McDonald’s launches Surprise Happy Meal to celebrate 40 years of menu staple

The latest Happy Meal toys are a blast from the past.

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McDonald’s launched the Surprise Happy Meal promotion Thursday. A lineup of 17 limited-edition toys, including characters such as the Hamburglar and Furby, are available in participating stores worldwide.

While Happy Meals today are still targeted toward children, the fast-food titan hopes the nostalgic offerings will rekindle the same excitement their parents once had. "They keep surprising American people," former McDonald's USA president and CEO Ed Rensi told FOX Business.

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“Parents tell us how fondly they recall their favorite toys,” Colin Mitchell, McDonald’s senior vice president, global marketing, said in a press release. “So, unboxing the Surprise Happy Meal together creates a real moment of bonding with their children. We hope these toys are something that they will treasure and remember.”

The first iteration of the product, then dubbed the Circus Wagon Happy Meal, hit the fast-food chain’s menu in 1979 and featured a colorful box and a modest selection of toys. The offering has developed into a staple in more than 38,000 locations across the globe, and according to Rensi, "there will always be a place for the Happy Meal."

McDonald’s keeps the Happy Meal at the forefront of its innovations to keep it at the forefront of the company’s brand image. “Over the years,” the company says, “many new, balanced choices have been added around the world, such as fruits and vegetables, to evolve with consumer expectations and increase families’ access to recommended food groups.”

​​​​​​“It’s the nature of humankind - we like to be rewarded, recognized, pleased. And I think McDonald’s is particularly adept at understanding what their customers want.”

- McDonald's USA president and CEO Ed Rensi

While the positive news is perfectly timed amidst corporate turmoil - McDonald's CEO was recently fired after news he had a consensual relationship with an employee broke - Rensi told FOX Business that the marketing engine behind the promotion had been churning long before the chaos ensued.

"Back in my day," Rensi said, "our calendar was a rolling 18-month calendar... I'm sure that any 2019 promotion probably had its roots in early 2018."

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Recent physical changes to the offering include removing soda from Happy Meal menu boards and, starting next year, introducing a “Reduced Sugar Low Fat Chocolate Milk” in its U.S. locations.

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A full list of the reintroduced throwback toys, which date as far back as 1988, can be found here.

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