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Official Article

Timewarp: McDonald's 1988

McDonald's in 1988? Since when do you have opinions of where I, the infamous Dr. Timewarp choose to traverse the timescape? You’re the Michelle to my Uncle Jessie from Full House when it comes to time-warp technology, a mere child! Was it not I who showed you the ways of the T.M.R. (Time Machine Refrigerator)? Was it not I that plucked you from a world of Hipsters and Kardashians to show you the glory of the good old days? How dare you…what’s that? It’s your BIRTHDAY? Terribly sorry, ol’ chap, I had no idea. Well, then we’ve a celebration to get to, so strap yourself in and let the "McVenture" begin!

Behold, the glory of the golden arches and the promise of greasy deliciousness just moments away (before that was a bad thing). In the 80’s, kid law dictated that once a McDonald's sign was spotted, any child driving down the road was required to scream bloody murder until their parents pulled the car into the drive-thru for a bag of french fries or more. Since you seem to be behaving yourself, I think we’ll do just that. Good thing I installed that Mini-Van conversion kit to the T.M.R. to help us get around more easily in our journeys. Let’s just activate the Go-Go-Gadget-Transformatron switch and we’ll be in business!

Just look at the brown and tan color scheme of this menu board, we’ve definitely arrived at our designated point in time. Though bright neon pinks and greens had dominated the landscape by ’88, the Earth tones so popular at the beginning of this decade remained as a reminder of the simplicity of the Reagan era. The muted color palette even managed to stick around on the packaging for the food. Let’s order and I’ll show you what I mean.

Ah, here we are. It’s amazing how those subdued browns, oranges and yellow M’s on the bags and cups seem to embody all that was right in a world where the biggest problem was removing the slimy, green pickles and onion bits from your hamburger before scarfing it down. Also, take notice of the flavor of those fries, those are pure trans-fats tickling your tastebuds. Savor it, because due to the health-conscious nature of modern society you’ll never enjoy the satisfaction of that taste and smell again. Oh and that mysterious substance encasing my Big Mac? That’s Styrofoam!

Before the Captain Planet and The Planeteers hype machine encouraged us to protect the environment from non-biodegradable substances, Styrofoam was deemed the best way to insulate your meal. In the case of the McD.L.T. it was used not only to keep the burger warm, but the lettuce and tomatoes cool until combined by the diner, ingenious! The most amazing part about having a Styrofoam shell around your Chicken McNuggets was that you had a spot to put your BBQ or Sweet and Sour dipping sauce (Ranch and Honey Mustard had yet to challenge these flavors for the throne). Now that we’ve had our fill of burgers and fries, let’s go inside to explore our dessert options.

Look how the area behind the counter is buzzing with activity. Aren’t those visors and hairstyles on the employees outstanding? As for our treat, looks like we have our pick of flavored Milk Shakes, Hot Pies with multiple fruit fillings, an ice cream cone or hot fudge sundae WITH NUTS! Widespread peanut allergies had yet to magically appear out of nowhere, that was a 21st century invention. Now if you’ll turn your head to the right you’ll see a group of youngsters enjoying the final option, cookies!

The colorful illustrations of the McDonaldland gang that graced the individual boxes were hard for a child to resist. Who’s your favorite? Ronald? Birdie? The Hamburglar? Grimace? You could even get Fry Kid themed cookies if you were so inclined. The Fry Guys/Kids were armless, mop-headed mutants with bendy legs who awkwardly wiggled their way through McDonald's commercials during the 80s’ and early 90’s. Frightening? Yes. Forgettable? Absolutely not! While you order your treat I’m going to jump 2 of the employees as they dump out the garbage and steal their uniforms. That way we can sneak in the back and get a look at their Happy Meal toy stock undetected.

Yes, you have to wear the visor! Now quickly follow me and don’t stare into the fryer, it’s hypnotic powers are legendary. Just as I thought, they’ve got boxes of promotional playthings that went unsold over the years! Just look at these Muppet Babies toys from 1987, such great vehicles, so well sculpted. As a Saturday Morning Cartoon staple for 7 years, Kermit and the gang made more than one appearance at McDonald's over the years, as plush Christmas toys and storybooks. Speaking of books, it’s the Berenstein Bears! What child didn’t spend hours reading their family friendly adventures in the kids section of the local library? In addition to the accessories, these figures also had a light fuzz to them, which added an extra element of fun to the play process.

Wait, there’s more…yes, it’s the Changeables! Looking to get a rub off the popularity of Transformers and to a lesser extent the Go-Bots, these transforming McDonald's menu items were 2 play items in one! You could either prepare for your future career as a slave to Ronald McDonald’s bottom line by keeping them in food mode or flip open their robot features to begin a “sci-fry” adventure (see what I did there?). And here’s a fascinating item, not a toy, but the promotional Garfield drinking glasses which now litter the tops of card tables at every garage sale nationwide. These were perfect to fill with orange juice and sip while you read actual Garfield comics in the Sunday paper. Oh dear, someone’s coming…quickly, out the back door to the Playland and ditch the uniform behind the dumpster!

