40 Photos of McDonald’s From the ‘80s and ‘90s That Show How Things Have Changed

Vintage McDonald’s Photos that Will Give You Nostalgia

Remember when you would beg your mom or dad to go to McDonald’s? It always seemed like a treat. Plus, there were the cool toys. As we grew up, we all realized that the food wasn’t great for you and the toys were a little cheap, but that doesn’t stop that nostalgic feeling when we hear the old jingle or see one of the collectible Happy Meal toys. In this article, we thought we would take a walk down memory lane and see how much of that nostalgia we could stir up.

Food For Seating

How cute is this? Everyone thought the same thing about McDonald’s food-shaped seats until they sat on them for any length of time. These hard plastic seats would numb your bottom, and though they may look like they would twirl, not all of them did. If they did, it wasn’t very good.

Food For Seating

Luckily, the designers figured out that, even in the playground area, these seats were not comfortable. They then began building McDonald’s with chairs with backs.

Halloween Chicken Nuggets

Who doesn’t want chicken nuggets dressed up in your favorite Halloween costumes? No one. That’s why these cute and collectible Halloween Happy Meal toys were such a hit. But the Ghost that seems to miss the iconic branding looks a little strange!

Halloween Chicken Nuggets

Anyway, no one cared, it was all about using the soft plastic toys as water guns, right? Just us? The little valve in the bottom was perfect for sucking up liquids.

Shake it Like a Salad Maker

In the ’90s, McDonald’s decided to up their healthy options game, but they had to make it fun, right? Enter the McSalad Shaker. These fun salads were put in a milkshake cup, and then you poured the salad dressing in, shook the cup, and voila – a perfectly dressed salad.

Shake it Like a Salad Maker

At least, that was the concept. They didn’t last long because honestly, they didn’t work all that well unless you knew the trick. Put only half of the dressing in, shake, eat some of it and then put the other half of the dressing in and repeat the process. It was a lot of work for a salad!

Did They Have a Different Taste?

The animal crackers came in all these little boxes, and somehow, because they were in the shape of the Hamburglar or Grimace, they tasted so much better than the traditional ones. We all had our favorite box, right?

Did They Have a Different Taste?

There were even some people that thought the cookies tasted different, and that’s how they determined their favorite. We think it was more about the character, though. Some people were just Hamburglar or Birdie kind of people.

McDonald’s Before It Was More Eco-Friendly

With the world climate the way it is, more and more fast-food joints are switching to eco-friendly packaging. This is a far cry from the styrofoam packaging that McDonald’s used throughout the ’80s and ’90s.

McDonald’s Before It Was More Eco-Friendly

There was less mess, as no fluids could escape the packaging, but there was no way you were going to be able to just pop it in the microwave and reheat it. Be honest, how many of you made that mistake?

I Am Batman!

There were so many great collaborations between McDonald’s and Hollywood. One of the coolest was the Batman Forever mug. The etched glass images of the main characters allowed every superhero fan to drink their morning cup of OJ staring at the Caped Crusader.

I Am Batman!

The ’80s and ’90s saw a resurgence of interest in comic book heroes, and Batman Forever was a great movie. McDonald’s sure knew how to pick a movie to support, if only they still made glasses like these.

Tiny Beanie Babies, Another Obsession

Ah, beanie babies. The mad obsession grasped the world in its clutches and seemed like it was never going to let go. The ’90s brought with them so many variations that these toys have become quite the collectible item.

Tiny Beanie Babies, Another Obsession

McDonald’s seemed to understand this and released their mini babies. We all rushed out to collect these toys just like many other Happy Meal toys.

Just a Spoonful

Truthfully, did anyone ever really know what this soon was for? Some would use it in coffee, others would use it in their cokes or teas. The length of this spoon was a little too long for one and not long enough for the other.

Just a Spoonful

Sometime in the ’80s, the company found out that the spoon was being used for questionable acts and they discontinued them. Even with the discontinuation, some more resourceful collectors have found a few lying around.

Remember When Hand Puppets Were Cool?

