McDonald's Happy Meal promotions

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©1983 LEGO Group

Yesterday we reported that the items offered in the next LEGO-related Happy Meal promotion are nothing to get excited about, but that hasn't always been the case.

Since McDonalds first started offering toys with kids meals in 1979 LEGO-related items have been included around a dozen times. The first time was in 1983.

In today's Throwback Thursday article I look back at the good old days when they actually contained proper bricks. I won't claim that it's complete or entirely accurate because there's conflicting information on other LEGO sites and I haven't been able to find a definitive list of promotions anywhere else.


1983: McDonalds Happy Meal and LEGO Building Sets

The first promotion offered four Basic and four Duplo sets.

The Basic sets, 1912-1915, consisting of around 20 pieces each, built a car, boat, helicopter and aircraft. The Duplo sets consisted of two nondescript animals, a bird and a boat.

There's some dispute about the release date of the Basic sets: we, and the LEGO Collector book, state it was 1983 but BrickLink claims 1989. I'm fairly certain it's 1983 because as you will see below the sets in the 1989 promotion were more sophisticated, and the labelling on these matches that on the 1983 Duplo sets which BrickLink agrees were produced in 1983.

Throughout the article you can click on the image to enlarge it, and on the year titles to view the sets in the database.

View image at flickr


1985: McDonalds Super Travelers featuring LEGO Building Sets

Concrete Information about this one is particularly sketchy. We and Bricklink have just two sets listed, 1546 Aircraft and 1548 Stena Line Ferry. However this list of the 50 coolest happy Meals toys of all time (at no. 25) claims there was also a boat and a race car. The LEGO Collector book just lists 1548.

This site also claims there were four of them and that they were sold separately rather than coming in Happy Meals.View image at flickr


1989: LEGO Motion

Cars, boats and planes were again on offer in 1989, along with Duplo 1640 Tuttle the Turtle. They are numbered 1A, 1B, .. 4A, 4B which I presume means that the A and B sets can be combined to make a larger model.

View image at flickr


1999: Vehicles

1999 marked a high water mark for LEGO's co-promotions with McDonalds.There were two Happy Meal promotion that year and 3438 McDonalds Restaurant was available from LEGO shop at Home in the USA.

The first set of eight Happy Meal toys built vehicles like most of the others before. Inside each was an instruction sheet showing how to combine several of them together to make larger models.

They all come with a 2x3 slope printed with a McDonald's character, including Ronald.

View image at flickr


1999: Weird creatures

These eight sets came with bricks printed with whacky eyes, mouths and faces that are unique to them. They too contained a sheet of instructions to encourage creativity, but rather than showing how to combine multiple models they provided ideas for making different monsters from the parts in the set.

Unfortunately, this was the last time that regular LEGO bricks appeared in a Happy Meal toy.

View image at flickr


2001: Bionicle Matoran

In the year that Bionicle launched this set of six miniature Matoran sets, one for each of the elements, was offered. They contained eight pieces, some of which could also be found in regular Bionicle sets, but it wasn't LEGO as we knew it...

View image at flickr


2002: Galidor

These appalling sets were released the same year that the equally appalling Galidor theme launched. Although consisting of three or four parts, they bear no resemblance to regular LEGO parts.

The only saving grace of the promotion was the cute Duplo 1384 bird.

View image at flickr


2004: Sports and Clikits

I believe this promotion, featuring eight sports sets and seven Clikits sets, was offered in North America only. The sports sets are shockingly bad, but at least they had studs on some of the parts, as you can see in this sample inventory at BrickLink. They'll almost certainly be made from a cheaper plastic so probably don't stay together too well.

The Clikits sets, on the other hand, contained regular Clikits parts.View image at flickr

View image at flickr


2009: Racing cars

Things started to go downhill during the latter half of the noughts. In 2006, 2007 and 2008 cheap plastic Bionicle figures were offered, along with eight toys tied in with the release of LEGO Batman videogame. We haven't soiled our database with them but you can find them at BrickLink.

We do, however have this set of racing cars from 2009 listed which, again, are made of a cheaper plastic but do use studs for connecting the three component parts.

View image at flickr


2014: The LEGO Movie, 2017: The LEGO Batman Movie

Nowadays we don't even get proper toys, just cups, puzzles and other gimmicks. The days of quality toys in Happy Meals is well and truly over and perhaps putting toys in meals to encourage demand from kids is also coming to an end, according to this article published just a few days ago...


