Search This Blog


favourite Posts


5 Things I Miss About Going to McDonalds in the 90s

McDonald's recently ran a "Walt Disney World" Happy Meal promotion that celebrated a new ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios down in Orlando, Florida.  Each of the ten toys represented a different ride, like Minnie on a Pirate Ship (Pirates of the Caribbean) or Mickey in a Rocket Ship (Space Mountain.)  My daughter is a GIANT Mickey Mouse fan, so we, of course, had to get her a few of these toys. 
My wife and I have so many fond memories of visiting McDonald's during our childhoods, so we thought it would be fun for our daughter, even if she likely won't remember it.  Aside from the 40th Anniversary Happy Meal from 2019 (READ ABOUT IT HERE), we both haven't had a Happy Meal in decades, and since our little one is too young to eat the food yet, the meals were for us, and the toy was for her.  

We had a blast on our little adventure in search of Mickey toys.  On that Saturday, when she wouldn't take a nap, we threw her in the car (a sure-fire nap) and hit up about 8 local McDonald's in search of some of the ten toys.  We asked before ordering to find out what toy they had available and found out that only 4 of the ten were only available and we'd have to wait a week for the rest.  
The toys included tickets to enter a contest to win a trip to Disney, but due to COVID, the whole promotion was delayed several months, and the dates on the ticket were wrong.  Avoiding legal issues, Disney pulled the toys with the promise to remove the tickets before re-releasing them.  A week later, the toys returned for only two or three days before McDonald's canceled the Disney World promotion due to their next toy contract's hard start date.  The story has a happy ending, though, as Grandpa found them on eBay and made sure she has a full set for when she's older. 
Back in the 90s, McDonald's was such a large part of my childhood memories, and I'm sure for many of you, as well.  We didn't go very often, just the occasional Saturday afternoon when my Mom was looking to get out of the house.  Most often, it would be when she'd pick me up after half-day Kindergarten, and once her errands were complete, we'd stop at McDonald's on the way home.
That excursion for our daughter's Walt Disney toys really got me thinking about the 90s and how much fun we as kids had on our trips to the Golden Arches, so, without spoiling all my fun memories, here are 5 things I miss about McDonald's of the 90s!
1)  Advertising - 
These days it seems like the commercials are just bland jump-cuts with loud, fast-paced music that show people shoving food into their mouth while taking a selfie.  They feel disposable and unmemorable.  It's all so... 2020.  There aren't any catchphrases, tag lines, or water cooler moments anymore like I remember from the '90s.  The last catchphrase I can even remember is "I'm Lovin It," which was actually 2003.  I feel like they occasionally use it today, but did you know that today's official catchphrase (according to Wikipedia) is "Choose Lovin"?  
Nobody else does, either.  
They used to be memorable.  Like 1996-97's "My McDonald's" or especially the "Did Somebody Say McDonald's" campaign from 1998-2001.
Back in the 90s, though, they had the advertising down tight.  It didn't just include the bright colors and flashy music or font styles of the 90s, but the commercials themselves were memorable for us kids.  Who doesn't remember all of the Ronald McDonald commercials featuring the McDonaldland Gang like Grimace, Hamburglar, Birdie, and the Fry Kids?

Even in the mid-90s, when they tried to market towards adults with the Mac Tonight moon man commercials, they were definitely "water-cooler" type moments.  Many of the commercials from back then are still stuck in my head.
2)  They went all-in with movie tie ins

I guess you could say McDonald's still does movie tie-ins, but I can't remember the last time the chain dove headfirst into one.  I'm talking more than just a specially branded Happy Meal box and toys; I'm talking about when the entire store re-branded everything: cups, fry boxes, burger wrappers, signage, advertising, and anything else they could for the movie they signed a deal with. 

Do you remember when "The Flintstones" hit theaters in 1994?  McDonald's changed literally EVERYTHING and became "RocDonald's."  RocDonald's, of course, appeared in the movie as product placement. In the real world, RocDonald's had collector mugs, shirts, and other special menu items to advertise the movie and bring in hungry families to the restaurant. 

