Halloween in the eighties ruled. Being born in 1982, this allowed me to live most of my childhood throughout the glorious decade, following being an angsty pre-teen during the Grudge era, and ending my adolescent years as the Class of 2000. I feel pretty lucky to have experienced these monumental changing of the tides; but one thing that has changed too much and I fondly miss, is the way Halloween WAS growing up. Most people could attribute that to, “eh, it’s never the same as when you were a child”; which is of course, true. However, some Halloween traditions should never have gone away- and that one is the McDonald’s Halloween Buckets.
I’ll never forget the first commercial I saw for these national treasures. It was during a CBS airing for Garfield’s Halloween Adventure, which I uploaded in it’s entirety WITH that commercial in the most cringe way possible, but hey, I tried. Anyways, I along with all other kids my age became obsessed. With the arrival of October meant shopping for noisy plastic costumes with masks at our local Sav-On drugstore, Halloween community carnivals, Halloween parades at school, and of course McBoo and friends.
The orange bucket Happy Meals that originally were released in 1986, resembled that of a pumpkin and had a variety of three available; McPunk’n, a traditional jack-o-lantern face; McBoo, a ghost face; and McGoblin, the “scariest” of the three- which is the one I still have to this day!
The buckets themselves were nowhere near large enough to take on a night of heavy tricks or treats, but they sure were great storage pails and maintained a versatile function for the past 30 years. This little bastard went from holding my Polly Pockets and stickers in the 80s’, to pins, hair accessories, and makeup in my teenage 90s’, and circling back today in 2021, where I actually use it to hold my rather large collection of face masks. Not a terrifying Halloween mask by any means, but considering everything, they’re just as scary these days.
While most know to believe the Halloween buckets weren’t available until 1986, that’s not actually entirely accurate. McDonald’s ran a test promotion in the Boston and New York area with prototypes of several Halloween Happy Meal Buckets from October 11 thru October 31, 1985 . After a successful run, they were introduced nationally in 1986. They came back the following year after but for some reason were absent in 1988. Then in 1989, the buckets got a mild makeover with McBoo turning white and a new friend- the McWitch, complete with pointy hat on the lid!
In 1990, the buckets added some glow in the dark flair to the designs, while changing the faces entirely to a more cartoonish look- one that I personally think is less than the originals, but not a bad second-place prize if these are the ones you had. In 1991, the buckets were replaced by vinyl glow-in-the-dark trick or treat bags, which get a LOT OF SHIT by Halloween bucket lovers, but I actually used this fucker for trick-or-treating and it served me well. The handles seem pretty flimsy, but this bastard held up for a full bag filled with Tootsie Rolls and Mr. Bones. So I can’t hate on them.
To keep in with the now tradition of refreshing the successful Halloween product, 1992 saw another makeover to McPunk’n, McBoo, and McWitch with minor facial changes, but with the addition of a new cookie cutter lid!
And that my friends, was the last time we got a quality McDonalds Halloween Bucket. After taking yet, another hiatus in 1993, the pails came back, with a more “modern” makeover that just sort of plain sucked. McWitch looked like an angry cartoon drunk, and even though they still had the cool cookie cutters, it seemed less magical than their predecessors.
After this monumental modern fuck-up, the pails again disappeared until 1999, when they came back only as a duo, with no more spoopy faces. Instead we got Halloween scenes that wrapped around the bucket featuring Mcdonald Land characters. On the upside, the cookie cutters were still there.
In 2001, the quality diminished further and the cookie cutter lids were abolished entirely. We got the same cartoonish scenes around the pail, but we got bat handles instead on the lid now- which although sort of cool, were so damn uncomfortable, cutting into your palms like Shakaka the Great White Bat trying to escape Ace Ventura’s hands while running through the jungle.
In 2010, Mr. Potato Head was apparently spooky enough to get a themed Halloween pail. This is where the downfall of a soft society began folks.
The 2011 pails were somewhat of a return to nostalgia with a pumpkin or a monster face, along with the again, gnarly bat handles. But that was the last time we would see Halloween faced pails at all. Following years brought cartoon themed buckets such as Scooby-Doo, Monster High, and eventually Minions pails. Then, the year that ended it all in 2016, the pails made their final appearance with It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown– in which I guess if they’re gonna go out, at least it’s with a Halloween classic and not a damn Potato Head toddler toy.
It’s been 35 years since the nostalgic Halloween buckets entered our childhood Halloween fantasies and while these little pieces of big corporate plastic may seem trivial, they serve as a staple of fond Halloween memories for the kids of past generations. It would seem fitting if indeed, McDonalds celebrated this milestone with a grand return of McBoo and friends, however, I haven’t heard of any plans to do so. McDonald’s was once, the king of fast food Halloween and no one did better promotions for the favorable holiday than the french fry giants. I’m not sure what’s happened in recent years that the company has turned the cold shoulder to our beloved holiday, but it’s almost as if it’s become a traumatic break-up with an abusive ex. They barely acknowledge the holiday even exists anymore. In any regard, I’ve championed for the comeback for as long as I can remember, and I’ll never stop fighting the good fight.