The ’80s were a simpler time for sure. You can tell that by the toys that McDonald’s thought kids would like to play with. Things like this hand puppet were made of very thin plastic.

Remember When Hand Puppets Were Cool?

Even though it seems like a kind of lame toy now, we were all about it when we unfolded that hand puppet. Then, it was about playing Ronald McDonald and his friends. Just don’t play too rough or the puppet would end up with a hole, and no one wanted that.

This Kid Was the Man

Remember when you were a kid and all you wanted was to have that epic birthday party that all the kids would talk about at school? That feeling never really goes away even when you get older, but when you were a kid, one of the most amazing parties you could throw was at McDonald’s.

This Kid Was the Man

You would get the bibs and the cake, and sometimes, the man himself would show up. If you were lucky enough to get a party like that, you were golden for the next two grades.

McDonald’s Hand Puppets Evolved

Remember the ’80s hand puppet? Well, in the ’90s, McDonald’s gave it a cool upgrade. After all, what is cooler than a dinosaur? Another collaboration with a movie gave us these amazing puppets from the movie Dinosaur.

McDonald’s Hand Puppets Evolved

How many parents got tired of hearing roaring and quotes from the movie because of these? Probably a good amount, that’s for sure. Your hands did get a little sweaty in them after a little while, and then your hands smelled like plastic until you washed them. Good times.

Collectible Glasses Were an Addiction

Both in the ’80s and the ’90s, McDonald’s was king of collectible glasses. Every mom and young kid would wait for the new ones to come out. They did glasses for everything, including the Muppets. In the ’80s especially, the Muppets were every kid’s favorite.

Collectible Glasses Were an Addiction

Just like with everything else, you always had your favorite character. Whether you loved the corny jokes of Fozzie or the sassiness of Miss Piggy, Mickey D’s had you covered.

The Gang’s All Here

Nowadays, it seems like Ronald is rolling solo, but back in the day, he ran with a unique posse. You had the Fry Guys and Hamburglar, as well as Birdie and Grimace. What ever happened to those guys?

The Gang’s All Here

Sure, the absence of the Hamburglar can be explained. Maybe he finally got caught stealing those delicious hamburgers, but it seems like the rest just up and abandoned the poor clown.

‘Tis the Season

It doesn’t seem like McDonald’s is that into holidays anymore, or maybe they just don’t advertise it. But in the past, they made every holiday fun. Their establishment was the place to go for cool toys and collectibles.

‘Tis the Season

One of the best holidays was Halloween. They would do all kinds of fun things, like these collectible Halloween baskets. All you had to do is convince your mom or dad to take you to Mickey D’s and get you a Happy Meal so your trick or treat experience could be so much better.

Cats and Sarcasm At Your Local Micky D’s

Who doesn’t love a lazy cat who loves lasagna and is constantly trying to send his owner’s other pet to Abu Dhabi?! In the ’80s, Garfield was everywhere from the newspapers to Saturday morning cartoons. Then, McDonald’s came out with these cool mugs.

Cats and Sarcasm At Your Local Micky D’s

These mugs had fun and sarcastic sayings and became another great collectible that everyone wanted the full set of. The artwork was all done by Jim Davis and featured both Garfield and his naïve dog companion, Odie.

Orange Flavored Drinks On Tap

McDonald’s used to deliver or supply events with that delicious orange drink. It would come in these big yellow dispensers, and you knew that your coach or leader loved you when it showed up.

Orange Flavored Drinks On Tap

We’re not sure what the actual flavor of the drink was, but it was an orange drink. Nothing can remove the memory of that sweet yet tangy flavor. Ah, good times!

Twisty Cones = Delicious

For years, we all loved going up and paying twenty-five cents for the small cone, but when McDonald’s upgraded to the big cone, it was on.

Twisty Cones = Delicious

Having a swirl cone with both chocolate and vanilla (or specialty flavors that were available in your region of the country/world) that was the size of your cone made every child smile and every parent nervous about the inevitable sugar high.

