After a successful test run in the NYC and Boston areas, the buckets first debuted in 1986, per horror blog Nightmare Nostalgia.
The first run saw three orange jack-o’-lantern buckets: McPunk’n, McBoo, and McGoblin.
Buckets replaced the Happy Meal’s cardboard box and toy for several Halloweens to follow, and McDonald’s frequently iterated on their designs.
- 1989: McBoo was joined by the white McGhost and the green McWitch.
- 1992: The bucket lids got Halloween cookie cutters.
- Between 2010 and 2016, the buckets featured pop culture tie-ins, including Mr. Potato Head, Minions, and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
McDonald’s occasionally tried other Halloween toys, but the pails have always been the most popular, per McDonald’s archivist Mike Bullington.
They could also lure millennials
The 2022 versions riff on the classic ‘89 buckets, which were obviously the best — and the ones millenials likely remember from childhood.
As adults, millennials haven’t taken to McDonald’s like previous generations have.
- In 2016, The Wall Street Journal reported that 80% of millennials hadn’t tried a Big Mac, and that many preferred health-focused chains or newer options like Shake Shack.
Still, McDonald’s is reportedly selling out of its “adult Happy Meal” collaboration with streetwear brand Cactus Plant Flea Market.
BTW: In ‘91, McDonald’s replaced the pails with vinyl treat bags, but a collector found the lost designs for the buckets that never were.
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