McDonald’s 2011 Halloween Happy Meal Pails!

NOTE: Shrunken Apple Head’s birthday party is being postponed until next Saturday, because I ordered special balloons which have yet to arrive. Seriously.

Yeah, I’m well aware of the ridiculousness involved with rescheduling a birthday party for an eight-year-old apple. Sorry for the wait, but I want this party to be special for him, so it must be done right!

When I heard that McDonald’s was going to be doing “Halloween Pails,” I started stalking them. For the past week and a half, almost every other night, I went in and out of that drive-thru, asking the ultimate question.

You’ve heard my spiel before. Despite the shamelessness X-E displays, I’m bashful about this stuff in real life. I didn’t want the mystery person behind McD’s microphone to think that I wanted this pail for myself. The first few times I drove through, I asked about the pails with the air of someone who was annoyed to be doing so. I was trying to subtly suggest that I’d been sent there by some nonexistent son or daughter.

As the days went on, my facade began to crack. By Thursday night, gone were all illusions. “PLEASE tell me you have THOSE HALLOWEEN PAILS? THE TREAT BUCKETS?”

Their answer was always in the negative.

I hadn’t heard so many variations on “no” in a single week since that long ago stretch when I became obsessed with the dog-centric episode of Gumby. I knew they had the pails in there, but McDonald’s is strict about their release dates. If the national commercials said that they wouldn’t be out until 10/14, no local franchise was willing to frick with it.

Well, 10/14 has finally come and gone. and I am one pail richer.

It’s the new Happy Meal “toy,” and it reminds us of the fabled McBoo pails, in all their many names and incarnations, which pretty much singlehandedly saved Halloween from the ‘80s through the early ‘90s. (I call all of the old pails “McBoo,” even if that’s horribly incorrect. I trust you all know what’s meant.)

When McDonald’s issued those Potato Head Pails last year, the comparisons were more of a stretch. This year, there’s no doubt. These things are the direct descendents of those old, beautiful buckets.

When you order this Happy Meal, the food is secondary. I mention this because so many of you would otherwise balk at the pails, on the basis of not wanting to eat shitty food. And that’s fine. Don’t eat the food. Throw it away. Feed it to pigeons. Do whatever you gotta do, but don’t miss out on one of 2011’s greatest Halloween “things” just because it’s filled with oily potatoes.

Upshot: All Happy Meals now come with a cute bag of apple slices. The message here is that all poor eating decisions are nullified by fruit. When someone asks what you had for lunch, you can just say “apples.” Half-truths are better than lies.

Like last year’s potato buckets, this year’s versions arrive without true lids to speak of. Instead, they’re topped by circular sticker sheets, filled with adhesive eyes, mouths and noses. And scars, because scars are in style during October.

Using the stickers, you’re free to develop a facial structure for your Halloween pail. There are enough stickers to forge a 3% chance that your scary bucket will bear a face like none other on the planet.

The paper lid tells me that the stickers glow in the dark, and I’m going to take McD’s word on that, because the thought of going through the seventeen step process involved with testing it at 2:30 in the morning makes me want to upchuck partially digested nuggets into the rough shape of the word “ugh.”

Since you get so many stickers, why not create additional bucket faces? Line ‘em all around the pail. Make one of them happy, one sad, one angry and one deranged. Treat your pail like a Quintesson.

Then, if there are any remaining stickers, use them to decorate a notebook. Preferably the back cover, so you won’t have to look at Halloween noses next August unless you really want to.

For those who weren’t around during the McBoo era, the main purpose of these buckets is to replace sad sacks when you go trick-or-treating. This is something many of us remember doing, even if we never really did. And we probably didn’t, because no kid would be satisfied with a candy haul that fit in a little plastic bucket. It’s still a nice idea.

What is true about the old McBoo pails – and these new non-McBoo-but-still-McBoo pails – is that they had/have so many uses. We never threw ‘em away. They became everything to us: Coin banks, storage units for stray LEGO pieces, helmets for quickly assembled war-themed play dates…the possibilities were endless.

Oh, and with these new buckets, the handles can be snapped off to form some really awful masks.

The promotion runs through Halloween, and depending on when you go, you’ll either get the pail pictured here, or an admittedly cooler green version with a Frankenstein theme. I’d tell you more, but it’s all covered in this bad video:

Look, you gotta get one. You can’t “do” Halloween and skip the McDonald’s pails. It’d be like Christmas without the tree, or Sadie Hawkins Day without Sadie Hawkins.

Last year’s Potato Head buckets were a surprise, but I’m hoping the 2011 versions, free of any outside branding, will mark the restart of an annual tradition. Lord knows, with all the Google hits I’ve been getting for some variation of “2011 McDonald’s Pails,” people want it to.

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159 Responses to McDonald’s 2011 Halloween Happy Meal Pails!

  1. Speaking of McDonald’s I found out that THE MCRIB IS BACK around my edge of the woods. Seriously awesome! I didn’t even know it was coming back!

  2. tokka says:

    –>> McBoo pails make the best BIG bowls for breakfasts of FREANKENBERRY.. all with a convenient carry-kitty handle to slop pink milk all over the place as you wobble from one room to the other.

    ~ t

  3. Cameron T. says:

    Totally went to McD’s last night specifically for these!

  4. Guise says:

    Hoverbored and MB…I actually have the movie of Sweet Home that came out alongside the game and ties in beautifully.

  5. Bah'glenn says:

    O_O!!! I will be going to Mc’Donald’s tomorrow to get one of the new pails. Last year I missed out, but wasn’t as disappointed as it was just Mr. Potato Head themed.

    Okay, this is awesome news, now I just have to see if Halloween Captain Crunch is back and we’ll be good to go. 😀

  6. Jenn says:


    Seriously, that’s all I want, Mcdonalds.

  7. mimitchi33 says:

    I was the first to tell you the news. I’m glad that you knew. I LOL’ed at the “What did you eat for lunch?” thing.

    Matt, do you have any other Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades for us to see? I always loved reading those.

  8. Anonymous says:


  9. mimitchi33 says:

    I saw the Potato Head buckets on someone’s front porch this Halloween.

    But Matt, are you going to do more Thanksgiving parades?

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