Happy Meal

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"Cajita Feliz" box Cajitafla.jpeg
"Cajita Feliz" box

A Happy Meal is a kids' meal sold at the fast food restaurant chain McDonald's since June 1979. A small toy is included with the food, both of which are usually contained in a red box with a yellow smiley face and the McDonald's logo. The packaging and toy are frequently part of a marketing tie-in to an existing television show, film, or toy brand.

Kids meal

The kids' meal or children's meal is a fast food combination meal tailored to and marketed to children. Most kids' meals come in colourful bags or cardboard boxes with depictions of activities on the bag or box and a plastic toy inside. The standard kids' meal comprises a burger or chicken nuggets, a side item, and a soft drink.

Fast food food prepared and served in a small amount of time

Fast food is a type of mass-produced food designed for commercial resale and with a strong priority placed on "speed of service" versus other relevant factors involved in culinary science. Fast food was originally created as a commercial strategy to accommodate the larger numbers of busy commuters, travelers and wage workers who often did not have the time to sit down at a public house or diner and wait for their meal. By making speed of service the priority, this ensured that customers with strictly limited time were not inconvenienced by waiting for their food to be cooked on-the-spot. For those with no time to spare, fast food became a multibillion-dollar industry.

McDonalds American fast food restaurant chain

McDonald's is an American fast food company, founded in 1940 as a restaurant operated by Richard and Maurice McDonald, in San Bernardino, California, United States. They rechristened their business as a hamburger stand, and later turned the company into a franchise, with the Golden Arches logo being introduced in 1953 at a location in Phoenix, Arizona. In 1955, Ray Kroc, a businessman, joined the company as a franchise agent and proceeded to purchase the chain from the McDonald brothers. McDonald's had its original headquarters in Oak Brook, Illinois, but moved its global headquarters to Chicago in early 2018.


Product description

Happy Meal logo, English Logo happy meal english.JPG
Happy Meal logo, English
Happy Meal logo, Japanese. Text reads "Happy Set" (Happi Setto) in Katakana Logo happy meal japanese.JPG
Happy Meal logo, Japanese. Text reads "Happy Set" (Happī Setto) in Katakana
Happy Meal logo, Spanish. Text reads "Small Happy Box" (Latin America) Logo happy meal spanish.jpg
Happy Meal logo, Spanish. Text reads "Small Happy Box" (Latin America)

The Happy Meal contains a main item (typically a hamburger, cheeseburger, or small serving of Chicken McNuggets), a side item (french fries, apple slices, a Go-Gurt tube, or a salad in some areas), and a drink (milk, juice, or a soft drink). The choice of items changes from country to country, and may depend on the size of the restaurant.

Chicken McNuggets chicken dish of McDonalds

Chicken McNuggets are a type of chicken product sold by the international fast food restaurant chain McDonald's. Chicken McNuggets were conceived by Keystone Foods in the late 1970s eventually leading to their introduction in select markets in 1981. The nuggets were made available worldwide by 1983 after the fixing of a supply issue. The formula was changed in 2016 to remove artificial preservatives and improve the nutrition. They consist of small pieces of processed boneless chicken meat that have been battered and deep fried.

Go-GURT, also known as Yoplait Tubes in Canada and as Frubes in the United Kingdom, is an American brand of low-fat yogurt for children. It is squeezed out of a tube directly into the mouth, instead of being eaten with a spoon. It was introduced by General Mills licensed Yoplait in 1998 as the first yogurt made specifically for kids.

In some countries, the choices have been expanded to include items such as a grilled cheese sandwich (known as a "Fry Kid"), or more healthy options such as apple slices, a mini snack wrap, salads, or pasta, as one or more of the options. [1]

Cheese sandwich sandwich including cheese

A cheese sandwich is a basic sandwich generally made with one or more varieties of cheese on any sort of bread, such as flat bread or wheat bread, that may include spreads such as butter or mayonnaise. A typical grilled cheese sandwich is made by grilling the sandwich with butter or margarine and toasting it.