And the Happy Meal Toys?  Easily my all-time favorite Happy Meal toys are the RocDonald's Flintstones ones.  I tried so hard to collect all of the Bedrock toys but failed.  I just couldn't convince my parents to go enough times to get them all before the promotion ended, and then my cousins ended up stealing the ones I did have when we went to visit them in Syracuse.  The set itself was pretty amazing.  Of course, you could get some toys like Fred or Barney in their cars, but what I loved was the little buildings like the character homes, the bowling alley, a "Toys A Saurus" (Toys R Us), and even a RocDonald's!  I loved those little buildings and spent HOURS creating stories for my other action figures so they could spend time in BedRock.  

This isn't to say they don't create deals with movies today.  They've recently had Happy Meal toy deals with movies like Minions, Hotel Transylvania, and Spiderman. Still, they just don't compete with the memories I have from the 90s when the entire store went all-in with movies like The Flintstones, Batman Returns, or even Hook.

3)  They tried to expand the food menu 

I'll admit, they failed more often than not, but at least they tried!  I can only think of a few new food items in the past two decades that seemed like they were just new variations of the quarter pounder.  

In the 90s, however, it seemed like they always had something new.

Ever hear of the McLobster?  It was a lobster roll served in the New England area in 1993, similar to the crab cakes (the McCrab) that were available in and around Maryland.  Perhaps you tried the McHotdog from the mid-90s that I believe (not kidding) you can still purchase in some locations in West Virginia and Ohio.  

There were other hits and misses like the McPizza, McSpaghetti, or McStuffin that you may remember as well.  The McPizza actually had a decent reputation, but McDonald's claims that it was removed from menus for taking too long to cook and would often back up the drive-thru.  The McStuffin was a hot pocket knockoff from 1993 that didn't last long.  

Unfortunately, none of my local McDonald's ever carried any of these items, and I never got to try them, so I can't tell you how they were.

Then in 1996, they tried the Arch Deluxe.  Man, I feel a separate article about this coming because I loved it so much.  Since the 90s were all about kid-focused advertising, the switch to focusing on adults for the Arch Deluxe was quite the departure from Mickey D's norm.  With a tag line like "the burger with grown-up taste," the Arch Deluxe was a quarter-pound burger on a sesame seed split-top bun, with a leaf of lettuce (as opposed to the Big Mac's shredded) and tomato, onions, and a "special sauce" that I'm quite sure was just mustard and mayo.  I begged and begged my Mom to order one, so I could try it.  I wasn't a grown-up yet, so I wasn't sure I'd like it enough to order it myself.  Honestly, once you scraped off the lettuce and mayo, it was pretty good.  

Also, be on the lookout in the following advertisement for a young Jessica Biel just before she hit it big with 7th Heaven.

4)  Birthday Parties 

These days, throwing a birthday party at McDonald’s seems lame.  Actually, most people haven't stepped inside a McDonald's since they got their driver's license and could start using the drive-thru.  As a kid, I frequently attended birthday parties inside a McDonald's, and it wasn't weird at all.  The Mom throwing the party would get there early and secure a few tables by the PlayPlace, order a bunch of cheeseburgers, fries, and drinks, and we'd all eat and play.  No real mess for Mom to clean up after, and the kids all had fun.  Win-win.

Oh, and the PlayPlace?  Most locations don't even have them anymore.  In the age of COVID, I'm sure the ones that do have blocked them off or are bleaching the ball pit to death.  Even better than the PlayPlace was the Outdoor Playground.  Twice the size of the indoor PlayPlace, it had many more fun activities for kids.  They would often also have those cool park benches with a Ronald McDonald statue seated on them.  We'd climb all over the statue and pose for pictures like we were best friends just hanging out.  

By the way, back then, a McDonald's LOOKED like a McDonald's.  They were fun, bright, and inviting.  They had the golden arches, and if you were lucky, you had those retro arches that went through the building like the picture above.  At the very least, the giant red and yellow sign that proudly said, "Over 99 Billion Served."  The inside was a mixture of bright whites, yellows, and reds, and everything just looked fun and made for kids.  Some even had the cheeseburger stools to sit on!

Today, most McDonald's have converted to a bland "McCafe" with a color palette of mixed browns and blacks and muted gray tones.  The inside is a sterile bland environment that looks more like a dirty hipster coffee shop or a Chipotle than a McDonald's.

