The Weird World of McDonald's Edible Food Playsets

By Adam Campbell-Schmitt |

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For decades, McDonald's has successfully sold itself as the epicenter of happy childhood memories. From ball pits to Happy Meals to meeting the "real" Ronald himself, kids have and still grow incredibly attached to the Golden Arches as a joyous symbol of nostalgia.

It's no wonder, then, that over the years, toy makers released dozens of McDonald's-themed playsets. How cool! I can actually operate my own McDonald's! Wait, at what point do we turn from being wide-eyed children fascinated at the prospect of making our own Big Macs to cynical adults using a job at McDonald's as the epitome of crappy employment?

While many of these toys were simply plastic foodstuffs or Fisher Price kitchens modeled to resemble the sights and sounds of Mickey D's, Mattel's Happy Meal Magic series put the power of making Happy Meal–inspired treats in your own hands. No, they didn't allow you to grill your own beef on a hot griddle or deep-fry potatoes in scalding oil. Instead, these kits allowed you to make the snack-ified version of savory items with a little cranking and a lot of white bread.

Take the cheeseburger, which is two vanilla wafer cookies, a peanut butter, crushed cereal, and cocoa powder patty, with fruit roll-up toppings and red and yellow icing as condiments.

Chicken McNuggets are bits of white bread dipped in honey and coated in cereal. The french fries? Strips of white bread with cinnamon sugar "salt." And for dessert: an apple pie made of, you guessed it, white bread and applesauce. There's even a shake machine that creates simulated milkshakes (no white bread involved).

What's most fascinating about these videos is the response. Not just millions, hundreds of millions of views across multiple channels and products. Clearly there isn't just a niche, but a full-on market for these kinds of demos online (even recipe ideas). Given that a 1993-priced Happy Meal Maker was a steep $50 and the mint condition kits (complete with long-expired Wonder Bread coupons) are currently selling online for as much as $550, one could argue these video makers are providing a service—a chance to vicariously play with these fun-for-five-minutes toys at no cost to the viewer.

I'll admit, there's certainly something very satisfying about watching another person go through the trouble of acquiring, setting up and operating these McDonald's toys. In fact, I'm lovin' it.

You can check out the whole line of Mattel's Happy Meal Magic sets here.

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