Tiny Toons Flip Cars

Disney wasn’t the only one to partner with the hamburger giant. Warner Brothers did their fair share of collaborations with McDonald’s as well. Tiny Toons was one of the biggest cartoons to come to from WB in years, and there was no reason not to capitalize on the popularity.

Tiny Toons Flip Cars

Kids would rush to the table and rip open those paper Happy Meal boxes and dig through them to find the toy to see which one they got. It was the highlight of their day.

The Ambiance Was Everything

Nowadays, the inside of McDonald’s is so boring. In the ’80s and ’90s, the interior was meant to be warm and inviting, and a little fun. Now that we think about it, we can see your game, McDonald’s. Painting the gang of characters on the glass partitions and having them smile and wave seems like a good way to trick us all into enjoying your delicious greasy food.

The Ambiance Was Everything

P.S. Now that we look at it, those kids in the window paintings don’t look super thrilled to be surrounded by giant talking animals and a clown that kind of looks like Tim Curry in the old version of IT.

Is That a Playground Or a Prison?

Why did we ever think these playgrounds were cool? The metal was hot, the plastic was hard, and there was a prison in the middle of the whole thing. Look at that! Hamburglar with Bars! McDonald’s was trying to make it so we would never leave.

Is That a Playground Or a Prison?

How many parents called that playground toy a prison and smiled as they watched their kids run through the playground with their bellies full of greasy food?

Remember the Ronald Benches

These old benches would be perfect nowadays with the selfie craze. Back in the day, you would have to wait for your mom to wind the camera, and then you were forced to say, “Big Mac!”

Remember the Ronald Benches

Nowadays, you could just sit down next to this sort of creepy looking statue and take your photo with the push of a button. Wouldn’t it be better if the entire bench were free for your customers, though?

Some Things Never Change

In the ’90s, the playground moved indoors, and ever since, it seems like McDonald’s has left it in the same condition as when it was open for its grand opening.

Some Things Never Change

There are many McDonald’s that have that old sentimental playground. We guess that “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” is what is being applied here. Just slap a fresh coat of paint on it, and it is all good.

The High Chairs Used To Be Pretty Fun

Ask for a high chair today and it is so plain, but back in the ’80s, it was a beautiful branded masterpiece. The chairs were so bright they would keep any toddler entertained for hours (that was, until they saw the Happy Meal toy or the playground).

The High Chairs Used To Be Pretty Fun

It seems to us that McDonald’s has lost a little of the fun factor. Maybe they should bring it back…you know nostalgia is in right now!

Ah, the Good Old Days

Many young kids may not even know what this is, and that is a good thing, but if you’re a child of the ’80s and ’90s, you will be familiar with the McDonald’s ashtray. These were on every table and walked out in a lot of purses.

Ah, the Good Old Days

Today, McDonald’s is smoke-free, and in some states, you have to go 10 feet away from the building before you can get your nicotine fix. This is a good thing, but this ashtray definitely brings back some memories.

Disney and McDonald’s

In the ’90s, Disney began opening their vaults and releasing a VHS tape series called the Masterpiece Collection. In conjunction with this, they partnered with McDonald’s and brought you the Happy Meal toys to match. They would come in cute little replicas of the box that the videos came in.

Disney and McDonald’s

How many copies of the actual movies were sold because some parents didn’t have time to cook and stopped by McDonald’s on the way home? We imagine quite a few. Well played, McDonald’s, and Disney – you tricky corporation you!

I’ll Have Mine Super-Sized

Okay, in the ’90s, McDonald’s decided to give us even larger portions with the Super-Sized menu. Oh, the days where you could order your fries and get a super-sized portion the size of your head! It was good for sharing. Just kidding, no one shares their delicious McDonald’s French fries.

I’ll Have Mine Super-Sized

Then, someone did a documentary, and it was all gone in a blink of an eye. That’s okay. It was probably all for the best. No one needs half a pound of fries with their gallon of soda anyway!

Parties and Ashtrays

There’s nothing like having a birthday party and being able to light up, too! This is just something you would never see in the modern age. Back then, it was perfectly acceptable for the parents to light up while their kids dived into all the fun puzzles that were part of a McDonald’s birthday party.