All the sets that are co-branded McDonalds have now been tagged so are easy to find. I am aware that other sets, particularly Duplo ones, were also offered as part of the Happy Meal promotions but they aren't branded McDonalds.


Do you have happy memories of getting real bricks with your chicken nuggets? How many did you manage to collect? Can you shed any light on the early promotions? Let us know in the comments.

53 comments on this article

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By in United States,

I remember getting the 1983 Happy Meal sets and loving them. I became a life-long Lego fan thereafter. Coincidence?

(oh, and the 1983 date sounds correct)

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By in United States,

1999 Vehicles and the 2001 McToran where my favorites as a kid. Everything else from then on out was instantly forgettable. I do have a few of the 2002 Galidor though, those things were awful!

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By in United States,

The reason we don't get to build with Happy Meals anymore? "They're too complicated."

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By in Singapore,

Ah Bionicle with the original mask designs. More than a decade later and I still adore them. Looking back I kinda regret not buying a happy meal because I was much too embarassed, being thirteen years old then.

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By in United States,

I remember the 1999 vehicles (I had two helicopters), the Galidor figures (I lost Euripedes' legs somewhere), and of course the 2001 McToran. I would consider those the last "real" Lego sets, since all the pieces were included in Bionicle sets

Also, it's "chicken McNuggets," not "McChicken nuggets." McChicken is the chicken sandwich.

SprinkleOtter: [Citation needed]. More likely, all boils down to cost, and also that Lego doesn't want to have "official" sets only offered through promotions.

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By in Poland,

Hmm none of the toys offered since 1983 actually appeals to me. I got 30194 and 30195 from buying petrol, but I understand that those are probably too expensive to be offered with a Happy Meal.
For one regular Happy Meal toys are made in China or in very cheap locations (and LEGO is not into cheap production), two, a 25 liter petrol purchase generates enough profit to cover a 20-brick LEGO set whereas a Happy Meal costs a few dollars.
Maybe the only way to go is to work with coupons (one set for 3 or 4 Happy Meals) but the whole "toy with a meal" thing works on the concept of instant gratification.

Although my kids would go several times to McDonald's for a LEGO set lol.
Actually I would probably eat two Happy Meals myself instead of a Big Mac if I knew it's going to get me two stickers....

I am not sure if TLG actually even needs those partnerships anymore though.I have the feeling that with the leading position they have TLG is much better off with the LEGO magazine (Friends, Star Wars, Nexo Knights) where TLG does not associate their products to any other brand and instead works with decent publishers like Egmont.

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By in United States,

I still want the Jala McToran- the Mickey D's where I lived at the time never got them in.

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By in United States,

I remember getting sets back in the 80's growing up, was quite a thrill.

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By in United Kingdom,

Is the tie-in with McDonald's actually with TLG or Warner Bros? If it is the latter then it makes sense that the free gift is not Lego. Not all the promotional material for the film will contain actual Lego.

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By in United States,

@ Drzhivago138
I believe Greg Farshtey said it when I had the chance to talk to him 12 years ago.

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By in United States,

I remember getting those as well. The bricks always seemed so much smoother, nicer than the ones already in my collection. Within a couple of weeks they'd be covered in scratches and teeth marks, not from abuse but from being played with every.single.day.

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By in United States,

I renember the Bionicles, shame I wasn't able to completely collect them.

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By in United Kingdom,

I am trying to eat less maccyds because I eat far too many and need to shift my wobbly belly. I would be doomed if they starting giving away actual lego! I think it was the mini beanie babies back in late 90s that got me addicted to quarter pounders with cheese. I was one of those folks doing under the counter deals with the management to get those beanies!

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By in United States,

*Gasp* How dare you refer to those Matoran as "not Lego as we knew it"! I don't think my family ever ate so much McDonals as we did the month those things were in Happy Meals! :)

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By in United States,

Not sure about other parts of the globe, however, twice, since I've lived in Singapore (2009=present), while it's not LEGO, McDonalds has teamed up with Nanoblocks for some impressive exclusives.

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By in Netherlands,

Great article!
The 1999 weird creatures came with instructions for combining. On the back of the instruction papers were a few combiners, including one huge one that involved all the sets.

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By in United States,

I have that Ronald Mcdonald face tile, however I have no idea how it became in my possession since I wasn't yet born in 1999.

