Release Date: April 1996
Price Point: Individual figures were about $1 USD each
Retailer: McDonalds Exclusive
Thanks to the wonders of ebay and the collector's market, I was recently able to obtain the Beast Wars Transformers 1996 McDonalds display. This article talks about this relatively rare display and a bit about my history with the item.
It is a very common practice for media and toy lines to run promotions with Fast Food chains. Nowadays if there is a Transformers related promotion it tends to focus on non-transforming figures. Once upon a time however, McDonalds received a small line of exclusive transforming figures to promote the Beast Wars Transformers toy line. Beast Wars took the Transformers world by storm in 1996, introducing new and older fans alike to a very different interpretation of Transformers who would transform from organic looking animals into robot modes with very unique designs. This was quite a gamble by Kenner at the time but it paid off and many credit Beast Wars with helping to revive the line which had been on a slow decline since the early 90's.
The 1996 McDonalds Beast Wars toys featured five toys whose names pretty much told you what they transformed into (with one exception). Panther and Rhino were Maximals while Beetle and Manta Ray were Predacons. Another toy was created for kids younger than 3 years old. "Under Three" as it became known was a lion head that unfolded to reveal an Optimus Prime like robot inside. This special figure would go on to receive a homage as a Botcon exclusive figure in 2016.
To really "sell" their exclusive toys, Fast Food restaurants typically create a display which is only up for a brief period of time (usually a month). For Beast Wars they created a beautiful display that featured a green, mechanical background and a platform featuring areas for all four main toys to sit while painted illustrations of their robot modes were above them. The display also featured a small section on top that served as a co-sell for the Littlest Pet Shop brand and featured four other toys on top. However, Beast Wars makes up a majority of the display. Each of these sets came to a McDonalds collapsed down flat for shipping. Instructions on folding them and displaying the toys were printed onto the back including a small color photo of what the finished product should look like.
I remember living in Brooklyn, NY in Spring 1996 and through the online grapevine I believe I had learned that these toys were coming so I was excited to see them. When I first walked into my "regular" McDonalds and saw the display I'm pretty sure my eyes turned into giant glass saucers "Anime style". The McDonalds toys were released one character at a time week to week. I remember going to the McDonalds week after week to get the toys and staring at the display. Around week three it suddenly occurred to me that the display was very likely going to be thrown out when the campaign ended. I asked to speak to a manager and kind of asked/begged to buy the display when the campaign was over. Much to my surprise, they said it was fine and said we would figure out the price the day I picked it up.
Weeks later, I came by and the manager had already bundled the display up in a plastic bag for me. The price? $25 USD (about $47.39 USD in July 2022). To me, this was perfectly reasonable given how rare this item was. You must understand, even if a store had the display back in the day it didn't mean they would sell it. There was another McDonalds in my area at the time and I went there hoping to purchase their display and they outright refused to sell it to me saying they were "required" to throw it out (I still question that to this day).
For many years following this display was one of my proudest possessions. It sat on top of my main Beast Wars display shelf for many years until I had to move from that neighborhood. Over the course of several years, this item moved with me at least three times and unfortunately, each time it became more and more beat up. Its end finally came in late 2021 when my storage facility had a flood and it was destroyed.
Many people like to disparage the online platform ebay, but more than once I've found a hard-to-find item there. Since late last year I have monitored ebay auctions for this set. Some have come up but not all were complete but others also cost way more than I was willing to pay. Then this past week one popped up for under $200 USD and I was all over this auction. The Toy Gods smiled upon me as I turned out to be the only bidder and I won! The seller packed this set beautifully and after unwrapping it from layers of bubble wrap I must confess that it felt like a big hole in my Beast Wars collection had been filled once again!
Some time ago, I also acquired several unusued Happy Meal boxes from this same time frame and I scanned them to include in this write up. You can see them in the gallery below.
After photographing this display I repacked it and put it back into the shipping box it came in. This time I plan to put it on a much higher shelf and take much better care of it!