I originally intended this to be a short post. But, as it turns out, I took more photos than I have for any post on this silly blog. So we’ll see if I can keep the text short, too.
For more than one reason, the set of 2000 Transformers Beast Machines McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys is my favorite batch of fast food premiums ever. I think there’s a strong argument to be made about it being legitimately the best batch of Happy Meal toys ever created. Look, I love Changeables and McNugget Buddies as much as the next Dinosaur Dracula, but this set had it all.
If you’re a Transformers fan, these should be on your radar.
Why 2000 Transformers Beast Machines McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys?
In the late 90s and early 00s, my relationship with Beast Wars was somewhat complicated. From my birth in the mid 80s to my formative teenage years in the late 1990s, I’d collected several G1 and G2 Transformers– maybe about 25-30 of them in various sizes (yes, a lot of them were Throttlebots and Micromasters). I loved each and everyone of them, and they were just as dear to me as my Lego, GI Joe, and Exosquad collections. I’ve written a bit about it before, but a house fire wiped almost all of them out.
Beast Wars figures were the Transformers on the shelves back then. I loved the show and liked the toys, but they could never replace my dearly departed G1 and G2 bots. I missed the vehicles and straightforward weapons, which could often be swapped between figures. Beast Wars did away with vehicles and modular accessories. I thought the toys were great and I adored what the Beast Wars cartoon did with characters, story, and Transformers lore– but I missed what had come before.
My relationship with the followup series, Beast Machines, made my complicated feelings for Beast Wars seem like a marriage from a 1960s sitcom. What seemed complex and nuanced before was now downright simple. Beast Machines, more than anything else, was hard to digest.
Yes, I loved that there were vehicle Transformers again. At the time, the TV show’s animation blew my mind. But I did not love the show itself– it took a hard left turn that changed my beloved cast of characters, and left my favorite (Rhinox) in the dust. More importantly, though, I really disliked the Maximal designs. They were “funky” in a way that firmly planted them in that post-90s hangover period of 2000-2002, and that didn’t work for me then. In fact, I still think most of the BM Maximal designs are pretty bad, especially compared to what came before. My feelings on the Beast Machines cartoon have changed drastically after a rewatch, but my feelings on the Maximal designs have stayed the same.
But, this is important, there were vehicle Transformers again! I snapped up Mirage, Scavenger, Tankor, and Jetstorm as soon as they came out. They were all great toys. They were vastly different from G1 and G2 Transformers, and they had their own energy and aesthetics– but somehow they held their own, regardless.
Soon enough, McDonald’s released their own version of Beast Machines. As I was a 16 year old kid at the time who thought Happy Meal toys were beneath him, I didn’t pay them much mind.
They caught my attention because of a clerk at Suncoast Video in our local mall. I spent a good amount of time at that store, buying mecha/sci-fi anime (the original Mobile Suit Gundam movie trilogy, Bubblegum Crisis, Ghost in the Shell, etc) and Kurosawa movies on VHS. The clerk and I would always talk for a couple minutes after I made my purchases.
One day, he offered to sell me his old X-Men: The Animated series VHS tapes and said he’d throw in a surprise. He liked most of the same things I did, so I accepted. A couple days later, he gave me the tapes, a VHS copy of the Street Fighter 2 anime film, and two McDonald’s Beast Machines Tankor figures.
They blew my mind.
Here was a tiny fast food toy that looked like the character from the show. The toy transformed and featured Tankor’s signature cannon. But, it wasn’t just Tankor– it could function as a Tank Drone, too.
Here, in the form of this tiny, cheap Happy Meal Toy, I had my first army builder figure. And it was a good one! I’d always wanted generic goons for my Autobots and Maximals to fight and I finally found them in the strangest place. McDonald’s, much like Beast Machines, was punching above its weight class.
Still, I never had the rest of the toys (except a Nightscream I got in a Happy Meal that same year) until I started getting ready for this review.
Let’s see how the rest of them hold up.
1. Transformers Beast Machines Happy Meal Cheetor
I’ve never owned most of the Beast Machines Maximal cast in toy form. I liked some of the non-show Maximal toys like Hammerstrike, Nightviper, and Longhorn, but the show designs did nothing for me. This was especially true for Cheetor. His Supreme Class version was a huge, expensive joke and the Mega Class version wasn’t much better. A Deluxe Class “Night Slash Cheetor” was released near the end of the line, but I never picked one up. It does look decent, and I’d like to get it someday, but that day is not today.
