Here I am once again kind of talking about old junk food. Well not really I guess. Just junk food restaurants and the cool toys that could be gotten from them. In the past, I’ve covered some of my favorite old happy meal toys, but for this post, I’m highlighting kid’s meal toys from places other than Mcdonald’s. You probably have memories of your own favorites, so when you’re done reading through mine, drop yours in the comments and we’ll remember them together.
Hardee’s Thunder Racers & Days of Thunder Cups
Right off the bat, I’m pulling a bait and switch with you, as this wasn’t exactly a kid’s meal offering. You could get a Thunder Racer car for just $0.99 with any purchase…not just a kid’s meal. But it might as well have been offered with the kid’s meal as far as I was concerned because that was probably what I was ordering then, and there was no way I was leaving Hardee’s without a Thunder Racer car!
Days of Thunder hit theaters in 1990, and I was all in on it. All in except for actually going to see the movie itself in the theater. Back then, it was rare to convince my folks to go to a theater to catch a movie, so I usually had to live vicariously through whatever promotional tie-in merchandise was available when new movies came out. That task was made more difficult by the fact that a lot of my friends at school were getting to go to the movies on a regular basis to see whatever the hot new thing was, and I just had to stand around and listen to them talk about how awesome it was, and Days of Thunder sure sounded exciting.
Sure I had seen the trailers for it during television commercial breaks, and I have some faint memories of reading about it in a magazine. Maybe something like an issue of Cinescape, or maybe there was a special one-shot magazine released for it or something. I don’t know, but either way, I knew what the movie was even before my friends were describing all the details to me.
But anyway, Hardee’s rolled out these Thunder Racer cars, and I really wanted them. First, they were tied to a hot new movie that I wanted to see. Second, they were 1/64 scale die-cast cars and I was already a lover of both Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars and had quite the growing collection. And third, it was an additional toy I could snag on the weekend. I say additional because I would spend my weekly allowance on a toy while shopping on the weekend, but this gave me an opportunity to get a freebie.
But you couldn’t just get them all on one visit, as a different one was available each week as you can see in the earlier photo. This meant that four separate trips had to be made to Hardee’s to get them all. A feat that I was unfortunately unable to pull off. I managed to get the first three…the City Chevrolet, the Superflow car, and the Hardee’s car but missed out on the Mello Yello one for some reason. Luckily for me, they were quickly released by Racing Champions as well and I was able to get the Mello Yello car that way. I never end up with Rowdy Burns’ Exxon car though.
I’m not sure what if anything was actually included in the Funmeal Pack meal promotion that was out at the time. I know the box featured Days of Thunder artwork, but I distinctly remember having to purchase the cars separately.
As I continued to get the various ones I had, they began to dominate play time in my room. At the time I had a few other Racing Champions cars as well, so NASCAR races were taking place on a regular basis that summer. Most of those races were won by the green and yellow City Chevrolet, but every now and then, that beautiful orange Hardee’s with Russ Wheeler at the wheel snuck out a win.
But now let’s talk just a bit about the Days of Thunder cups you could also get from Hardee’s. My brother was a big fan of special cups in general, but Hardee’s cups in particular. He has a full set of those Moose cups at one time, and numerous others as well. At this point in time, he had no trouble attaining whatever special merchandise like this he wanted as he had a job and was driving.
While I never personally cared for most cups like these, the Days of Thunder cups were ones I really wanted. I guess I just wanted to show my support for a movie that I hadn’t seen for some reason. Or I just thought they were really cool looking. Or both.
The artwork on the cups is great, and the colors really pop. I like how the Days of Thunder title logo appears on the cup in the same color as the car featured on each one. You can’t see it in the photo above, but on the backs of the cups were stats on the drivers of the cars. That could be perceived as a little lazy though since Cole Trickle drove three of the cars featured, and the stats could all be the same.
I can’t begin to calculate how much money my mom had to spend at Hardee’s on me that summer. But the food had to be bought to qualify purchasing the cars. They were $0.99 each. And you had to buy a 32oz drink to get a cup. Well, now that I think about it, I guess you could purchase a 32oz drink and get the cup, and make that the purchase that qualified you to buy a Thunder Racer car. Maybe she didn’t spend all that much after all.
Wendy’s Willow Magic Cups
Before Days of Thunder, Willow was another movie that captured my imagination in a big way. The trailer for the movie had me amped up to see it, but as I explained earlier, I rarely got to go to the movies, and Willow was another one I missed.
Now I can’t remember if I first saw the commercial advertising these Magic Cups, or if I just stumbled upon them on a regular trip to Wendys, but either way, I knew I wanted them when I first saw them. Mainly because they were for Willow, but also because of their “magic” ability. The cups had a base scene printed on them, but the rest of the scene became filled in when cold liquid was added to the cup.
