Both Burger King, and their longtime fast-food rival, McDonald's, have duked it out for decades with a long string of moves paralleling, co-opting, and counterpunching one another. From milk shakes to breakfast items to chicken sandwiches, a move by one of these restaurants often begets a response by the other. So naturally, after over a decade of the successful push by Mickey D's to appeal to children with their (at the time) novel concept of the Happy Meal, Burger King followed suit.
While they had trickled out a few varieties of toys that could be purchased for a couple of bucks separately in the few years prior, in 1990, it was official; the Kids Club Meal was launched. 9 years later, a "Big Kids Meal" variety made its way to restaurants as well, featuring a slightly heftier portion of food. Like their Happy Meal counterparts, Kids Meals would consist of a child-sized meal in an inviting, festive cardboard box packaged with a plastic-wrapped children's toy. This toy was often based off a popular movie, TV, or gaming franchise at the time.
And like the McDonald's toys, these have often proven to be a mixed bag (or a mixed "box" in this case). Though, BK, in particular, have churned out some toys that have proven particularly odd, nonsensical, lame, or just plain silly. Burger King always seemed to have a slight tinge of edginess and occasional zaniness in comparison to some of their other fast-food peers, and this was reflected in their kids toys.
With that said, let's take a look at 29 of the wackiest, lamest, and laugh-inducing toys this fast food juggernaut has produced over the last 3 decades.
30 Capitol Critters
I was surprised to learn upon doing some digging that Capitol Critters was an actual short-lived animated show back in the early 90s. Supposedly it was supposed to go toe to toe with the Simpsons. I guess we know who won that battle, since one's become an iconic, ongoing cartoon which still survives today, and one was naught but an obscure series only lasting 13 episodes.
This band of rats and roaches is an odd choice for the rising fast food giant to latch onto to try and raise the stock of their still novel Kids Meal brand. The figures themselves are bizzare as well, as they're apparently nearly as large as the looming Washington DC buildings from which they sit atop.
29 Cats And Dogs
In an even more odd bit of pop culture that BK has drawn from for the Kid Meal toys, apparently, the fast food restaurant felt it appropriate to release a series of lame looking cats and dogs based on an obscure action comedy. These toys released in 2010, coinciding with the release of the film around the same time.
It's also quite weird these toys are pretty static and just don't do much, considering they're based off a film that relies on action for much of its "entertainment." Simply put, your pets will likely find more amusement in these than your kids.
28 Crayola Bears
Burger King didn't officially kick off the McDonald's-esque Kid Meal campaign until 1990, though they were dipping their toes in the water in the late 80s, with the release of these Crayola Bears. This assortment of randomly colored bears could be purchased separately for a couple of bucks.
These things just come off as odd and unnecessary to me. For one, associating a crayon brand with a dull set of furry teddy bears is quite random. Additionally, this was done as a pre-Christmas promotion in '86 - despite the fact that half the colors offered don't exactly resemble Christmas themes. At least come out with a green bear to compliment the red!
26 Dangerous Book For Boys/Daring Book For Girls
This just falls under the category of "bizarre." And this holds just as true for the books themselves as much as the toys from which they're based. The boys book combines a random assortment of "how to" survival tips along with general knowledge of a myriad of factoids - from astronomy to fishing techniques.
The girls book includes typically less practical bits of knowledge (which can arguably border on insulting). These include supposedly "daring" acts like creating art, learning double dutch, and making friendship bracelets. It's even more strange that BK would see these as a fitting foundation to base toys off of.
As expected, these "toys" are rather dull (and cover but a sliver of the books' content) - consisting of Play-Doh sets to mold insects and fossils. How riveting.
25 Garfield Toys
Maybe it's me, but I never quite saw the appeal of this rather mediocre cartoon show. It featured lame characters and some pretty dry humor. Perhaps back in the days of the black and white comic strips in the late 70s, it held some charm. But an animated series in the modern era? It just falls flat. And this holds true for the BK toys as well.
It's pretty lame that 4 of these 6 toys are just different varieties of the cat himself. Where's Jon? And what's with the giant teeth on Garfield?
The first thing that's odd about these toys is that there was no apparent reason for BK to release them when they did... The original cartoon had long since ended, there was no recent film, and the modern CG cartoon series, "The Garfield Show" had just ended the same year. Perhaps this was a sort of last hurrah for the lasagna-loving cat?