Even counting Night Slash Cheetor and its Universe repaint, this Happy Meal Cheetor might be the most show-accurate version of the character ever released. That’s true for most of the Maximals in the series. McDonald’s toys gave fans the entire (first season) cast of the show. The toys were all reasonably animation accurate, and they all transformed. What a miracle.
But this Cheetor is not a miracle. His head is tiny in both modes and his deco leaves a lot to be desired. Still, it is a Happy Meal toy. The fact that the arms and legs move and that it looks like the show character are huge points in its favor.
Taken on its own, this is a crappy toy. But, in the context of what it is and when it came out, it’s pretty charming and somewhat impressive.
As for all of the Maximal toys in this set, I don’t have anything for a comparison shot. My apologies.
2. Transformers Beast Machines Happy Meal Optimus Primal
If you haven’t noticed yet, all of these 2000 Transformers Beast Machines McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys make heavy use of clear plastic. They also have a red “spark crystal” somewhere on the toy that you can, in theory, shine a light through. Optimus Primal’s clear plastic is… brown.
Of all the Beast Machines Maximals, I think Primal had the worst design. On the show, his gorilla mode looked okay, but his robot mode was a jumbled mess. It also replaced all three (!) Beast Wars versions of Primal’s wicked arsenal with… mystical energy blasts he fired from his stomach or something?
His first mainline toy represented that with a green ninja star. See, someone on high at Hasbro or the TV network said the Maximals could no longer use traditional guns or missiles, so this is what we got instead. That was another problem I had with Beast Machines at the time. Transformers with no weapons?! Come on.
As a Happy Meal toy, Primal is not the worst. His robot mode actually looks a lot like its animated counterpart, and it manages to be fairly endearing. The beast mode, though– yikes! Could they not afford to paint the face? It looks more like Morn from Deep Space 9 than a techno-organic gorilla.
I love Morn, even if the guy never shuts up, but it’s not a good look for the Maximal Commander. Still, the toy moves at the shoulders, wrists, hips, and knees. That’s pretty good! And it’s much more show-accurate than all but the huge toys that came later in the BM line (and RiD line).
3. Transformers Beast Machines Happy Meal Megatron
Megatron got a pretty good redesign in Beast Machines, mostly because it wasn’t much of a redesign.
Ostensibly, he kept his Transmetal 2 dragon mode from the end of Beast Wars but wrapped it in a helmet and control harness. He was trying to purge all organic matter from both himself and Cybertron, so when he transformed into beast mode, an uncontrollable rage took over. His figure in the Beast Machines toy line proper was actually pretty cool.
And this figure looks… somewhat like it.
I actually like what they did here, for the most part. The robot mode is wrapped in the control harness, and the dragon mode is underneath, with tiny little red wings painted onto the cylinder half. His legs and head can move around.
The beast mode looks almost okay, but they probably should have found a way to paint the head red instead of blue. In the end, he does resemble a soda can (as Dave Van Domelen said all those years ago), but he is pretty nice for a Happy Meal toy.
I like this one, but all the bad guys in the set outshine the heroes– so that’s not too surprising.
4. Transformers Beast Machines Happy Meal Jetstorm
Jetstorm’s 2000 Deluxe Class figure was great. It didn’t look too much like the animation model, but it had an amazingly detailed design, lots of paint, a cool transformation, good articulation, and a lot of gimmicks/options.
This is not that toy. Compared to the Deluxe, it doesn’t look like much, but it is much more show accurate.
Since these Happy Meal toys didn’t come with instructions (maybe they were on the box the food came in, I have no idea), it took me a little while to figure out you can rotate the arms for a better robot mode. Some of these guys have a more complex transformation than you’d suspect, and Jetstorm is one of them.
His use of clear plastic gives the illusion of that shapely silhouette he had on the show, and you can form his show-accurate robot mode by not transforming the cockpit/feet. He is hard to stand when you separate the cockpit halves out, but he’s best kept in “hover mode” anyway. He moves at the arms.
In vehicle mode, his little neck/cockpit assembly can move around a bit, replicating what he did on the show. Of course the jet could use a bit of paint, but it’s really nice for what it is. If you grab a couple of these, you have some nice army builders for your Vehicon forces. This is one of my favorites in the entire set.
5. Transformers Beast Machines Happy Meal Rattrap
Again, Rattrap got the short end of the stick when it came to a Beast Machines, both in character and redesign. When I first watched the show, I was also upset that they did my second-favorite character dirty– he was much more cowardly and panicky than he was at the end of Beast Wars. The Mega Class toy’s rat mode looks fantastic, and I might pick it up just for that at some point, but there’s really no salvaging the robot mode.