Parties and Ashtrays

In fairness, if you are dealing with a horde of sugar-amped kids, you may need a nicotine fix. But today’s parents don’t have that option, so what are they to do?

Interactive Food Tray Liners

Now you just get a tray liner with marketing, but back in the day, you could be entertained while chowing down on your Happy Meal. You had to be very strategic and make sure to place the ketchup for your fries either on the wrapper or on a spot that didn’t block any of the puzzles.

Interactive Food Tray Liners

How much do you miss these? Even as teens and adults, it was still fun to keep your mind off the fact that you had just eaten your entire day’s worth of calories in one meal.

The Menu Used To Be Much Smaller

The world used to be simpler, and so did the McDonald’s menu. Remember when the menu was only two columns, and none of them had grilled chicken or “healthy choice” written on them? Plus, look at the Happy Meal toy that’s being offered…Bobby’s World!

The Menu Used To Be Much Smaller

Now, there are so many choices, and to help you make smarter choices, McDonald’s has added a lot of healthier foods. This menu does offer low-fat frozen yogurt, though…must have been towards the end of the ’90s.

When the Playgrounds Moved Indoors

When McDonald’s made the move to indoor playgrounds, they had to do something with the old equipment. Some of the more inventive stores just moved them around and made them decorations.

When the Playgrounds Moved Indoors

This one chose the hamburger prison, and if a kid found their way inside of this one, there would be no parole, as their back would be against a wall, quite literally.

Collectible Disney Plates

Who put the glad in gladiator? Hercules! Disney collaborated again when they released their animated classic Hercules. This time, it involves a commemorative plate. The plates and fun little sayings featured some of the biggest characters from the movie.

Collectible Disney Plates

Our favorites were the muses and Meg, although Meg’s phrase may be a little disturbing if you are reading it now! Either way, these plates were seen in everyone’s homes at the time of this promotion!

Gift Certificates Used To Be Amazing

Remember when it was cool to give gift cards or certificates as gifts, or maybe even in a trick or treat bag? No?! Well, that’s because it has never been, especially when you’re a kid, but you could get a little smile if the toy were the McDonald’s gift certificates of the ’80s.

Gift Certificates Used To Be Amazing

They were cheap to buy and had some great discounts. After all, who doesn’t want French fries for fifty cents or a free ice cream cone!?

Fisher-Price Toys

You know you have made it when Fisher-Price makes a whole set dedicated to you. In the ’80s, McDonald’s had its own set of plastic food toys that kids could play with in their own homes.

Fisher-Price Toys

These toys were pretty realistic, and for toddlers that may be a problem. All we can hope is that moms and dads kept a close eye on their kids when playing with these yummy looking toys!

Happy Meal Toys Used to be Cool

The transformation of McDonald’s food continued to expand, including an egg MacGuffin. After all, breakfast is the most important meal of the day right?

Happy Meal Toys Used to be Cool

These plastic transformer toys of the ’80s would get even fancier in the ’90s, but we have already talked about that. We’re not sure what these transformers were supposed to be, but they sure looked pretty cool when not transformed!

Nintendo & the Happy Meal

Following the Disney model, Nintendo also partnered with the golden arches. When they released their epic third installment of Super Mario Bros, they released a fun set of Happy Meal toys.

Nintendo & the Happy Meal

We’re not sure a mushroom was a good idea, though. If you ate one in the game, you would get some sort of fun power boost. That might have been a little bit of an oversight, especially since these meals were marketed towards young kids.

The McDonald’s Shire

Remember the Hobbits’ abode The Shire from The Lord of the Rings? The wooden structure, the comfy vibes, the peaceful ambiance? The collaboration from McDonald’s and Disney led to something similar, except it had two wheels!

The McDonald’s Shire

You have to love the look of the windows, the hanging cooking pans and laps, the oh-so-familiar McDonald’s logo on the board, and the roof with the sign “Westward Ho”! The chimney is the cherry on top. This little cart is the Shire coming to life!

