With the Sonic the Hedgehog movie currently showing in cinemas, you won’t have to look far to find new Sonic merchandise. Coincidentally, twenty-five years ago (to this very month, no less) McDonald’s released the first range of Sonic the Hedgehog ‘Happy Meal’ toys in the UK.
Available from 27th January through to 24th February, the line included four toys – a Sonic push-button launcher, a Tails spinning top, a wind-up Dr. Robotnik, and a gliding Knuckles with ‘whirlwind’ action. Packaged accordingly, the Happy Meal boxes featured artwork from Angel Island, Marble Garden, Ice Cap, and Launch Base Zone.
US fast-food connoisseurs received a similar, but not identical, range almost a year before to coincide with the release of Sonic 3. Demand was so great in the US that stock intended to last the entire four-week run was allegedly exhausted after just two. Gotta go fast food.
The delay between the US and UK releases appears to be down to the Tails toy requiring a redesign, rather than a diminished stockpile. In the US, the first run of the Tails toy could be launched into the air via a ripcord. Fearing the possibility of striking someone in the face, it was later repurposed as a spinning top on grounds of health and safety.
Incidentally, the US also received a fifth toy – a bright yellow Sonic ball intended for children under three. Including a toy with no moving part was par for the course with Happy Meal promotions in the US. Rubber balls were, by and large, the fast-food giant’s go-to.
Japan was the last pitstop for Sonic and co, and once again alterations were made. Dr. Robotnik was resculpted to look less like his cartoon series counterpart, and more like his comically rotund video game persona. It’s fair to say many Sonic fans would like to have this piece in their collection.
The toys themselves bare a few irregularities, such as Knuckle’s face being oddly angular and Sonic’s nose being flat and less pointy. It’s understandable given that very few Sonic figurines had been released prior, and as such there wasn’t a great deal to use as a reference.
As the first line of this kind, eventually paving the way for a range of SEGA LCD games years later, this is a promotion well remembered, and not just by those unfortunate to feel the sting of the original Tails toy.