Pasta staple food of traditional Italian cuisine

Pasta is a staple food of Italian cuisine. Pasta is typically made from an unleavened dough of durum wheat flour mixed with water or eggs, and formed into sheets or various shapes, then cooked by boiling or baking. Rice flour, or legumes, such as beans or lentils are sometimes used in place of wheat flour to yield a different taste and texture, or as a gluten-free alternative.


In the mid-1970s, Yolanda Fernández de Cofiño began working with her husband operating McDonald's restaurants in Guatemala. She created what she called the "Menu Ronald" (Ronald menu), which offered a hamburger, small fries and a small sundae to help mothers feed their children more effectively while at McDonald's restaurants. [2] [3] The concept was eventually brought to the attention of McDonald's management in Chicago. The company gave the development of the product to Bob Bernstein, who then came up with the Happy Meal. [4]

Guatemala Republic in Central America

Guatemala, officially the Republic of Guatemala, is a country in Central America bordered by Mexico to the north and west, Belize and the Caribbean to the northeast, Honduras to the east, El Salvador to the southeast and the Pacific Ocean to the south. With an estimated population of around 16.6 million, it is the most populated country in Central America. Guatemala is a representative democracy; its capital and largest city is Nueva Guatemala de la Asunción, also known as Guatemala City.

In 1977, the McDonald's restaurant owner clients who regularly met with Bernstein were looking for ways to create a better experience for families with kids. Bernstein reasoned that if kids could get a packaged meal all their own instead of just picking at their parent's food, everybody would be happier. He had often noticed his young son at the breakfast table poring over the various items on cereal boxes and thought, "Why not do that for McDonald's? The package is the key!" He then called in his creative team and had them mock up some paperboard boxes fashioned to resemble lunch pails with the McDonald's Golden Arches for handles. They called in nationally known children's illustrators and offered them the blank slate of filling the box's sides and tops with their own colorful ideas from art to jokes to games to comic strips to stories to fantasy: whatever they thought might appeal to kids, at least 8 items per box. Inside the box would be a burger, small fries, packet of cookies and a surprise gift. A small drink would accompany these items. Bernstein named it The Happy Meal and it was successfully introduced with television and radio spots and in-store posters in the Kansas City market in October 1977. Other markets followed and the national roll-out happened in 1979.

Bronze Happy Meal presented to Robert Bernstein crediting him with creation of the Happy Meal HappyMeal3.jpg
Bronze Happy Meal presented to Robert Bernstein crediting him with creation of the Happy Meal

Bernstein received Trademark #1136758 (Serial #73148046) [5] for his idea in 1977 which he assigned to his valued client, McDonald's Corporation, on June 10, 1980. In 1987 at the annual McDonald's marketing meeting, he was recognized for his accomplishment with a full-size bronze replica of the Happy Meal box with the following inscription:

McDonald's Happy Meal 10th Anniversary 1977-1987
To Robert A. Bernstein, Bernstein-Rein Advertising
Thank you for bringing the Happy Meal, a bold idea, to the McDonald's System.
Your insight and conviction truly has made McDonald's a fun place for children for the past 10 years!
McDonald's Corporation
September, 1987

Often, the Happy Meal is themed to promote a current family-oriented movie. The first such promotion was the Star Trek Meal, to promote Star Trek: The Motion Picture in December 1979. [6] The packaging used for the Star Trek Meal consisted of various images and games related to the film, as well as a comic-strip adaptation of the film. Consumers had to buy numerous meals in order to complete the set. In 1982, McDonald's recalled Happy Meal toys because they could have been dangerous to children under 3 years of age. [7] In 1992, McDonald's withdrew their range of Happy Meal toys for the film Batman Returns , after complaints from parents that the film was unsuitable for children. [8]

<i>Star Trek: The Motion Picture</i> 1979 American science fiction film directed by Robert Wise

Star Trek: The Motion Picture is a 1979 American science fiction film directed by Robert Wise and based on the television series of the same name created by Gene Roddenberry, who also served as its producer. It is the first installment in the Star Trek film series, and stars the cast of the original television series. The film is set in the year 2271, when a mysterious and immensely powerful alien cloud known as V'Ger approaches Earth, destroying everything in its path. Admiral James T. Kirk assumes command of the recently refitted Starship USS Enterprise, to lead it on a mission to save the planet and determine V'Ger's origins.