24 BK Kids Glo Force Figures
Much like McDonald's and their toys based on original characters like the iconic clown, Ronald, Burger King similarly had their own cartoony franchise. The BK characters, however, proved a bit more basic, taking the form of a band of cartoon children, who would often be showcased in the early 90's to advertise various Kid Meal toys on TV.
These things look more like aliens than the Kids Club Gang they're supposed to represent.
In the case of these weird figures though, the Kids Club Gang were the toys; more specifically, neon green glow-in-the-dark figures adorning bulky space suits. It looks like these guys picked up some rather serious radiation from their trip to whatever planet they ventured to...
23 Jackie Chan Toys
Much like the Garfield figures, this series of Kid Meal collectibles isn't the most compelling to collect... Aside from the fact that they're based on a pretty average, short-lived cartoon series on the WB, they lack a diversity of characters. It's just Chan, and more Chan - taking on a number of tasks. These toys can engage in basic actions that are surely meant to reinforce the action-hero stereotype. Though with these simple plastic toys, most end up looking rather silly in their over-the-top poses.
22 Lickety Splits Food
If you thought the McDonalds Changeable food items were lame, look no further than these small figurines resembling Burger King menu items circa 1990, dubbed "Lickety Split". Considering this was the launch year of Kids Meal toys, you'd think BK would have chosen something a touch more... inspiring, or exciting than googly-eyed plastic burgers and fries saddled with tiny wheels.
I'm sure kids in the early 90s had a blast rolling these little things off tables; though that was likely preferable to parents than having a toddler try and eat one of these.
21 Marmaduke Dogs
I suppose 2010 was the year of the Burger King dog.
The same year the bland Cats and Dogs figures were released, another line of domestic pets was released; though there were no cats to be found this time. Burger King sure has a knack for picking some head-scratching franchises from which to base their toys.
That's either a very large bone, or a very small dog - hanging out on the right of the above photo.
Marmaduke, the film from which these lackluster figures are based, proved to be a pretty silly and mediocre comedy, based on an old 50s comic strip by the same name. I'm sure kids in the 2010s will get that reference...
Apparently, this was supposed to be a sort simplified, miniaturized version of Furby, with perhaps some Pokémon sensibilities. Hitting the scene in the early 2000s, these strange little guys could understand basic commands (mostly touch-based) and perform simple actions like sleeping. So why not take this already super-simplistic Furby and water it down even more for a line of Burger King toys? And while you're at it, let's make them even more bizarre looking!
19 NFL Mini Jerseys
I'll be the first to say that these tiny jerseys could actually make for some decent collectables, at least if you happened to have young kids that cared about the NFL. Still, Kids Meal toys are supposed to be, well, toys, are they not?
How could kids find fun in some painted fabric, besides just admiring them and plopping them onto the faceless cardboard helmet-laced body included? Maybe if there were some actual plastic football player figures to slip these on to, these could have been neater...
18 Mr. Potato Head Toys
Variety is the spice of life, or at least I was led to believe. Though BK seems to convey a different message with a number of their Kids Meal toy lines. Look no further than this repetitive batch of Mr. Potato Head toys for a prime example.
Aside from the fact that each one of them consists of naught but the wide-eyed mustached spud (or his picture on fries), there's also a bit of a missed opportunity here. These could have been more in line with what the Mr. Potato head toys actually feature, which is detachable parts of his face. But no - let's have twirling spuds and fry cars. Why not?
17 NCAA Basketball Toys
I appreciate the effort by BK to branch out a bit from the usual TV and film-based toys, but... college basketball, really? It's even more silly that these toys - which are really only based on the NCAA because of the logo slapped on them - are about as bland as can be. Most of them are just small rubber balls meant to resemble basketballs, laced with basic varying gimmicks.
One spins around on a stand, while another comes equipped with a weak flashlight (because why not?) At least the one with the tiny basketball hoop inside proves mildly fun, as you can actually make a (very basic) game of trying to get the tiny ball through the hoop.
16 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Bike Gear
In the early 90s, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were all the rage. So naturally, Burger King jumped on the bandwagon, creating a line of our favorite turtles in a half shell to help build on their relatively young Kids Meal brand.