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By in Germany,

It may be junk food but they don't need to add junk toys on top of that, I suppose. It would have been better to promote Lego with some decent polybags but yeah, sounds like wishful thinking now, after years of such horrible Happy Meal freebies.

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By in United Kingdom,

"The days of quality toys in Happy Meals is well and truly over"

Shamefully I purchased my first ever happy meal toys off ebay this week: the two (of eight) Furbies my daughter was missing from the recent promotion. I just surprised her in bed with them about half an hour ago. Don't know if I feel more shame that I actually went to ebay for happy meal toys or that I let my daughter have six happy meals over the past few weeks.

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By in Mexico,

I had the Sea Skimmer, I remeber wanted to go to McDonalds for more happy meals just for the LEGO sets.

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By in Poland,

The monsters line was amazing- they are literaly Grandpa mixels! I collect them!

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By in United Kingdom,

The big reason that you don't get Toys is because they used too do two toys a infant one and a kids one. A mother ordered happy meals but didn't tell them the age of her child and the child nearly choked and she sued McDonalds. Do they stopped putting buildabke toys in their meals

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By in United States,

Didn't McDonalds give out some LEGO Batman the Video Game toys back in 2008? Some nonarticulated figures, the Penguin submarine, batmobile, etc.

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By in Sweden,

I'm glad I won't have to chase after Happy Meals in order to get some exclusive minifigure or polybag or something like that, to be perfectly honest. I can totally live with them only including random junk instead.

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By in United Kingdom,

^^^^^ I still have a printed curved 2x4x2 monster brick from the Elderly Mixels at McDonalds and probably the parts to one of those 1999 vehicles. Wish I hadn't missed those Matoran though - I actually wondered at the time how I could get hold of one.

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By in United States,

Galidor! My most favoritest theme! I wish I was a LEGO fan when those sets were around!

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By in Germany,

I don´t exactly know, but I think there has to be a mistake in the 1989 range of sets You show. Two of them are branded as "LEGO SYSTEM" - I thought this branding did not show up before 1991??

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By in United States,

What about the 2007 Bionicles and The LEGO Batman Videogame toys?

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By in United States,

What about the 2007 Bionicles and The LEGO Batman Videogame toys?

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By in Canada,

Fond memories of 2045... it came with pieces in violet! Such a rarity!

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By in Canada,

I still have the sets listed as 1983. Although, I'm sure I didn't get them in 1983 as I would have been only 2. I do remember they were the best happy meal gifts ever! I also remember building them at the table in the restaurant. So, at least in Canada, I think the 1989 date is probably more accurate. Thanks for the look back!

I think I still have the original instructions buried away somewhere, so if you want me to look for a date, just let me know.

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By in United Kingdom,

What a coincidence! I found a bag of printed parts last night that I intended giving to my niece. Turns out, they are from the 1999 promo. Parts like 2729 Quattro's face.
I got them from a bulk buy of my friend's kid's childhood Lego.

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By in United Kingdom,

^^ Yes please.

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By in Australia,

I can attest that at least some of the 1983 sets were definitely given away with Happy Meals in Australia closer to 1989 (or at the very least re-released). I was born in 1983 but I vividly remember my parents gracious enough to take my sister and I to McDonalds four times to collect the vehicles around the time I started school, 1989.

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By in Australia,

I got 6 of the "1983" sets (in Australia) and I still have the instructions:
They all (including the DUPLO ones) say they are copyrighted "1986, 1989, 1990".
The reverse side of each advertises a special offer running between "February 1 and April 30, 1990".
So it seems to me these were available in Australia early 1990, which seems about right to me as I was born in 1985.

By the way, this is my first post and I just want to say this is a fantastic site; thank you.

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By in Australia,

My instructions for sets 1912-1915 (Australian release) have an offer from Lego: "Pirate away a bonus" with which a purchase from a regular retailer of a Pirates set over $10.00 received a free 6235; or a "Basic 3+ set" for those "under 5" with any LEGO purchase over $10.00.

The promotion was valid from 1 Feb 1990 and 30 Apr 1990; suggesting a similar availability time at McDonald's Australian outlets.

