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Adult Happy Meals are here, you can finally stop lying about your age

Alas, the adult Happy Meal is here, fit with creepy toys and larger portions

Happy Meals aren’t just for kids. The world’s largest fast-food chain is now making an adult version of its famed meal in a box. And don’t worry, this adult Happy Meal comes with a toy.

Why, you ask? Nostalgia, of course. And because why not? The last few years have not been easy, making it hard to blame a company for wanting to throw a little manufactured joy in consumers’ general way. We doubt the new meals will be able to capture the electricity of your first as a kid, but even if they capture a bit of that, it’s hard not to call it a success.

McDonald's / McDonalds

McDonald’s officially launched the adult Happy Meal on October 1st, and they’ll be available as long as supplies last. And while the name conjures up a lunch or dinner with a nice glass of Merlot or a canned cocktail, it’s not that kind of grown-up meal. Instead, it’s a partnership with the brand Cactus Plant — officially called the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box. In it, you’ll find the standard trio of burgers or nuggets with fries and a drink.

There are presently four toys available, which harken back to the heydays of the food chain. The figures include Grimace, Birdie, and the iconic Hamburglar. There’s also a new addition named Cactus Buddy, that’s actually terrifying. In fact, per the Cactus Plant’s twisted look, they’re all terrifying. They have two sets of eyes and look as though they just might come alive when you’re not looking.


Is this happiness? Who knows. As a parent of two small children, it’s kind of nice to have an entire Happy Meal just for your grown-ass self. There’s the gratification of a tangible toy that accompanies your meal (even if it was engineered by Satan himself). And the larger helpings (the burger option is a Big Mac) is a fitting touch. But there’s as much happiness in a good taco or slice of Spokane-stye pizza.

There’s no blaming the multinational giant for jumping on the 1990s bandwagon. Actually, it’s a little surprising it’s taken this long, but we attribute that to likely years of focus groups, market research, and the like. History repeats itself and that’s only exacerbated by harder times. The tumultuous economy and socio-political climate of right now is having us look back, often fondly, at certain things (no, I don’t mean in a MAGA way). It’s why we’re instantly drawn to a Ms. Pacman arcade game or tie-dye shirt when we see one. We can’t even let the last Blockbuster on earth go away.

It follows a trend of fast-food restaurants expanding their offerings or bringing back things wildly popular items (like Mexican pizza). And because it’s McDonald’s, it will almost certainly be triumphant. It remains one of the few places one can go for a meal—at least in terms of calorie count—for under ten bucks. But maybe adults are too far gone for the sentiment of happiness in a box. It’s just as fun watching youngsters tear into a Happy Meal, if not more so.

Interestingly enough, the Happy Meal was born in 1979, with roots in central America. A Guatemalan woman engineered the original trio of menu items as a bundle for young parents looking to navigate the menu efficiently and get their kids properly fed. News of this spread to corporate headquarters in the states and soon, the title “happy meal” was born. Fast forward to today: In the U.S. alone, 220 million Happy Meals are sold a year. That’s more than 600,000 a day, for anybody keeping count.

So we find ourselves in 2022, with a version just for adults. We’re not really sure what that means.

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Mark Stock
Mark Stock is a writer from Portland, Oregon. He fell into wine during the Recession and has been fixated on the stuff since…
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