<i>Batman Returns</i> 1992 American superhero film based on the DC Comics character Batman directed by Tim Burton

Batman Returns is a 1992 American superhero film directed by Tim Burton, based on the DC Comics character Batman. It is a sequel to the 1989 film Batman and the second installment of Warner Bros. initial Batman film series, with Michael Keaton reprising the role of Bruce Wayne / Batman. The film, produced by Denise Di Novi and Burton, also stars Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Michael Gough, Pat Hingle, and Michael Murphy. In Batman Returns, Batman must prevent the Penguin from killing all of Gotham City's firstborn sons while dealing with Catwoman—Selina Kyle, the former secretary of Max Shreck—who seeks vengeance against Shreck for attempting to kill her to hide his own plans to bring the city under his control.

In July 2011, McDonald's announced plans to make Happy Meals healthier, including the addition of apples. The redesigned meals will contain a smaller portion (1.1 ounces) of fries, along with the apples. On February 4, 2013, McDonald's announced that Fish McBites, fried Alaskan pollock, the same fish used in Filet-O-Fish, would be added as an entree, which would run until March, intended to coincide with Lent. [9]

In 2014, McDonald's added a mascot to Happy Meals in the United States, known as Happy. Happy was originated from France in 2009. Reactions were mixed, with criticism that the mascot's design was too frightening. [10]

Happy Meal toy

Happy Meal toys in Indonesia Mall culture jakarta39.jpg
Happy Meal toys in Indonesia

The Happy Meal did not introduce the practice of providing small toys to children. When the Happy Meal started in 1979, the toys back then were a McDoodle stencil, a McWrist wallet, an ID bracelet, a puzzle lock, a spinning top, or a McDonaldland character-shaped eraser. In Canada, the promotion prior to the Happy Meal was called the "Treat of the Week", where a different toy was available free on request each week. [11] This promotion continued after the Happy Meal was introduced in 1979. Happy Meal toys have become increasingly elaborate in recent years. While initially they were little more than a cheap plastic trinket such as a Frisbee or ball, they have gradually been replaced with increasingly sophisticated toys, many of which are a tie-in to an existing TV show, film, or toy line.


On November 2, 2010, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed a law requiring that children's meals sold in restaurants must meet certain nutritional standards before they could be sold with toys, to reduce triggering of childhood obesity. The law, urged in part by an increase of childhood obesity in the United States, would allow toys to be included with children's meals that have less than 600 calories and less than 640 milligrams of sodium, contain fruits and vegetables, and include beverages without excessive fat or sugar. The board overturned the veto of Mayor Gavin Newsom on November 23 to pass the law. [12] The law has been ridiculed by the satirical news program The Daily Show . [13] McDonald's circumvented the ban by charging 10 cents for the toys. [14]

A class action lawsuit seeking to ban Happy Meal toys in California was filed in 2010. The suit was dismissed in April 2012. [15]

In Chile, the Happy Meal, along with kids' meals at other fast food chains, will no longer include free toys, in response to a law banning such toys in a move to curb obesity. [16]

See also

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Changeables, also known as McRobots, was a toy series produced by the McDonald's corp. and given away with fast-food meals at their restaurants. The series used the then-popular "Transforming Robots" toy concept in conjunction with their own products. The robots could transform into items from the company.
There were three series of McRobots.

A&W (Canada) Canadian fast food restaurant chain

A&W Food Services of Canada, Inc. is a Canadian fast food restaurant chain. The chain was originally part of the U.S.-based A&W Restaurants chain, but was sold to Unilever in 1972, and then bought by its management in 1995. It no longer has any corporate connection to A&W operations outside of Canada.

