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McDonald’s Happy Meals for adults make sense in a Funko-obsessed world

We may slam the fast food industry all we want, but the concept will work.

McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast-food corporation, said on Thursday that it will release customized Happy Meals for adults as part of a collaboration with the trendy streetwear company Cactus Plant Flea Market (CPFM). People will be able to acquire one of four collectable figurines of McDonald’s characters — Grimace, the Hamburglar, Birdie, and a new buddy dubbed Cactus Buddy — when it releases on Monday, all bundled in a special edition Happy Meal box.

CPFM is a high-end fashion label recognized for its quirky and whimsical graphic artwork. The figurines that will accompany this meal appear to be cursed, warped versions of McDonald’s mascots. Grimace, for example, has four eyes and appears to be fashioned of clay by a child.

Of course, Happy Meals exist to entice children, so the announcement that McDonald’s was developing Happy Meals for adults sparked a lot of hilarity online. One individual stated that “creating a Happy Meal for adults is the natural terminus of American society,” while another stated that adult Happy Meals are a “very compelling indication of mental and moral degradation.” And, although I agree that the concept of grown-up adults coming to McDonald’s to obtain their “adult Happy Meal” makes my skin crawl, I also believe it makes a lot of sense.

The plastic-y, slightly unattractive aesthetics that came to characterize McDonald’s toys influenced a whole generation’s taste. And, whether we like it or not, trends have normalized adult consumption of toys that were formerly reserved for children. The first Funko Pops were produced in 1998, and the figure brand has gone on to become a major hitter in consumer trends, with revenue expected to reach $1 billion in the next five years.

Happy Meal toys are simply another type of collection. Millennials and older zoomers are members of a generation that grew up buying Neopets toys and little Sonic games at McDonald’s. According to a McDonald’s official, the team is “actually repackaging one of the most memorable McDonald’s experiences in a new way that’s hyper-relevant for our adult fans.” It may seem a stretch to call a partnership with a streetwear brand that is mainly unavailable to the typical customer “hyper-relevant.” However, McDonald’s is correct in believing that it can capitalize on the nostalgic memories of customers who grew up eating Happy Meals.

The irony is that McDonald’s doesn’t need to rename anything in order to sell to adults and acquire an older audience to buy Happy Meals. Previous Happy Meal partnerships with Pokémon and BTS have previously piqued the interest of adults. The interest is clearly there; it’s simply a matter of selecting the proper brand to collaborate with.

While it may be uncomfortable, the reality is that McDonald’s Happy Meals influenced the taste of a generation. So it makes sense for the company’s leadership to strive to re-capture the once-young audience that has matured. I wouldn’t be shocked if McDonald’s launches various toy campaigns geared at both youngsters and adults at the same time.

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