5- Supersizing Your Order

I remember the first time I pulled up to the drive-thru and ordered my standard meal:  A Super-Sized #2 (which is now #9...), and the kid on the other end of the speaker responded with a sassy "Uh, we don't SuperSize anymore.  Do you want a Large?"  I mumbled a confused and embarrassed yes and drove up to the window where I was treated with teenage contempt.  The kid looked at me like I was a giant pig for asking for my order to be Super-Sized, as well as a giant idiot for not knowing Super-Size was no longer available.  

The appropriately titled documentary "SuperSize Me" in 2004 changed the way people thought about McDonald's.  The backlash was pretty severe, and McDonald's instantly started adding healthier food items like wraps, salads, and grilled chicken.  The advertising moved away from kids and towards adults, and that's about when McDonald's stopped being a "fun" place to go and became just "a" place to go.  

Little did that teenager, the one who took my first post-Super-Size order, know that my then-girlfriend (now wife) and I were going to split the drink and fries.  

Of course, I would always get the SuperSize when I was alone, too!  :)

Thanks a lot, Morgan Spurlock...

Bonus Item - The Toys

The Happy Meals toys in the 90s were GOOD!  They were often fairly intricate and well made.  My mother-in-law had recently gotten a happy meal somewhere, and the toy was a hunk of cheap Chinese junk that hardly resembled what it was supposed to.  Who would collect those toys?  That's why we were so excited to see the Disney toys were actually well made and looked nice during this latest promotion.  

I knew when they asked my Mom, "Boy or Girl?" that the toy was going to be a bit of a dud.  There always seemed to be the standard "go-to" toys like Hot Wheels matchbox cars for boys and "Barbie" toys for girls.  They'd usually have these toys when they weren't being sponsored by a movie or the like, and I remember being disappointed when the picture on the menu was back to Hot Wheels.

I couldn't wait to use the McDonald's Bucks (READ ABOUT THOSE HERE!) that I'd get for Christmas or my birthday on whatever the latest toy craze was at school either.  I specifically remember begging to go so I could use my McDonald's Bucks on the Bobby's World toys or the Mighty Max toys (the boy version of Polly Pocket)

They also would sell items along with the Happy Meal, like collectors cups, books, or even those Halloween buckets we all remember.  I used to have two books my Mom purchased when I was home sick from kindergarten.  They were Muppet Babies books, and I remember one was about Fozzie spending all day alone with Kermit, and the other was the Muppet Babies on a dude ranch.  I'll have to ask her if she still has them.  For years afterward, the books still smelled like the salt on the french fries in the bag they were shoved into before they were handed out the window.

Man, I miss the 90s!


  1. The 80's and 90's were such an awesome time to grow up in, I miss those days too! I'm glad that there's sites like these that express points of views that I share as well. I remember the Muppet Babies books which I THINK came with Fozzie,Kermit and Miss Piggy holiday plushies, if they didn't come with them, I've always associated them with it. I have a couple of those Flintstones cars and the Fraggle Rock ones as well. You're right about the inside of McDonald's looking dull, I used to love going outside to the play area and seeing Officer Big Mac with the steel bars, and sitting on the Fry Kids and rocking back and forth. I still go to McDonald's but it's definitely changed from the fun place it used to be, to just another fast food place. I'm glad we got to witness and experience the way it was back then though, so I try to remember the saying, "Don't cry because it's over, Smile because it happened" 😊 Which I gladly do, I also loved that they brought back the Halloween Pails last year!

  2. One more thing I forgot to mention, I absolutely LOVED the promotional cups they used to have with Movie tie-ins like Jurassic Park, Batman returns, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Dick Tracy and my favorite was the 1992 Dream Team cups. A while back I actually found the entire set of the 1st and 2nd Dream Team cups, and I didn't know there were 2 cups you could only get if you ordered the set from McDonald's themselves. The Super Mario Bros 3 toys were along with the Happy Meal boxes was another of my faves. Good times.

    1. Thank you for such nice comments! I'm glad you were able to relive a little of our "glory days" back in the 90s! I took love the collector cups and have quite the display. The Flintstones and Jurassic Park are some of my favorites!