The Floating Iceberg

Have you ever thought you’d get to see a floating McDonald’s? Looking from a far distance with the dominant whites everywhere, this ship may look like a gigantic iceberg. Oh, wait! there’s a McDonald’s logo too. Yes, it’s a grand ship with decks and all.

The Floating Iceberg

However, the fact that it’s a McDonald’s ship makes it ever so alluring. Although the ship has been left abandoned, we think we speak for everyone when we say that we would love to get on board.

The Food Sailors

Who else agrees that these crew members from 1978 look like sailors preparing food? While everyone is accustomed to seeing sailors in blue-white striped uniforms in cartoons, McDonald’s brought a change for their food sailors with the red-white accent.

The Food Sailors

The uniform went on to become such an iconic outfit that even celebrities wore it as Halloween costumes. You too can find this uniform on several costume stores and show your love for the Vintage McDonald’s.

Starting of the McEra

This picture here marks the starting of the revolution, which was the introduction of McDonald’s! It’s one of the very first restaurant pictures from the McDonald brothers. Though the picture is in black and white, we can still see the M’s shining through.

Starting of the McEra

The outer sitting area, the people, the menu – all of it shows how much McDonald’s had to put in to become the legend that they are now. This legendary model still exists in Pennsylvania. Do pay a visit!

McFlurry from the ’90s

While we all love the present McFlurry with the black McDonald’s logo, this is an older version of the packing of the milkshakes from back when they were first introduced. The cups are rather bigger in size, which means that you would have larger amounts of delicious goodness.

McFlurry from the ’90s

It is good that the McFlurry packaging has been changed to incorporate recycled plastic instead of paper. However, we definitely find the old McFlurry container quite nostalgic. We hope the taste remains the same forever, at least.

Mouthwatering Treat

While we may crave McDonald’s egg muffins in the morning (or any time of the day, for that matter), for a kid in the ’70s, this breakfast set was the ultimate craving.

Mouthwatering Treat

If you look closely, you can see the Blue Ridge Mountain in the background in the middle of a glorious sunrise. Raise your hands if you are still craving for this scrumptious breakfast set on the top of a hill at the break of dawn!

Vintage McCeramics

This picture shows the classic mug engraved with a “Good Morning” message from McDonald’s. Isn’t it a sweet gesture? The white and red accent is a callback to McDonald’s brand. Also, who doesn’t recognize the golden arches?

Vintage McCeramics

Having a mug gifted to you for your birthdays, or simply for a good morning, that too from McDonald’s, is something! If you wish you could have this vintage mug, you’re in luck – these babies are still sold everywhere.

Vintage Drive-Thru Service

In the beginning of their journey, McDonald’s didn’t have a classy dining space for all of its ardent customers. This picture is the living proof of that! This was the first ever version of the Drive-Thru service that we now can’t live without.

Vintage Drive-Thru Service

You just had to bring your car or walk down here, place your order, and voila! McGoodies! No other McDonald’s branch is still the same as this model in California.

The Frightening Toys

McDonald’s already had delicious meals to draw customers in. On top of that, they introduced Happy Meals, which sparked the interests of kids even more. Why not? You get a free toy with a great meal, after all.

The Frightening Toys

However, having the mask of Ronald McDonald as a free toy looks sort of intimidating! This was a popular toy that kids got back in 1974. No matter how terrifying it is, though, to the kids, a free toy is a free toy!

Welcome, My Cravings!

Well, well, look what we have here! Salty goodness in Speedee packaging. Having a bad day? Need food for a party? Watching a movie? All you need are these thin, crispy, bright golden fries from good old McDonald’s!

Welcome, My Cravings!

These tasty treats still serve our untimely cravings with the same taste and look as they did in the ’60s. The only difference is the packaging. The red packaging is much more iconic now. Speaking of which, time to order some McFries!

McDonald’s Vinyl Reward

This vinyl disc here was based on a fun contest from McDonald’s back in 1988. What they did was, they stuck some of these records in newspapers for people to find. To their surprise, some of these people were lucky enough to come upon the McDonald’s menu song, which was worth a million dollars!

