When you have the biggest TV license going like Warner Bros. did with the Dukes of Hazzard in the early '80s, it was only natural that they would end up in a McDonald's Happy Meal promotion. Thinking about it now, a classic folded Happy Meal cardboard box adorned with Dukes artwork filled with a burger, fries and a little plastic Dukes car seem like a no-brainer. It wasn't exactly that simple.
The Happy Meal itself started as a regional promotion in 1977 and was introduced nationally in 1979, the same year the Dukes premiered. Both were overnight successes. Early on, the toys included were bouncy balls and small frisbees. Figures and cars featuring Ronald McDonald and friends were the basis of the majority of the toys. The first licensed Happy Meals were a tie-in with the first Star Trek movie and the only other licensed properties before Dukes were the Olympics and the Muppets. So when McDonald's and Dukes got together in 1982, there wasn't exactly a formula set for the Happy Meal promotions. Though small plastic cars, either wind-up or Ertl like, would have been simple, the Dukes of Hazzard Happy Meal tie-ins that were produced are unlike any other Dukes products and rather unique in the Happy Meal collector world as well.
When you ordered a Dukes of Hazzard Happy Meal from McDonald's in 1982, your hamburger and fries came inside a Dukes of Hazzard car shaped plastic box. There were five different car boxes and they were very (very) thin. I was only 1 at the time, so I have no memory of these actually in Mickey D's, but I would have to think 75% of these cars were played with in the restaurant and then thrown away with the hamburger wrappers and fry packets on the way out the door. Given how fragile these items are, they are quite rare and fetch quite a price when sold today. Let's take a look at each Happy Meal Dukes box.
The General Lee leads the pack, as always. The stickers came un-attached and part of the fun was applying them. The design of the car is faithful to the beloved Charger and it has details like the door and hood scoops. The vector wheels look nice, through there are only 8 spokes. They even included the roll bar.
The 01s, flag and push bar are all represented nicely with the stickers.
Each car is made up of two sections. The top has most of the detail, and the bottom is mostly a tray to hold the food.
I have two General Lees. One has the stickers attached and one doesn't. Neither are in perfect condition because these things are incredibly thin and flimsy.
The sticker sheet does accompany my blank General Lee. Included with all the Gen'ral livery are McDonald's license plate stickers. That's a funny addition.
Stickers seem to have been a big deal in the '80s. I remember having a sticker book and so did my sister. Applying all of these beauties to the car would be a nice way to keep the young Dukes fans occupied in the booth while their parents enjoyed two all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions, on a sesame seed bun. Jeezs oh whiz, I am a product of marketing; I didn't even have to look that jingle up.
The bottom pieces include two very iconic logos. The Golden Arches look great next to the classic Dukes logo in classic Dukes font. I'm not sure which part of the year in 1982 these were released. Surprisingly there is not a definitive Happy Meal database online. Get it together McFans! ( I kid).
They also had James Best autograph it at some point.
The body definitely looks like the correct Dodge Monaco.
I guess I didn't pay attention to the partially used sticker sheet that came with the set. The actual police signage is still attached. This person also didn't adhere the McDonald's license plates. They were going for realism.
I do have an un-stickered patrol car as well. I bought the two stickerless cars together and blogged about them in 2012. A lot of detail went in these stickers.
It was very important that everyone knew which way was the front of these boxes.
The back of the sticker sheets had the trademark information and instructions. I wonder if the person who wrote the phrase "Collect a complete set" thought that we would be doing just that 35 years later. Would you look at that, this post marks the 35th anniversary of the Dukes of Hazzard Happy Meal. Congratulations!
The next three cars are more rare than the General and patrol car. I only have one each of them. First up is Uncle Jesse's Pickup. It included a larger McDonald's sticker so the previous owner threw it on the passenger door. Doesn't look to bad.
Jesse's side doesn't have the arches. I'm not sure if only one of those stickers was included or if the sticker applyer left one off.
The other details include the grill, windows, wheels, and little turning lights. There's also a little McD's license plate.
The bed isn't as deep to make room for the single burger. Or maybe you went with the cheese burger. I wonder when McDonald's started including chicken McNuggets in the Happy Meal.
The final two cars in the set look a little different than we normally remember them. Boss Hogg's Cadillac has the convertible roof up. This is, again, to make room for the scrumptious fast food inside. The only time I remember seeing the roof up on Boss's Caddy is in the second episode, Daisy's Song, when Boss has to hightail it out of Atlanta when the feds raid his crooked recording studio.
