Thirty-three years after its inception, the McDonald’s “Happy Meal” will no longer come complete with a toy. Well, not in San Francisco anyway. This week, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted (8-3) to ban the inclusion of toys in children’s meals that do not meet certain nutritional standards. Apparently the so-called Happy Meal either exceeds 600 calories, 640 milligrams of sodium, does not contain fruits and vegetables, or includes beverages with excessive fat or sugar.
The new law is obviously an effort to combat the recent childhood obesity epidemic by making unhealthy foods less appealing for the impressionable youth. McDonald’s is obviously unhappy about the decision – but what about the movie companies whose Happy Meal promotional toys can be worth millions in licensing deals and advertising?
A co-worker of mine found a YouTube video with the robotic performers from one of my favorite childhood places, Showbiz Pizza. I celebrated several birthdays at Showbiz and I was sad to see it change into Chuck E Cheese. I actually enjoyed watching the robots perform, but also loved getting all the promotional toys as well. What goes around always comes back around, and it seems promotional toys are reverting back to the classics with yo-yo’s and Rubik’s cubes. Even though I won’t be able to take my nieces or nephews to Showbiz Pizza, technology has provided a way for me to see a little nostalgia via the internet videos. So long Billy Bob.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about a cool iPhone app called ‘Pilgrim’s Punch-Out’, inspired by the film (which was inspired by the graphic novel) Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. This time, it’s the other way around: the popular ‘Angry Birds’ game app, which has sold over 6.5 million times downloads, aims to expand its franchise to movies, television, and even promotional toys. Rovio, the Finnish company behind the hit game, plans to create sequels and more versions of the ‘Angry Birds’ game to keep customers engaged with its characters and storyline, according to Variety. An animated YouTube trailer created to kick off this campaign (featured above) has over 5 million views, an encouraging statistic as the company moves forward in its brave endeavor. As Rovio CEO told Variety Daily, “There will be a huge concentration of games coming to smart phones… We hope we can be the first major franchise to come from mobile” (Variety).
In case you missed my blog post about my love for Harry Potter last October, the basic gist of the entry was that I am a HUGE fan of the adventure-seeking wizard and his enchanted peers. So when I heard about the forthcoming opening of Universal Orlando’s “Wizarding World of Harry Potter” attraction, I could hardly contain my excitement.
Tomorrow, March 9, marks Barbie’s 51st birthday (though she doesn’t look a day past 22). Yes it was 51 years ago that “Barbie” – named after her creator Ruth Handler’s daughter Barbara – was first presented at the American International Toy Fair in New York City. It is estimated that over a billion Barbie dolls have been sold worldwide in over 150 countries since its debut, despite plenty of controversy and lawsuits that have tried to deface this cultural icon. But, alas, Barbie has prevailed through the decades, enchanting the lives of little girls everywhere and helping to boost many other noted brands as a promotional toy.
The “Happy Meal” debuted at the fast-food chain McDonald’s in June of 1979 as an advertising medium to promote McDonald’s as a family restaurant, especially one for those with small children. It cost one dollar, and along with the choice of hamburger or cheeseburger, small fry, and small drink, also came, of course, the Happy Meal Toy, which in 1979 meant either a McDoodler stencil, a puzzle book, a McWrist wallet, an ID bracelet or McDonaldland character erasers. Since then, children across the globe have been delighting in this kid-sized meal with a side of fun found in cheap, plastic promotional toys.