We are the products of an age of products. Unless you grew up in a fortified, television-free compound, it is quite likely that you have fond memories of meals under the familiar shadow of the golden arches, and that a special portion of your toys came not from a store, but from the grease-spattered box or bag of a kid’s meal.
McDonald’s was not the only franchise to market itself aggressively with small toys, but it has always been the leader of the pack in blurring the lines between brand identity and imaginative play in the impressionable minds of little ones. Not only did it master the art of promotional toys, but it managed to promote its signature menu items in some of its most successful campaigns—that is, kids clamored to go there to get a toy advertising McDonald’s itself. And carrying this further, for decades toy companies have manufactured popular co-branded fast food playsets.
Whether you think this is harmless fun or preying on the weaknesses of vulnerable little ones to convert them into type 2 diabetes sufferers of the future, it is hard to deny that a tiny hamburger that transforms into a tiny robot is packs massive appeal, as does the opportunity to preside over your own miniature Kentucky Fried Chicken, complete with a Colonel Sanders finger puppet. Here’s a collection of fast food toys that are facsimiles of the fast food they promote.
Sara Bir is Paste’s food editor. She’d rather play with pretend fast food than eat the real stuff.