and it reason is they were fantastic. Of all those wondrous Happy Meal Toys, my favorites were the ones that weren’t licensed at all. They had McDonald land toys, Denier monsters and space robots and yes, my friends, the legends you heard are true…at one time McDonald’s had transforming toys. But not just any old vehicle to robot “transformer”. No! These intergalactic warriors transformed from robot to McDonald food! And though these toys eventually led to the cancellation of both The GoBots and the Transformers; there was a bright side. Finally we could answer that age old question; could an Egg McMuffin defeat a Quarter-Pounder in hand to hand combat?
I would hurry through my Happy Meal which was usually a cheeseburger, fries and an Orange Drink! A beverage that, to this day, I still don’t know if it was Hi-C Orange or an honest to goodness menu item called Orange Drink. (If you know the answer to this, please don’t tell me whether that was the official name or not. It was and will always be orange drink to me!) The dessert to round-out your dinner were the always delicious McDonald Land Cookies…not apple slices. In the 1980s if any Mickey-D’s clerk would have attempted to sell a kid apple slices they would have been slapped right across the face and then relieved of duty. McDonald’s had NO time for any of that hippie crap.
After eating, the usual routine was to leave the boring confines of a 1980’s fast food restaurant and step through the doors into an amazing world. McDonald Land! And let me be clear, by McDonald Land, I don’t just mean the playground, I mean McDonald Land.
Created in the same wonderful acid-induced, costume-puppet madhouse that brought HR Puffinstuff into the world. This was a place that a kid felt like he could really become a part of…at least, I always did. It was a world with armless fry-loving monsters. And a clown who wasn’t some hipster playing soccer or rollerblading (with full padding). Our Ronald McDonald was to busy for that noise. Battling Captain Crook, keeping the Fry Guys in line and monitoring the ever changing worldview of the sometimes evil / sometimes not evil milkshake loving purple blob creature known (to those who survived) as Grimmace.
There was Big Mac Cop, trying to bring some justice into that crazy mixed-up world and maybe stop the Hamburgalar’s rein of terror. It wasn’t easy. The streets of McDonald Land were not always a friendly place and sometimes you had to bend the rules and teach that scum a lesson out of their own playbook. After all, with Mayor McCheese constantly breathing down his neck, looking for results and both his badge and ass on the line; sometimes he had to do what he had to do.
But now all those things are gone. The mini live-action cartoons that used to be the commercials have been replaced with overproduced nonsense that makes you think McDonald’s is a place where kids go to grab some carrot-sticks in between tennis and ballet practice.
The awe-inspiring playground with their larger than life depictions of those wonderful characters have been removed and sold. What passes as a kids play area at the “new” McDonald’s is a terrible place. A labyrinth of futuristic brightly colored tubes that looks more like a giant nightmarish hamster track than anything that a normal red blooded American child would play on.
A lot of suckers out there will tell you that “You can’t go home again.” I’m here to tell you, that’s just hogwash. I can go home; all damn day!
McDonald’s, on the other hand, that my friends is a place to which you can never really go back.
Claymation Werewolf has an evil plan to bring about a Nostalgia Revolution for a time when cartoons were actually good. You can find more of his posts about toys, cartoons, puppets and horror on his blog at http://claymationwerewolf.blogspot.com.
7 Comments Add yours
“In the 1980s if any Mickey-D’s clerk would have attempted to sell a kid apple slices they would have been slapped right across the face and then relieved of duty. McDonald’s had NO time for any of that hippie crap.”
LMAO!!! Preach on, brother!! Fantastic post…
I still have my mcdonalds tranformers
They were great toys. Probably one of my all time favorite kid’s meal prizes. I still have some myself and keep an eye out for them whenever I toy hunt. Thanks for the comment!
The original Hamburglar is one creepy lookin dude. Maybe he was a reformed pedophile doing community service…
You’ll be lucky to find even the “Habitrail” Play Lands anymore. McD’s is moving away from attracting the kids, they’re taking out those wonderfully unsanitary ball pits and remodelling their stores to be more “hip.”
Ah, Orange Drink. In the time of which you speak, it was Orange Drink. It didn’t become Hi-C until the 90s I believe. You’ve probably seen the “Orange Bowls” that McD’s would rent out for functions: the big plastic, yellow cooler. The kind of cooler you might see on the sidelines of a sporting event or being dumped on the coach’s head after a win. It would be rented out on deposit with jugs of concentrated orange drink mix (just add water!) and cups. I did 13 years in McDonaldlandia, so if you got more questions…
Wow 13 years that’s a long time, like “career long” I might just have some McDonald’s questions for you! Doing my so-called research for this post made me crazy nostalgic, wanna hop in my El Camino time machine and go pay a visit to REAL McDonald’s. The best part of your comment? The revelation that my favorite childhood drink really was calked Orange Drink. Made my day! …wish I had one of those orange bowls…
Great post! I miss the original Apple Pie. People don’t seem to remember that it wasn’t always this baked monstrosity. No, that thing was DEEP FRIED! The closest thing to it these days is the Taco Bell Apple Cinnamon Empanada. Anyway, I went to McDonalds in Paris a few years back, and it’s like the 80s never left. They still had the good pies, and the meat tasted like it used to. Say what you will about the French, but they’ve got a monopoly on “good McDonalds”!
They should capitalize on it and bring back the full 80’s McDonald’s experience. Orange Drink and all! I think I also remember the fried apple pies, and they were indeed good stuff!