I mentioned in the section above how I never really cared much for cups that were offered by fast food places, but these Willow Magic Cups were one of the exceptions. I only managed to get one of them while they were available, but I held onto it for years. In fact, I held on to it so long and used it so much that most of the paint wore off of it, and the magic was gone.
Burger King’s Alf Hand Puppets & Records
So here we are with another pick that wasn’t an actual kid’s meal toy. My apologies for that, but these things were just too damn cool to leave out because of a technicality. So in order to get these, you had to purchase a Whopper or other large sandwich, and then pay an additional $2.99 to snag one. Luckily for me, my old man liked the Whopper, and I liked the Original Chicken Sandwich, so on any trip to Burger King, we would be able to satisfy the terms of the deal.
On this one, I can see the need to require the purchase and the larger price for the toy. The hand puppets were much larger than normal toys or other premiums you would typically find at food places, and they were of higher quality. Not only that, but each one also came with a record. It was paper/cardboard, but it was a record nonetheless.
Four different hand puppets were offered, and each presented Alf in a different light. There was the baseball player Alf, Chef Alf, Rocker Alf, and the one I had, the Beach Party Alf. Now while they weren’t real accessories, each one also came with a cardboard accessory attached to the hand on the puppet. The beach Party Alf had a surfboard, Rocker Alf had an electric guitar, Chef Alf had a stew pot, and Baseball Alf had a glove.
These puppets were available in 1988, close to the end of Alf’s popularity. He never really lost popularity with me, as I was still watching the show and always on the lookout for new merchandise. These puppets fired me up, but as I mentioned, I was only able to get my hand on (in?) one of the puppets. But I made do the best I could with only one, and I think it’s still stuffed in a box somewhere at my parent’s house today.
Hardee’s Ghostbusters 2 Toys
Wow. Our second pick on this list from Hardee’s. I guess they were a bigger player in the cross-promotion game than I remembered. Much like the Days of Thunder promotion we covered earlier, there were multiple items associated with their Ghostbusters 2 promotion. There were cups, a lunch box, the Ghost Blasters pictured above, special kid’s meal containers, and even a special dessert on the menu…The Slimer Sundae!
The part of the promotion that I was most excited about was the Ghost Blasters. It was a simple noise maker that featured two buttons at its base used to trigger the sound. As I sit here and type this, I can’t really describe the sound it made, but I know my parent’s found it irritating, which meant I found it entertaining. But that’s always a fine line to walk. While it was fun to irritate parents, there was the chance that you could go too far with it and they would take whatever was causing their irritation away from you. I succeeded in walking that line with this toy.
In addition, I’ve always been a huge fan of the special-shaped food containers when they were available, and the Ghostbusters meal had some great ones. Just check out the Ecto-1 shaped box in the picture below!
Pictured with the box is the sticker sheet that came with the meal to decorate the box with, and if you’ll take a look in the lower left of the picture, you’ll see another nice addition. That is a Real Ghostbusters mini toy catalog that you got as well! So not only could you have a poor man’s Ecto-1 to play with, you could sit and drool over pictures of other, real toys on the market that you could beg your parents to buy for you.
The last part of the promotion that I’ll mention is the Slimer Sundae. I only got it once, and the only reason I was allowed to get it was because you had to purchase a dessert (or cinnamon raisin biscuit) to be able to purchase the Ghost Blaster. I couldn’t remember what it tasted like, but doing a little reading online, I see that it was a bubble gum flavor. Any clarification on that from you readers out there would be helpful in this matter.
Well, that’s going to do it for this little trip down memory lane. I hope you’ve seen something here that sparks a memory of your own. Either of these things or something else you remember getting from somewhere besides McDonald’s. If so, drop a line in the comments and we’ll chat about it.
Missing the Land Before Time hand puppets from Pizza Hut
I had completely forgotten about those “Days of Thunder” cars! Thanks for unlocking that memory. As for the Ghostbusters II noisemakers, I remember we got ours on a big road trip. I’ve got to give credit to my mother for surviving being trapped in a car with two kids and two noisemakers. I LOVED that thing. I do not remember the sweet meal kit though. That is awesome.
You were really walking a tight rope with the noise makers on a road trip. Kudos.
So glad you didn’t go with the usual suspects i.e. Muppet Babies, Fraggle Rock, Transformer McDonalds foods…etc.
I think I covered some of those when I was writing about my favorite Happy Meals from Mcdonald’s. But as you alluded, everyone talks about those, so I specifically wanted to talk about one that didn’t come from McDonald’s. Thanks for reading!