This Happy Meal Toy is a bit more show accurate than the mainline toy. Of course, it doesn’t have the weapons, paint, sculpting, or articulation, but it’s pretty good for what it is.
Even though he has wheels for feet (accurate!) in robot mode, he still stands up pretty well. He also has an impressive range of movement in the shoulders and elbows. That articulation wasn’t necessary for transformation, so it’s extra appreciated. I do think the face would have been better rendered in silver instead of white.
Rat mode is pretty decent, but you can see some serious robot parts if you look at it from certain angles. The red clear plastic looks nice in both modes, but they could have sacrificed some of the paint apps on the back of the rat to at least give the rat some painted eyes. Yeesh.
Still, this Rattrap toy is better than he has any right to be. He’ll never hold a candle to any Beast Wars version of the character (including the Thrilling 30 toy), but he’s a good representation of the show character. I like him much more than I thought I would, and he’s my second favorite of the Maximals in the McDonald’s toy set.
Interesting side note: The fast food chain Little Red Rooster, based in Australia, repainted this mold into various colors. They’re honestly kind of cool. You can check them out here.
6. Transformers Beast Machines Happy Meal Blackarachnia
Blackarachnia had the best Beast Machines redesign of any of the Maximals. Period. Her spider mode, with its stilt-like legs, looked legitimately creepy. Her robot mode, with its extra eyes, looked cunning and deadly. She actually looked cool. So cool, in fact, that I bought the Universe 1.0 repaint of it in stores. Sadly, that toy is somewhere in storage and will not be making an appearance in this article. But just know she stands head and shoulders above the rest of the BM Maximals as far as “not looking like a shit-coated trainwreck” goes.
Her Happy Meal toy is… pretty good! The robot mode, rendered in a lovely pink, looks like its show counterpart minus some color and paint detail. The robot moves at the arms and legs (though the legs are done in the style of the old Playmates Star Trek figures, meaning she can’t sit down so much as perform excruciating-looking high kicks). The big ol’ spider butt doesn’t get in the way, and she stands up just fine.
The beast mode represents a Very Good Try. The transformation is pretty clever, with her spider butt flipping around 180 degrees, and her robot legs each splitting into two spider legs. The spider legs embedded on her abdomen, however, don’t even come close to reaching the ground. They’re just kind of there, shaking spider-fists at the clouds in the sky, demanding Nightscream to get off her lawn. You know what, though– I relate to that. Nightscream can get off of everyone’s damn lawn.
So, yeah, Happy Meal Blackarachnia isn’t perfect, but she’s pretty dang good for a McDonald’s toy. Interestingly, Blackarachnia is the only BW-era character to get two Happy Meal toys. She got a conceptual “Transmetal” version (that never appeared on the show) in a previous Happy Meal assortment. I strangely couldn’t find mine to take a comparison photo (even though I know where it should be), so you’ll just have to make do with the TFU.info entry.
Happy Meal Blackarachnia is easily the best Maximal in this McDonald’s set. I love her.
7. Transformers Beast Machines Happy Meal Thrust
Thrust is a cool character. And (spoiler alert for a show that’s nearly old enough to buy gallons of neutral grain alcohol whenever it gets the urge) Thrust’s former self was a cool character, too. Waspinator lost his case of the bumbles and his penchant for eternal agony and became the smooth, ultra-cool biker bot of the franchise.
The Deluxe Thrust figure from the Beast Machines line wasn’t super show accurate, but it was a good toy. The Motorcycle Drone toy (also in storage, sorry) was even better.
But, as is often the case here, this McDonald’s Thrust is your best bet for a show accurate figure. The motorcycle mode is sleek and cool, with clear blue exhaust pipes that make him look like he’s speeding into battle. It stands up just fine on its own, too.
His robot mode, however, does not stand up just fine on its own. But! He actually comes with a stand, shaped into the form of a little cloud of dust. That’s great attention to detail, and something the designers really didn’t need to do. I’m glad they did, though. Some of the first “Third Party” Transformers accessories, sold by Unicron.com, were stands for the various Beast Machines Vehicons. The toys couldn’t stand up in their “show accurate” modes without these stands, so they were somewhat popular items. McDonald’s just gave you a stand right out of the gate.
Thrust moves at the head and shoulders, and the former exhaust pipes make great energy blast effects. My copy is weak at the torso hinge, so he likes to flop down and collapse, but I doubt that’s a problem for every copy of the figure.
As with all of the Happy Meal Vehicons, Thrust is a great toy.
