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McDonald’s is releasing an adult Happy Meal — here’s when it comes out

The meals include trippy versions of nostalgic faves.

One of the hardest things about becoming an adult is the childhood joys that seem out of your fully-grown hand’s grasp. Flintstones vitamins, after-school cartoons and brightly-colored Marvel Band-Aids may get you side-eyes from others. But now, thanks to McDonald's, a little bit of childhood can be enjoyed once again.

On Sept. 27, McDonald’s announced it’s making a new version of the Happy Meal — and this time, it’s for adults. The chain is reimagining the experience in a whole new way by offering the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box.

For the exclusive collaboration, Cactus Plant Flea Market, a fashion and product line known for being a favorite of hip-hop greats like Kanye West, Tyler the Creator and Pharrell, designed a box in the label’s signature style alongside the iconic golden arches of McDonald’s, featuring familiar and new character faces.

McDonalds happy meal floating in sky
McDonald's Cactus Plant Flea Market Box.McDonalds

According to McDonald’s, the box will be available inside restaurants, in the drive-thru, by delivery or via the McDonald’s app starting Oct. 3 while supplies last.

As for what food comes inside the new grown-up version of the Happy Meal, McDonald’s said it’s offering its most popular menu items available in the bigger-sized box for adult appetites. Customers can pick between a Big Mac meal or a 10-piece Chicken McNuggets meal, both coming with fries and a drink.

A Happy Meal is not a Happy Meal without a prize inside, so the brand is including one of four collectible figurines designed by Cactus Plant Flea Market with each box. And for this, Mickey D’s is bringing back some retired characters from the past.

McDonalds happy meal floating in sky
The selection of trippy toys in McDonald's Cactus Plant Flea Market Box.McDonalds

Purchasers will get one of three returning nostalgic McDonald’s mascots: Grimace, the Hamburglar, Birdie or Cactus Buddy! (yes, the exclamation point is in its name), a new toy friend created just for the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box. All four characters are seeing double — figuratively and literally — with four eyes on each figure.

“We’re taking one of the most nostalgic McDonald’s experiences and literally repackaging it in a new way that’s hyper-relevant for our adult fans,” said Tariq Hassan, McDonald’s USA chief marketing and customer experience officer. 

“I can’t wait to give fans a unique piece of art and culture as we dive headfirst into the dynamic world of Cactus Plant Flea Market together next week,” he said. “With menu favorites like the Big Mac and McNuggets at the center of this collab, this is another way we’re reigniting a new generation’s love for our food and the brand.” 

As further incentive, fans who purchase the Cactus Plant Flea Market Box on the chain’s mobile app will be entered into a merchandise-based contest automatically. The free merchandise up for grabs every week includes custom Cactus Plant Flea Market x McDonald’s T-shirts, sweatshirts and even a chair made to look like Grimace. Who wouldn’t want that in their home?

Fans can find out how to enter to win without purchasing a box by heading to a special page McDonald's set up by 11:59 p.m. ET on Oct. 30. Entries are limited to one per day and entrants still have to be members of MyMcDonald’s Rewards.  

As to why an adult Happy Meal sounds so thrilling to an adult’s ear, the answer is simple: nostalgia.

“McDonald’s, because it has been around for decades, can remind adult consumers of the ‘good old days’ via these adult Happy Meals,” said  Kelly Goldsmith, E. Bronsom Ingram Professor of Marketing at Vanderbilt University to TODAY Food. “Doing so highlights a positive reason to pull into their drive-thru as opposed to someone else’s.”

Goldsmith adds that since McDonald’s has been around for so long that a lot of its advertising centers on “simply reminding their customers that they exist."

“There is lots of new and different competition in the fast food space, but one differentiating attribute that new entrants cannot leverage is nostalgia and history,” she said.

If you want to skip the contest, the merchandise will also be made available exclusively on McDonald’s x Cactus Plant Flea Market’s site starting Oct. 3 at 11 a.m. ET. The collection will only be available during a limited-time window while supplies last.