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By in United States,

only good toys were 2009

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By in United States,

I looked though all of my old Lego paperwork, and the oldest I have is 1984. The only McDonalds paperwork I still have are the directions to the 1989 Wind Whirler. Now my memory may be distorted, but I am reasonably sure the "1983" series was in the early 80's. I distinctly remember the instructions that came with them showing alternate models that could be made if you combine the set you have with another McDonalds set. It's entirely possible that McDonalds/Lego reissued this promotion in later years which is causing the confusion.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ Yes, that is my conclusion, too.

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By in United States,

Well I'll be. I was putting away all the paperwork I dug out and found a stash I didn't go through. I found the instructions for the three "1983" sets I had. The instructions I have are dated 1986, and feature images of 1986 sets such as 6940.

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By in Canada,

I've got a few of these polybag promotion set still sealed! I found a bunch at a flea market one day for dirt cheap! I've got the snowboarder, the purple bionicle dude (2) and a sealed Ronald McDonald helicopter. I've also got all the printed slope pieces with the other McDo characters on them loose in my collection.

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By in United States,

Although almost impossible, they should have just put Lego Batman Movie CMFs in the happy meals. I know it would never be possible due to the cost of minifigures compared to the cost of happy meal toys.

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By in United States,

I can now confirm that the "1983" sets had multiple releases in the US. I have two different instructions for 1914 and 1915. One is dated 1984 and the other 1986. They advertise different sets and even different taglines: 1984-"The toys that are new everyday." 1986-"The toys you grow up with." And the 1989 series has "The toys children add to rather than outgrow."

I'm glad this proves my memory of an early 80's release correct. Always good to know I'm not going senile... yet. :-)

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By in United Kingdom,

^ Thank you.

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By in United States,

@lordzarak
That makes me feel better, because my memories of the '83 sets aren't from '83. For some reason I seem to remember these around the time An American Tail was released. Oddly I remember the Duplo sets much better than Lego sets. I know we got red bird thing and boat set because of semi-unique pieces and my folks still have our Duplos. I know I would have gotten at least one for those Lego sets, but I don't recall which one (or ones) and the paper work is long gone.

The 1985 promo can't be right. McDonald's would not have done a promo with only two toys. Four sounds better. And eight makes more sense if were split with four "girls" and four "boys" toys. I'm sorry to say Lego was seen as predominantly a "boy's" toy at this time. I wasn't really into Lego at the time, so this may not have been on my radar.

I remember the 1989 promo, but for some reason I don't think I got any of these. I had become super in Lego at that point and would have jumped that chance for these, even if they weren't Castle or Pirate. These I would have kept the paper work if I would gotten them, which why I'm sure I didn't get any of them.

The rest I'd be "too old" for. I can't say I remember them as I haven't paid any real attention to Happy Meals since having to buy my sister a couple for the Beanie Babies. I'm surprised that is not a site or someone out there that hasn't document the list of Happy Meal promotions. The fact there is this much ambiguity around some of these is shocking.

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By in Canada,

I also seem to remember McDonald's offering Playmobil when I was a kid in Alberta in the early 80s. But that might have been another chain. A&W?

If I could afford a second obsession, Playmobil would certainly be a contender.

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By in United States,

I also recall a Playmobil promotion at McDonald's in that time frame. I think I got a cowboy or indian.

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By in Canada,

There are two dates on each of my original instructions. A copyright date from LEGO and a special offer deadline date. I have instructions for three sets.
1913: copyright 1984, offer deadline 1985
1912/1915: copyright 1986, offer deadline 1987
So I'll let you draw your own conclusions, but it looks like my first set came out when I was only 4! Now I know why I buy my two year old LEGO. :-)

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By in United States,

I remember a series in 1986/87 when I was in college. I specifically remember building these inside the McDonald's in Socorro New Mexico around that time

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By in United States,

The 1989 sets in the "A" group can be built together as a large plane, and the "B" group can build a large boat. See the PDF instruction manual for either group. It has not only the individual instructions but also the images for the group model. I did this last night, ironically. Probably the first person to build these in many years.

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By in United States,

I bought all the McToran in a lot a few years ago, along with two of the Boxor set. Man, I love those guys.

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By in United States,

The McToran were awesome, especially since they were the main characters from the MNOLG. it retrospect, it seems odd that the game populated its world with mostly promotional models that were hard to come by. I remember being extremely disappointed when I eventually made it to one of the restaurants and they had already sold out of the toys. But beyond the McToran, never really had any interest in their other Happy Meal toys.

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