8. Transformers Beast Machines Happy Meal Nightscream
Nightscream was a floppy-haired scene kid before it was cool. Sure, you’d see him at Hot Topic, but you’d also see him at every Acacia Strain show in the tri-county area. Since Cheetor evolved to a capable warrior (and leader), Beast Machines needed a new “kid appeal” character, and that was Nightscream. When the show first came out, I couldn’t stand him. I didn’t like his character or design. I like him a bit more these days, but he’s definitely the weakest of the Season 1 Maximals.
Nightscream’s Ultra Class toy is also an unholy, floppy, disgusting mess. It’s like the designers just looked at the character model/concept and gave up. I probably would have, too, honestly. Thankfully, the Happy Meal version is much more restrained and simple– and, by extension, much more show-accurate, too.
The bat mode looks pretty good from most angles, and the clear blue plastic is nice. Due to transformation and/or robot mode joints, it can also flap its wings in a variety of ways.
The robot mode looks better than the mainline toy, and is pretty dang accurate to what you see on the show. It moves at the hips, knees, and shoulders. The way his hands are posed, though, makes it look like he’s permanently a little kid peeking over the countertop at the corner store or a seedy bar, looking to see what kind of vodka and lotto tickets his mom is buying.
Aside from that, he’s really not a bad toy at all. He’s much better looking than his more expensive mainline counterpart. If this is the only version of Nightscream I ever have in my collection (and it will be!), then I’ll be satisfied.
9. Transformers Beast Machines Happy Meal Tankor
This is it. This is the figure that made me buy this whole set of toys 20 years later. I currently have four of them. I like Tankor in general– I have his original toy, its Universe repaint, two Tank Drones, and the Thrilling 30 version. They’re all great in their own way.
For as good as it was, though, the original Tankor figure wasn’t even close to what we saw on the screen.
The Tank Drones remedied that, but this little McDonald’s Tankor was the strongest contender for “Real Ass Tankor” we had during the show’s first season. And he’s a great little figure!
The robot mode moves at the head (with a good amount of range thanks to transformation), shoulders, elbows, and hips. The cannon moves up and down, too. He also has clear red missile/gun batteries on his chest, right around his spark crystal.
The tank mode looks a bit silly, but so did the character on the show. The cannon has full range of movement, which is fantastic for an inexpensive little fast food figure. He has no rolling wheels or anything, but he really doesn’t need them. This is it. This is The Best Happy Meal Toy.
He looks great mixed in with other Tankors, and I’d argue getting a few of these spices up any Vehicon army. As I mentioned in this article’s opening, this toy was very important to me as a young person. He was cannon fodder for all of my Maximals and Autobots, and I still use him in that role to this day. Unlike GI Joe, Transformers has never been much for army builders. I always wanted army builders though, and I found a cheap one that exceeded my expectations in this little Happy Meal toy.
Even though I didn’t love that Rhinox became Tankor (and I still don’t, really), I cherish the character and this figure. Even if I pared down my Transformers collection to just a few pieces, it’s likely this one would stay. This is my favorite toy in the assortment, and one of my favorite Beast Machines toys in general.
If you get one toy from this set, make it Tankor.
Closing Thoughts on 2000 Transformers Beast Machines McDonald’s Happy Meal Toys
This set of Happy Meal toys is almost a miracle. In one fell swoop, and at the cost of a few cheeseburgers and/or McNuggets, fans could get the entire season 1 cast of the show. They all transformed and they were all articulated. Plus, they were more show accurate than the mainline toys Hasbro was selling. Most importantly, though, they gave us our first real Transformers army builders– and they were inexpensive!
I alluded to it earlier, but I recently re-watched Beast Machines. And, guess what? It definitely didn’t deserve my vitriol. Its biggest failing is that it was too ambitious– the characters all had interesting, and sometimes uncomfortable, development arcs. The core themes of the story (environmentalism, zealotry, hero worship, genocide) were dark, but they were presented in a thoughtful way. I still don’t love everything about the show, but it’s worth a watch. And, I almost hate to say it, but it’s a worthy successor to my beloved Beast Wars.
Back in 2000, I was busy longing for G1 and G2. Now, though, I long for Beast Wars. We get a ton of G1-update toys every single year, and I have a good, modern version of almost every G1 character I’ve ever liked. I could stand to get some more G2 updates, but it’s really Beast Wars I’m missing. Both the toys and the show were so artfully done, and they were all new. We really don’t get anything on that level anymore.
I still love modern Transformers, but they just don’t hit me the same as those old Beast Wars figures, you know? It’s weird how perceptions change.
Anyway, what are your favorite fast food toys? Let me know in the comments!