Were kids actually supposed to show these off, as they peddled down the streets of their neighborhoods?
One would think they would opt for your typical action figures of the turtles; maybe throw in the iconic Turtle Blimp or van. But no, instead, we got a bunch of random bits of "bike gear." This included a shoddy water bottle, backpack, and an annoying bike horn, featuring the head of Raphael.
15 Pokémon Mini Game Boy Color
I suppose these were intended to be geared towards smaller children; maybe meant to make them feel like they were playing the classic Pokémon games on Game Boy when they were too young to do so. Still, for anyone over the age of 7, this must have just made them want to play the actual game.
These things serve no function other than to resemble the Nintendo handheld with movable cut-outs of a Pokémon (or background) slapped on the screen of the cheap plastic "Game Boy". It's odd, considering the Game Boy hardware acts as more as the toy than the Pokémon themselves. Not particularly exciting.
14 Purr-Tenders Sock-Ems Plush Dolls
Going back in time again to the pre-Kids Meal era of BK, the fast food chain released a series of really peculiar plush dolls that were supposed to resemble cats. These were based on a late 80s Fisher-Price toy by the same name.
What exactly was the appeal of these, again?
Upon pushing their fuzzy stomachs, they would let out a sound that could loosely be described as a "purr," hence the goofy name, "Purr-Tenders." These smaller BK versions could be manipulated by ripping their velcro to reveal forms of other animals like mice. It's a sort of bizarre animalistic version of Transformers.
13 Rugrats Treehouse
Rugrats was one of the more charming, memorable Nicktoons of the 90s, so it probably isn't surprising that Burger King would feature a line of Kids Meal toys from the show. The toys themselves are actually decent - they're detailed in design, and actually come with movable pieces.
By the way - how did Angelica fit her large head through the opening in that tree house?
The issue though, is that this assortment of random treehouse pieces are more like incomplete building blocks than stand-alone toys. Separately, they resemble little more than tree stumps with the babies hanging on them like apes. These things were also perhaps a bit too elaborate for their own good, since they were easily broken.
12 Silly Slammers
I remember fooling around with the larger, mainline version of these Silly Slammers. My friends and I would toss them at each other's feet and at the walls, annoying our parents in the process. Since they uttered basic phrases upon hitting a hard surface, you were essentially encouraged to throw these little plushies around.
I'm sure parents weren't too happy with the higher-ups at BK, sitting with their kids inside the restaurant as they whipped these goofy mini Halloween Slammers all over the table.
11 Teletubbies Plush Dolls
These Teletubbies Kids Meal toys are clearly aimed at a younger audience, which is a tad ironic considering they're the most likely to be creeped out by these alien-like dolls.
Just look at their wide, soulless eyes; it's like they're staring into your soul.
Their legs came with little pockets to stuff your fingers in, in case you wanted to amuse yourself by making a Teletubbie waltz around or poorly dance. They also came with clips protruding out of their hooded heads, so you could hang them... somewhere?
10 Twilight Saga: Eclipse Toys
Seeing as many of the toys on this list, and in fact, in general, coming from BK were at least a tad geared more towards boys, it makes sense that girls should get their fair share too. It's a shame, then, that one of the few girl-tailored toys ended up so silly and lackluster. These weren't toys as much as they were "accessories" or collectibles. You had cards, pamphlets, plastic lockets that revealed a solemn-looking Edward, and an amulet of Jacob that growls. Yes, seriously.
9 Wii U Toys
At least the Kids Meal toys centered around Nintendo's far more successful Wii made sense from a financial standpoint. But the flop that was the Wii U? That's more of a head-scratcher, especially since the focus on these toys is the controller rather than Nintendo's actual IPs.
One particularly silly variety includes a stick of clay which you use to mold into a Mario mustache by pressing it inside a Wii U gamepad shell.
For another toy, the name of the game is to launch the discs from the plastic "controller" through the hole of a cardboard stand. These toys didn't exactly do Nintendo proud. Aside from the fact that it made little contextual sense to launch turtle shells from a controller, the thing also broke quite easily.
8 Wild Wild West Sunglasses
Coming off the cowboy boot heels of the goofy action comedy film in '99 starring Will Smith, Wild Wild West, Burger King released a lineup of random toys based off the film. Probably the silliest and most pointless though comes in the form of a pair of cheap sunglasses, meant to resemble those of James West.
