What Ever Happened To McDonald's Halloween Buckets?

Was there anything better than rushing home to pull a plastic ALF mask out of a cardboard box, putting it on, throwing on the matching garbage sack-like costume it came with, grabbing a cheap, orange flashlight and a plastic bucket painted like a jack-o-lantern, and heading out for a candy-fueled evening that would make any Oompa Loompa's best day look like child's play? (Maybe that's just us...) While trick-or-treating remains a popular way to celebrate Halloween, the holiday's list of required equipment has changed over the years. One of the more curious changes was the absence of McDonald's Halloween Boo Buckets for several years.

Admittedly, not everyone was a fan of the Halloween buckets, considered a Happy Meal toy rather than simply cool food containers. But, as blogger Dinosaur Dracula points out, the buckets took on a life all their own, explaining, "Those pails were not simply 'one-and-done' toys... Instead, they became forever fixtures. Too large to lose and too durable to break, kids used the pails for just about everything: Crayons, LEGO pieces, action figures... everything." 

With such versatility and longevity, it's a little spooky that these fast-food artifacts seemed to disappear for a while. Six Halloweens passed without a Boo Bucket in sight, so forgive us if we're afraid McDonald's might ghost us again in the future.

A look at past Halloweens

When McDonald's debuted the iconic Halloween version of their pails in 1986 (following a perky, non-holiday specific bucket launch years earlier). The buckets were orange with curved pumpkin-like tops. They came in three designs: the just-got-scared McBoo, the might-scare-you McGoblin, and the happy-go-lucky McPunk'n.

Over the years, the buckets' designs changed. In 1989, a new McBoo was on the scene along with McGhost, a white ghost Jack O'lantern; and McWitch, a green witch complete with a pointed hat lid. 1990 saw the introduction of a glow-in-the-dark McBoo, and 1992 brought cookie-cutter lids. There were some even bigger departures from the original designs in the following years, including everything from scenes with Ronald McDonald to themes like Mr. Potato Head, "The Book of Life," and "Minions." In 2016, the last year of the pumpkin pail party before they disappeared, McDonald's released "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" Halloween buckets. Then, they were gone, destined it seemed to be buried in the McDonald's vault. 

According to the McDonald's corporate website, the popularity of the Halloween buckets wasn't lost on McDonald's archivist Mike Bullington. Bullington noted the whimsical vessel's success, stating, "I think the favorite items have probably been the Pumpkin Pails, but Halloween at McDonald's has been successful year after year. And as a customer, it's exciting to see the new ideas generated." However, Bullington may have underestimated nostalgia as McDonald's chose to resurrect the Pumpkin Pails in 2022. 

Returning from the grave

Beginning as rumblings by some bloggers, the rumors were true. McDonald's officially welcomed the Halloween pails back for the 2022 fall season, selling them from October 18 to 31. This launch featured a back-to-basics approach. Instead of a movie or TV tie-in, the restaurant chain brought back its original trio from 1986 — McBoo, McPunk'n, and McGoblin. 

However, McDonald's paying homage to the past has us worried about the future. Was the Halloween pail revival just a one-off, or is it a sign that the Halloween tradition has returned for good? We would hate for this to become the spooktacular version of the McRib. While nothing has officially been revealed about McDonald's current Halloween plans, there are rumors once more that McDonald's is again dusting off its Halloween pails. 

Nightmare Nostalgia, the scooper who first shared the news about the 2022 return, strongly believes that the Halloween pails will be at McDonald's again this year. The site shared a photo by an anonymous source that states the Halloween pails will be available starting on October 17. Until then, fans everywhere wait with bated breath.