The bull horns aren't present on the Caddy, but admittedly, they would be quite difficult to pull off.
The different windows and lights make up the bulk of the stickers on Boss's ride. Maybe if you ordered the Boss Hogg special, you got several burgers and extra fries.
The final car in the set also had to accommodate the food inside so Daisy's Dixie Jeep has the hard top covering the back seat. I can't remember a single time when the Jeep wasn't topless on the show. It did have doors on it when it was given to Daisy by millionaire oil tycoon C. J. Holmes in the episode The Runaway after Bo and Luke drove her Roadrunner off a cliff.
The doors aren't present on Happy Meal Dixie, and the stickers simulate an open front seat. I wonder if it was a mistake or a conscience effort to change the markings from Dixie to Daisy on the hood of the Jeep on items like this and diecasts. Is it to make sure girls are included in a toy line mostly geared toward boys? Is it so they know for sure that this vehicle belongs to our heroine? Those are the sort of questions I wonder about.
The famous Golden Eagle is flying high on the hood of Daisy's Jeep. There are a lot of details to his Happy Meal box.
The McDonald's license plate is built-in to the spare tire here.
None of my cars are in perfect condition, but they all display very well. From this angle, the Gen'ral almost looks like he has something to say like Pixar's Cars.
Also in 1982, McDonald's released a set of Dukes of Hazzard character cups. I'm not exactly sure if these came out at the same time as the Happy Meals, though that would make sense. I am almost certain these were not included with the Happy Meals; your drink that accompanied the Happy Meal car box didn't come in these cups. I think they were a separate promotion at the same time. Cups sold separately.
This time let's start with beautiful Daisy. Each cup had the same picture repeated on two sides with the show logo on it. The original artwork is unique to these cups.
In between the pictures is McDonald's logo. They are made of sturdy plastic and meant to last. They are much stronger than the flimsy Happy Meal boxes.
Sheriff Rosco's cup includes ol' Velvet Ears, Flash. The artwork is different than any we've seen on other products. It has a realistic line art feel. I really like it.
Boss Hogg looks like he would've gotten away with it if it wasn't for those meddling Dukes. My Boss Hogg cup doesn't have the crispest ink on it. It seems the printing had an issue and it isn't as vibrant. It's not all Boss Hogg cups that have this issue as the ones I've handled at Cooter's are more vibrant. That's just how it goes.
Uncle Jesse's cup seems to be the most recognizable image that was taken from a press photo.
This photo of the Dukes patriarch was clearly used to make the image on the cup. McDonald's seems to have given Jesse a little smirk though.
Luke looks a little too white haired in this image. Don't get me wrong, as a someone who started going gray at age 18, I have firsthand knowledge on how great a man can look with white hair, but Luke sure wasn't going gray on Dukes. McDonald's could have spared a little more black ink for this cup. It seems both Bo and Luke's artwork used a few too many lines on their faces.
Bo never had that many laugh lines. John still doesn't. Bo and Luke's McDonald's cups are my least favorite. But besides the choice of line art used to create the images, all the details are correct on these cups. They are great additions to any collection. They are not as rare as the Happy Meals boxes, and for some reason it seems Luke is the most difficult to find. Weird how that works out sometimes. Bo is the most common. It's unexpected that Luke would be the most rare similarly to how the 1/144 Cooter's Tow Truck is the second most common behind the General Lee and the patrol car is the hardest to find. Weird.
The bottom of each cup has he Warner Bros in formation on it.
There is one item I don't have from the Dukes of Hazzard McDonald's collection. Above is a picture of the in-restaurant display of Boss Hogg holding the General Lee Happy Meal box. This picture was taken from an ebay auction years ago that I didn't win. I would love to get my hands on one. I really like the artwork on the display. It is very different from the art on the cups. Anyone out there have one they would like me to have? Please?
Preparing for this post, I was thinking about why McDonald's created food holding boxes for the Dukes instead of actual toy cars. Maybe the companies that were awarded the toy making licenses like Ertl, Mego, and Knickerbocker didn't want any more competition or had no compete contracts. I've spoken with Duke fans who thought they remember getting the Knickerbocker Wrist Racer wind-up cars in a Dukes Happy Meal, but they were remembering it wrong. One fan described to me a Dukes themed birthday party at McDonald's that involved each kid taking home a wind-up General Lee or police car, but we discovered that the parents bought the cars beforehand. The McDonald's Dukes of Hazzard collection is a great instance of items that are sought after by Dukes fans as well as other collectors like McDonald's collectors and folks who just collect pop culture memorabilia.