McDonald’s Vinyl Reward

It’s too bad that vinyl is out of the game now. If McDonald’s decides to pull another promotional stunt like this, it would be all over social media, for sure!

Japan Breaking Diets

One of the things that the Japanese are best known for is how much they prioritize having healthy food. In 1973, however, McDonald’s took over Japan, and things changed. It looks like McDonald’s was the push they needed! Dietary schedules couldn’t stop the people from craving the fries and chicken!

Japan Breaking Diets

This picture shows a huge crowd of people either savoring the food or waiting in line. The crowds are probably not a problem anymore, as there are now around 3000 McDonald’s outlets in Japan!

Time for Crime

Hey, don’t get us wrong! We’re not talking about actual crime here. It’s just the Halloween special gift certificate featuring a cute little burglar holding some scrumptious burgers.

Time for Crime

This gift certificate is at least 20 years old, and you could probably only get a regular soda with it. However, the Hamburglar in the coupon has always been an iconic character. Many kids even dressed up as this monster on Halloween back in the days!

The McCar

In this picture, you can see a pretty cool looking red racing car on a racecourse. What’s so special about this car? The huge McDonald’s logo at the front, of course! The logo painted proudly may lead you to think that it’s the race for McDelicacies.

The McCar

However, this was simply a race car that was sponsored by McDonald’s back in the ’90s! Bill Elliott, the car driver, never managed to win a race in this car, but he’s still one of the greats. Was it because of the McDonald’s logo? You decide.

The Multimixer Treat

Who doesn’t love the Triple Thick Milkshake from McDonald’s? In 1955, a special multimixer was used in order to produce this drink from heaven. The picture shows how the multimixer is making several milkshake batches at once.

The Multimixer Treat

We truly believe the milkshakes of McDonald’s wouldn’t be this famous if not for this machine. Who wants some milkshake right now? Everyone, we suppose? These pictures are a major problem for foodies like us!

Crispy, Warm Apple Pie

The pies have changed, and they no longer have that hot bubbly appearance when you order one. This is tragic because that crispy, flaky pie was the reason a lot of us went to Mickey D’s.

Crispy, Warm Apple Pie

You would have to choose between cherry or apple, but we all know the apple pie was the best, right? This is one of the McDonald’s changes that we really wish had not happened.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Transformers toys from McDonald’s just did not have the same wow factor as the real thing. However, we still rushed to the restaurant to pick up a drink that became a pink dinosaur and the McNuggets that became a crocodile.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

McDonald’s just kept reintroducing this concept over and over until finally transforming food became a thing of the past.

Those Crazy Playgrounds

Before there was the indoor playground of the McDonald’s of the late ’90s, there was the awesome (and now that we look at them, slightly disturbing) playgrounds of the ’80s.

Those Crazy Playgrounds

Sometimes, the food was secondary, and all you wanted to do was shovel it in so your parents would let you go play on the hot plastic playground. As kids, this playground equipment looked like so much fun…until you slid down that slide in shorts on a hot day. Then, it was not such a good time.

Should I Get a Big Mac Or a Pizza?

Okay, nice try, McDonald’s, but you are not a pizza joint and never should have been. In the ’80s, McDonald’s tried to take out their competition – Pizza Hut and Dominos – by offering McDonald’s Pizza. It wasn’t bad, but because of the iconic nature of their burger empire, it did not go very well.

Should I Get a Big Mac Or a Pizza?

This is kind of one of those things that was there and gone faster than you could say “free if not delivered in thirty minutes.”

Every Floor Was the Same

Familiarity may be one of the reasons most ’80s and ’90s kids keep returning to the fast-food restaurant despite knowing it just isn’t that great for you. Everyone knows that their McDonald’s will look the same, smell the same, and for the most part, taste the same.

Every Floor Was the Same

The company even went so far as to give every store in the ’90s these same floor tiles and patterns. This way, no matter where you looked, you knew you were at McDonald’s.