McDonald's Changeables French Fries Robot McDonald's, 1987
Day #1,423: April 18, 2016
French Fries Robot From Series 1 - 1987
Changeables Fast Food Premiums
Item No.: No. ??? Manufacturer:McDonald's Includes:n/a Action Feature:Changes from something plastic you can put in your mouth to robot Retail:$2.99ish Availability: 1987 Other: There Are 3 Series
Before there was Frylock, we had the French Fries Robot. The sheer amount of varied toy lines in the late 1980s, from rip-offs to original ideas, was nothing short of miraculous. The death of Star Wars left the door open for all sorts of new things, and copies of said new things. Someone at McDonald's was in a meeting and said "Hey, why don't we make our own Go-Formers?" And then another guy said "Well Bill, there are Go-Bots and Transformers and-" and then the first guy said "Shut up, nerd!" and now we have transforming Happy Meal toys. I'm pretty sure that's how it went, anyway.
Sized more or less perfectly to antagonize Glyos figures, these 1987 food prizes were about 2-3-inches tall. This one is about 2 1/2-inches, and of the ones I ended up getting he's not half bad. Not only is he very colorful with red, yellow, and blue but the form factor lends itself to making a better robot. The french fries in a cardboard sleeve are about as convincing as you might expect, with a very clear McDonald's tampo on the front to prolong the fact that this is indeed advertising. What's more, kids back then - myself included - thought these were really cool too. If this love of advertising seems odd, at least in Arizona there had been a connection for quite some time - we had an annual Toy and Advertising Round-Up at the state fair grounds, at which you could find "antique" toys and all sorts of other licensed stuff. Marketing was a huge part of toys in the 1980s, although generally it had more to do with Hasbro and Kenner and Mattel putting millions of dollars in to ads to get you to buy toys, rather than McDonald's piggy-backing on its own ads to get you to bring home branded icons of their products.
So yeah, fries. It's a brick. But in either mode, it's quite meaty and isn't a heck of a lot worse than the Minibots of 1987.
Transformation is better on this one than many of the others, because you can pull down some tiny feet, roll out some small arms, and flip out a head. You get something more vaguely readable as humanoid, without a single "foot" base. It feels more... I don't want to say honest, but it's a better robot.
He's got a pretty fat face with empty eye socked and an open mouth/snout - so he's either ugly or charming. He seems like a weird ugly alien thing, and given that his contemporaries included Rock Lords and other bricks-to-robot toys. The face has a decent amount of personality and almost feels like a distant cousin of Bionicle toys like Tahu. The arms don't do much other than hang there, so really the only play you're going to get is transforming him. The figure actually manages to keep a good chunk of his alternate mode for the robot, which serves it well. You can display it on your desk and odds are nobody is going to ask you what it turns in to.
This is a good one - but as I write these up and pull them out of my archives, I really am left wondering if I should hang on to them. I'm inclined to say no - not because they aren't interesting, but really, why devote space to them? If you see it for a nickel at a garage sale, by all means, buy one. It's worth the entertainment a couple of dollars can give you, and it's an amusingly weird and chunky toy. It's sturdy, it holds up to abuse, and it's simple and fun. I'm almost talking myself out of getting rid of these, as there's no denying they're pretty decent. I almost wish Hasbro would ape the face designs and give us a new faction of Transformers with a new look, but for the time being these bizarrely-faced fellows seem to be lost to the ages.
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