*According to one person who grew up in the early 2000s.
Many people’s fondest memories include sitting down with their families for a nice, home-cooked meal. But a pleasant dinner with family is as boring as it can get for most eight year-old kids. If you were like me, you hoped and prayed that when you asked the all-important question “What’s for dinner?,” the answer would be “I don’t feel like cooking. We’re going to Burger King.”
Those ten words always made my day better, because it meant that a Big Kid’s Meal was in my future — and more importantly, a new toy. Burger King was only two blocks away from our house, so I was firmly in the Big Kids Meal camp. A large majority of kids meal toys were usually just cheap plastic paperweights designed to promote movies or TV shows to unsuspecting kids, but sometimes, it was clear the manufacturers took a little extra time to make quality toys that I still remember fondly to this day.
5. Butt Ugly Martians (2001)
Although nothing spectacular, the toys based on the 2001 computer animated Nickelodeon show Butt Ugly Martians stick out in my mind as undeniable products of their time. The Butt Ugly Martians (comprised of commander B-Bop A-Luna, mechanic 2T Fru-T, and strongman/gross slob Do-Wah Diddy) are horrendously animated aliens who are ordered by their Emperor Bog to invade Earth, only to fall in love with Earth culture and decide to live on and bro out. Despite being short in stature, they can enter “Butt Kicking Mode” by donning power suits.
The toys are mostly figures of each of the Butt-Uglies with an attachable BKM suit, plus a gyroscope featuring 2T Fru-T, and a launcher featuring female Martian Shaboom Shaboom on a skateboard. While the toys themselves are pretty standard fare, this collection is memorable for depicting a very niche one-season show that could only exist in 2001.
4. Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2002)
I was always a fan of toys that did something to differentiate them from the standard flying disc or spinning top, and while this set of toys contains both of those clichés, each one also has a special ability that makes them stand out. Based on the Nickelodeon show, each toy features one of the main characters as the pilot of their own vehicle. But what makes them special is that they can all be combined into a really neat rocket ship that incorporates each toy’s mechanic in an almost Rube Goldberg-ian way. The result is pretty sweet, and looks like it could be purchased at a genuine toy store.
3. Backstreet Boys’ Cyber Crusaders (2000)
This is a weird one. In the year 2000, boy bands were in their prime, and any product could turn a profit if it had the face of Justin Timberlake or Nick Carter slapped onto it. This led to the release of The Backstreet Project. Lead singer Nick Carter developed the concept for a six-issue comic series, wherein the band discovers a crashed alien spaceship after one of the concerts, and receives mystical amulets from a Martian, endowing them with superpowers. Carter developed and co-wrote the series with Stan Lee (yeah, seriously), though it was reformatted as a one-shot.
Burger King then released a line of action figures to promote the comic, featuring each member of BSB displaying their unique powers. My particular favorites are Kevin, who possesses Hulk-like strength and is equipped with bright red power armor, and A.J., who is skilled in marksmanship and is dressed like an extra in Wild Wild West. I will remember these toys for years to come simply because of how utterly bonkers they are, harkening back to a time where you could do anything you wanted… as long as you performed “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely” and had frosted tips.
2. The Simpsons Creepy Classics (2002)
Anyone who’s heard the word “television” is at least somewhat familiar with The Simpsons (and seriously, how did you find your way to Laser Time if you don’t?). America’s favorite cartoon family has been around for decades, and as such, they have appeared in countless cross-promotional campaigns for a number of different companies. They seemed to have a particularly good relationship with Burger King, as they have collaborated several times to manufacture Simpsons-themed kids meal toys throughout the 2000s.
While there are many different collections to choose from, my hands-down favorite as a kid was the 2002 Creepy Classic line. This collection features ten different Simpsons characters in Treehouse of Horror-style Halloween costumes, as well as a plastic standee sporting a two-panel comic gag to display the figure. These were really well-made figures, and the designs were fantastic, showing the likes of Ned Flanders and Groundskeeper Willie transformed into werewolves, lake monsters, and other horror classics. Each figure was a memorable and fun toy to go with your fairly disgusting orange cream float.
1. Pokemon: The First Movie (1999)
For many children in the late 90’s, time was consumed by only one thing: Pokemon. So when I heard that Burger King Big Kid’s Meals would come with both toys and trading cards based on Pokemon for the upcoming First Movie (still one of the ballsiest titles ever), I knew I had to catch ‘em all. What I didn’t anticipate is having a whopping 57 toys to collect, and I also didn’t have the foresight to see how obsessed with collecting these mini-plushes my grandmother would become.
For the next eight weeks or so, my grandmother and I were singularly focused on obtaining all of the assorted toys, a task that was made easier by the introduction of Burger King Trading Nights: every Tuesday, dozens of overly excited kids and annoyed parents would flock to BK to trade toys and cards with one another in hopes of completing their massive collection. As happy as my grandmother and I were, no one was more elated than my mom, as she was no longer required to eat fast food six times a week. That collection of 57 toys is still my grandma’s most prized possession, and she is incredibly protective of it. Not even I can touch them until she dies, because it is literally in her will that I receive her cherished assortment of Pokemon knickknacks. These 57 toys (including a really kick-ass Mewtwo figure with glowing eyes) are fantastic, and they will always hold a special place in my heart, as it brought my grandmother and I closer together in monomania.
Article by contributor Patrick Lonergan.