Retro Commercials: McDonald’s Halloween Happy Meal Buckets

I don’t know about you, but commercials can often take me back to my formative years as quickly as any song or movie can. That is why we will continue this semi-regular feature on ’80s commercials that I consider particularly memorable, noteworthy, or forgotten. Television commercials were much more influential back when we were forced to watch them without the luxury to fast-forward through and/or stream shows with limited or no interruptions. This issue will cover the McDonald’s Halloween Bucket Happy Meal commercials that began in 1986.

When I think of McDonald’s and Halloween, I have the most nostalgia for the McDonald’s Gift Certificates, but that is a topic for another day. When many others think of McDonald’s and Halloween, they likely remember the plastic buckets given away with Happy Meals. Since being added to the menu in 1979, a Happy Meal was what most kids ordered when they had the opportunity to eat at McDonald’s. Beginning in 1986, McDonald’s introduced special Halloween buckets as the Happy Meal container during October. I am not quite sure why these were so appealing and so memorable because you received the bucket instead of the usual toy that was included in each Happy Meal. Most kids would rather receive a toy than a bucket. I think they originally envisioned the pails used for trick-or-treating, but they were not large enough for that (except maybe for toddlers). I guess they could be used as Halloween décor to sit in a window or on the front porch. I believe many kids used them as storage for other small trinkets, toys or art supplies. I remember using it for LEGOs as well as some action figures and possibly a rock collection. What did you use yours for?


The first year they introduced the Halloween buckets was 1986 and they had three different jack-o-lantern designs. The names were McPunk’n, McBoo, and McGoblin. Here is a Happy Meal commercial from 1986 featuring the Halloween buckets…

The Halloween buckets were very popular and returned for 1987, so here is a Happy Meal commercial from that year featuring the Halloween buckets…

For some unknown reason, McDonald’s did not use the Halloween buckets for Happy Meals in 1988.  But they returned in 1989 with some design updates. They kept one orange jack-o-lantern but added a white McGhost and a green McWitch.

Here is a Happy Meal commercial from 1989-1990 where the re-use the McNuggets version from 1987 but now featuring these new Halloween buckets at the end…

These new pails continued again for 1990 before taking another year off in 1991. The Halloween buckets returned in 1992 with new face designs as well as a cookie cutter build into the lids. The Halloween Happy Meal buckets continued to receive updates, new designs and years off throughout the ’90s into the 2000’s and as recent as 2016.


There you go, another trip down memory lane in the form of TV commercials. To me, even though they were only offered for a short time each year, the Halloween buckets are one of the most iconic McDonald’s Happy Meal toy/containers from the ’80s.

More Retro Commercial Features on TRN

About OldSchool80s 58 Articles
Old School Tim has an adoring devotion to the awesome '80s decade. He loves to relive and share that nostalgia on a regular basis. The Kickin' it Old School blog site has been retired, but you can still get daily doses of '80s goodness on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and anywhere else they let him.