Stopping at the McDonald’s on Memory Lane

I mentioned last month that I’ve been doing a bit of late-Spring cleaning, and the process continues. This weekend, I was poring through some McDonald’s toys my mother had saved over the years (and when you’re one of six kids, those toys add up quickly).

(One section of the counter absolutely covered with toys.)

And as I was organizing and sorting an egg box full of these silly little gems, I couldn’t help but find the puzzliest among them to share with my fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers.

It seems appropriate to start with toys that resemble the brand’s signature food items.

When it comes to puzzle toys, you really can’t go wrong with something that transforms. Figuring out the proper steps to reveal the hidden character or form inside can be simple or complex, depending on the toy. Obviously McDonald’s kept it simple with these Happy Meal handouts, but it didn’t make them any less weird or delightful.

These faux foods are from two different series of McDonald’s toys — the fries and hot cakes & sausage from 1986/1987, the burger and hotcakes from 1990 — and each transforms to reveal something unexpected.

As you can see, the late ’80s toys become robots (keeping in line with the whole Transformers mentality) while the 1990 toys become curious food/dinosaur hybrids.

1992 brought us these stackable circus characters, testing the balance and dexterity of younger minds to see what diabolical human towers they can cook up. In my house, this quickly became a Jenga-like game of each person selecting a piece and taking turns to stack them, often with disastrous results.

(My tower…just before it collapsed.)

But by far the puzzliest of the toys I uncovered was also one I’d completely forgotten about.

Back in 1991, McDonald’s partnered up with NASA to spark interest in space exploration with a run of Happy Meal toys all about astronauts, space technology, and more.

One of the best and most challenging sets was this small space module, complete with two astronauts, logos, and flames.

If memory serves, there were also a lunar rover and a satellite, all built with these wonderful double-sided cardboard pieces.

It was a blast to rediscover these puzzle-fueled delights amidst a plethora of TV and movie tie-in toys, animated characters, and other nuggets of fast-food childhood fun.

Did this post remind you of any puzzly toys you found in cereal boxes, fast food orders, or the like? Let me know in the comments section below!

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