I guess this beats the Ronald McDonald sunglasses, at least...
These plastic-framed sunglasses couldn't have been too comfortable to wear and probably snapped easily. And while James West wore these with style, I doubt too many kids looked or felt cool strutting around with this cheapo pair of semi-functional sunglasses.
7 WWE Talking Plush Dolls
Not much needs to be said about these laughable WWE plush dolls. I mean, just look at them. Their hilariously wide and squished figures make them look like roided-up dwarves from The Lord Of The Rings. These little guys also came equipped with poor quality voice boxes inside their large bellies, which likely wore out after days of repeated use. These included pointless, repetitive one-liners from wrestlers like Triple H simply claiming "I AM the game". In the case of the famous Undertaker, you got a brief, grainy rendition of the Undertaker's entrance music.
I was rather surprised to discover this off-the-wall franchise actually existed outside the quirky boundaries of Burger King Land. In fact, this was an obscure line of toys created by Galoob, the same company who created Micro Machines.
I guess instead of tiny cars, we're given tiny robots, equipped with a weird hodgepodge of random mechanical bits and weaponry.
That bot with the protruding bug eyes looks particularly hilarious, not to mention a touch creepy. It no doubt must have creeped out plenty of kids as it stared them down on their dresser in the dark while they tried to sleep.
5 Nickelodeon Back To School Calculator
Around the same time that McDonald's was cranking out Teenie Beanies, based off the stuffed toy phenomenon that sold like hotcakes, their rival saw fit to create "toys" that reminded kids of school. Because every kid thinks "school supplies" when they think of fun!
"Quit doing math on that silly calculator, Timmy, and finish your burger!"
Partnering with Nickelodeon, BK cranked out a series of pretty dull and unappealing toys, including a small dry erase board and a funky looking calculator. I can't speak for children, but I assume most don't want to be reminded of the drudgery of class when eating fast food.
4 Barnyard Commandos
No, Barnyard Commandos isn't some obscure Burger King-concepted franchise. In fact, these hilariously weird toys are based off an equally strange line of action figures created by Playmates Toys. It even got its own TV show, which, perhaps unsurprisingly, didn't have a long run.
I see a little bit of Ninja Turtles in here, except far stranger and not nearly as enduring.
The franchise stars a rag-tag band of talking sheep and hogs, with cheeky names like "Private Side O' Bacon." These hogs are saddled up in some sort of a mechanized ill-fitting cross between a spider and a jet. Why even base Kids Meal toys off such an obscure franchise, especially when the concept is so bizarre?
3 Burger King Bug Riders
In a 1997 commercial that begins with the fast food chain bragging that their fries are "better than McDonald's fries" (I beg to differ), the end portion features a kid planting these strange light-up plastic bugs all over the house. An easily frightened dad lets out a comically over-the-top gasp; though his reaction should have been "huh?"
Why is the Burger King Kids Club Gang riding gigantic insects, and nestled so far inside that only their upper body is visible? Who knows. But hey, kids like bugs, right?
2 Lifesavers Freaky Fellas
There were seemingly plenty of film, TV, or pop culture options to draw from when looking for inspiration for a line of kids toys in the early 90s. So it's a head-scratcher, then, that BK would choose to opt for some creepy looking alien-like creatures designed to house a candy unrelated to Burger King - Lifesavers specifically.
Well, they certainly got the name of these things right, at least...
Yes, apparently the purpose of these wasn't to be "played with" per se, but rather, to store stacks full of hard candy. Just in case your child hadn't had enough sugar with their soda, they could get a bigger fix from the hallowed innards of these guys!
1 The Lion King Finger Puppets
I do have a bit of a soft spot for these Lion King finger puppets. After all, they're based off one of my favorite Disney cartoons. They also make for one of the few Burger King toys I actually recall getting as a kid, so there's certainly some nostalgic weight with these things. But taking the nostalgic glasses off and reexamining these from a place of impartiality, they were pretty goofy.
First of all, the fact that these little guys pop out of square boxes is a bit of a head-scratcher. What's "Lion King" about that? Second, you can't exactly do much with these basic toys other than make them emerge from their boxes and wiggle them around like some strange mini jack-in-the-box variant.