Psst, over here behind the talking apple pie tree. I don’t think they saw us, but surely you can appreciate the majesty that you're seeing before you. What child wouldn’t enjoy frolicking amongst 3-Dimensional representations of their favorite McDonaldland characters combined with playground equipment? Look at that the kids lining up for the Sundae Slide and that giant burger is actually the hollowed-out head of the long-forgotten, Officer Big Mac, which children could actually climb around inside. Quite ironic that the burger appears to have turned the tables and eaten the humans, eh?

And look at this young man in the Spider-Man shirt, casually riding a cheeseburger rocking horse! Now he’s dismounted to go and stand by the monument of Ronald McDonald. What’s that in his hand? He seems to be proudly displaying the remnants of the last Chicken McNugget. We all have our trophies, I suppose. There were many stories over the years of children climbing up on the equipment improperly and injuring themselves, so in the 90’s Playlands were mostly modified into plastic ball pits and when those were deemed unsanitary, indoor climbing tubes. I believe it is time to make our exit, but I do have one more special surprise for you…

Happy Birthday! Yes, on your special day we’ll celebrate at McDonald’s like it’s 1988…because it is! I recruited these children to share in the fun with you and here’s the traditional Ronald McDonald plastic hand puppet and bib to make the day more special. Now it’s Happy Meals all around and what’s the toy inside? Why, it's none other than Mac Tonight

How lucky you are lad, to catch this flash in the pan marketing icon with a half-moon for a head during his moment of glory. Mac Tonight crooned his way into our hearts, then vanished into starry night from whence he came. Well I hope this has been a memorable birthday for you, my faithful companion, but it’s time to…what’s this?

Oh dear, an impromptu (yet somehow extremely well choreographed) dance number has broken out in the middle of the restaurant. Let’s get out of here before we get pulled into its funky fresh vortex. Wait a minute, is that a dancing teddy bear? Never mind, into the T.M.R. and here we gooooooo! 

Dr. Timewarp character created by Hoju Koolander

Dr. Timewarp Illustration by Vaporman87






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Benjanime Posted on May 16, 2019 at 11:55 PM

i used to have those garfield glasses! my older sister took them with her when she moved away though....

Lazlo Posted on Oct 18, 2017 at 11:57 AM

Lots of great memories here. I was a teen in the '80s (graduated from High School in '88), and I remember all of this. The foam packaging. The McDLT with the two-sectioned container. The hot pies (which at that time were fried pies, and much yummier than today's baked pies). The fry guy and Big Mac characters. Kid's birthdays at McDonalds. Garfield. Its bringing it all back!

VillechaizeLove Posted on Apr 03, 2016 at 04:29 AM

I was born in 1989, and I remember as a little kid, our McDonald's had those brown drive-thru menus for years! They only recently got rid of them. Also, I vaguely remember the styrofoam packaging... I get why they got rid of that, but I liked that packaging, kept everything hot, and the different colors were kinda cool, haha.

Poshy2005 Posted on Nov 03, 2015 at 04:58 AM

I have birthday pics from McDonalds as well. I had my third birthday there in 1989 and another birthday I believe either my 6th or 8th birthday, I can't remember at McDonalds. I miss the cookies. I totally forgot about those until today. They had the best toys hands down. I miss old school McD's. The new school one just makes me sad. Dang hipsters.

halloweenlover98 Posted on Oct 12, 2015 at 03:53 AM

Wow, I love this! Love seeing all these old pictures. I wish the toys were still as cool as they were.

AdamTheVictini Posted on Feb 09, 2015 at 09:56 PM

I have a changeable!!!!!! it's the big mac one! in great condition too!

NLogan Posted on Dec 03, 2014 at 07:40 PM

I've got a few Mickey D's birthday photos floating around also. Too cool hoju.

Vaporman87 Posted on Dec 01, 2014 at 09:06 PM

I've got a McDonald's birthday party pic around somewhere. If I find it, I'll post it in this article comments area. ;)

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 01, 2014 at 08:29 PM

@pikachulover The Oliver and Company Happy Meal toys nearly made it into this adventure. For such a mediocre movie they really pushed it hard with not 1, but 2 appearances in 1988. I had both the plastic figures and the plush Christmas tree ornaments.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Dec 01, 2014 at 06:41 PM

I thought it worth mentioning that the photos of the kid in the Spider-Man shirt, the "Birthday Boy" and "Cookie Kids" all feature a young Hoju Koolander. That's the real deal, my friends!

@SegaFanatic Mac Tonight was pretty freakish, but his sunglasses made him acceptably cool.

pikachulover Posted on Dec 01, 2014 at 10:15 AM

I'll go back to 1988 McDonald's and get some Oliver and Company and Garfield toys. That was before they started putting mustard in the cheese burgers in my area. A Happy Meal cheese burger with an orange soda.

SegaFanatic Posted on Nov 30, 2014 at 07:23 PM

Great article, the moon always scared me though to be honest. At least it isn't the Burger King.

Vaporman87 Posted on Nov 28, 2014 at 04:16 PM

Man, I miss '88 McDonald's. I want my food served in styrofoam. I my large drink to be the size of a medium (and sometimes small) by today's standards. I want grease, trans fats (okay, maybe not really), shameless marketing to children, McDonaldland characters... I want it all.

I'm just wishing I could have brought back some of those flocked Berenstain Bears toys and a few Changeables without causing a paradox in space/time. Work that out, will you good doctor?

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