Monday, November 29, 2010

Fast Food Toys: Puppies and Rats and Pigs (Oh My)

I admit to a love-hate relationship with fast food toys. Most of them are junk, and worse than junk, because they're made from plastic, yet will quickly end up in the trash at some toddler's house.

But there are a few I actually like, and which we kept. On purpose.

I found an example of this in the basement last week while doing some archaeology: five of the 101 Dalmatians flip cars from 1997.

Five 101 Dalmatian flip cars, dogs up
Each puppy drives a car made out of simulated "found objects," such as buttons, washboards or barrels.

Five 101 Dalmatian flip cars, dogs down
Pressing on the area in front of a character pushes the puppy driver down into the car, so that a different animal pops out on what used to be the bottom, driving the flipped car.

These animals are decidedly less hygienic-looking than the dalmatian puppies:

Gray pig in a brown wallow
A pig immersed in a wallow...

Pink pig with purple bow in an orange flour sack
...a butch/femme pig glaring out of her flower sack...

Blue rat in a yellow mattress
...and a rat in a mattress that's seen better days.

These are amazing little artifacts of the excessive nature of American culture. Think of the design time that went into conceptualizing each set of characters and their car, then prototyping them and their components. Molds were made, and the figures were cast and assembled (I imagine in China). Bagged in more plastic. And shipped back across the ocean to show up in a Minnesota restaurant to sell a small amount of food and promote a movie.

Of course, it's easy to see there's more to it than that. The toys help build a taste for fast food that will bring kids back as they grow older. The fast food companies play a long game.

But sometimes the toys transcend their role as lures, and deserve to be seen as decent toys, worth playing with. And worth keeping.

2 comments:

Blythe Woolston said...

Now I'm going to be wondering about mass production and creativity all day.

I wonder at those toys. The design is impressive. I have to believe that someone, somewhere, had a little wicked fun with the job of inventing them. And they look like they would have had more play value than most things that come with fries.

Joe said...

I design fast food toys just like these for a large franchise. I can assure you, I do put a lot of creative effort into what I do to make the end product as fun as it can be, even though I'm well aware that they wouldn't even exist if it wasn't for the "lure" factor you mentioned. It's really encouraging to see that someone has held onto these for so long and can still see value in them long past their expected life.