BK Chicken Fries fried chicken product sold by Burger King

BK Chicken Fries are a fried chicken product sold by the international fast-food restaurant chain Burger King. At the time of their introduction in 2005, the company had intended Chicken Fries to be one of their larger, adult oriented products made with higher quality ingredients than their standard menu items. Additionally, the product further targeted the snacking and convenience food markets with a specific packaging design that was intended to be easier to handle and fit into automotive cup holders. The product was part of a series of product introductions designed to expand Burger King's menu with both more sophisticated fare and present a larger, meatier product that appealed to 24- to 36-year-old males. Along with this series of larger, more complex group of menu products, the company intended to attract a larger, more affluent adult audience who would be willing to spend more on the better quality products. They were discontinued in the United States in 2012, but continued to be sold in some markets, such as Italy. In August 2014, they were reintroduced for a limited time offering (LTO) in North America, leading to their permanent re-addition to the menu in March 2015 in over 30 countries globally.

Burger King chicken nuggets Type of chicken product sold by the international fast food restaurant chain Burger King

BK Chicken Nuggets are a type of chicken product sold by the international fast food restaurant chain Burger King. It is one of their snack oriented products designed for convenience of consumption.

Burger King products

When the predecessor of international fast food restaurant chain Burger King (BK) first opened in 1953, its menu predominantly consisted of hamburgers, French fries, soft drinks, milkshakes, and desserts. After being acquired by its Miami, Florida franchisees and renamed in 1954, BK began expanding its menu by adding the Whopper sandwich in 1957, and has since added non-beef items such as chicken, fish, and vegetarian offerings, including salads and meatless sandwiches. Other additions include a breakfast menu and beverages such as Icees, juices, and bottled waters. As the company expanded both inside and outside the United States, it introduced localized versions of its products that conform to regional tastes and cultural or religious beliefs. To generate additional sales, BK occasionally introduces limited-time offers of special versions of its products, or brings out completely new products intended for either long- or short-term sales. Not all of these products and services have been successful; in 1992, Burger King introduced limited table service featuring special dinner platters, but this concept failed to generate interest and was discontinued.

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McDonalds New Zealand

McDonald's Restaurants Limited is the New Zealand subsidiary of the international fast food restaurant chain McDonald's. Its first location opened in 1976. McDonald's New Zealand currently has over 160 restaurants operating nationwide, serving an estimated one million people each week.


  1. "Sliced apples sold to McDonald's, Burger King and grocery chains recalled for Listeria". CBS News. August 13, 2012.
  2. "La señora del Mac menú". El Periodico. 1 August 2006. Archived from the original on 3 February 2014.
  3. Pellicer, Lilliana. "Señora Presidenta". Prensa Libre. Archived from the original on 19 March 2012. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  4. "Creator of the Happy Meal Says KC Makes Him Happy". NBC Action News. Retrieved 18 August 2011.
  5. United States Patent and Trademark Office. Trademark #113678. , 1977. Web. 7 Mar 2011
  6. Applegate, Jane W. (October 23, 1988). "Food for Tots". Los Angeles Times. p. 1.
  7. "Prizes Recalled By McDonald's". The Washington Post. November 3, 1982. p. A1, B1.
  8. Olly Richards (September 1992). "Trouble in Gotham", Empire , pp. 21—23. Retrieved on 2008-08-14.
  9. Choi, Candice (2013-02-04). "McDonald's to put 'Fish McBites' in Happy Meals". Yahoo! News . Retrieved 2013-02-04.
  10. Tuttle, Brad (23 May 2014). "Why McDonald's Is Loving the Creepy New Mascot Everybody's Bashing". time.com. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
  11. Staff. "25 of the Coolest McDonalds Happy Meal Toys from the 1980s - TechEBlog" . Retrieved December 10, 2016.
  12. "San Francisco Overrides Mayoral Veto, Bans Happy Meals with Toys". CNN. November 23, 2010. Retrieved December 15, 2010.
  13. "San Francisco's Happy Meal Ban". The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. January 3, 2011.
  14. "McDonald's finds a way around San Francisco's 'Happy Meal ban'". NBC News. November 30, 2011.
  15. "McDonald's Can Keep Happy Meal Toys, Court Rules". ABC News. 2012-04-06. Retrieved 2012-06-12.
  16. Cuen, David (4 August 2012). "Chile bans toys in children's meals to try to fight obesity". BBC. Retrieved 28 August 2017.