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I became Claustrophobic in the Big Mac Climber

Mcdonaldland in Thunder Bay | Alex Inspired
True Story. I became Claustrophobic in the Big Mac Climber.

Kids born in the 1970s and 1980s lived in, what I believe, the “golden years of McDonald’s’.

These were the years of Happy Meals in paper bags with amazing toys, food wrapped in harvest gold styrofoam containers (sorry planet earth), birthday parties with friends and most importantly, McDonaldland.

McDonaldland was most likely created during a time when the McDonald’s Marketing Team dropped a ton of acid and came up with some of the creepiest characters, who thankfully no longer exist. Captain Crook, Mayor McCheese, Officer Big Mac and Grimace (who at the time, had 4 arms and would steal milkshakes) were all characters part of the McDonaldland universe. The idea of McDonaldland was to create a world where fries grew in fields, Filet-O-Fish burgers swam in a lake, apple pie trees grew… pies and hamburger patches were plentiful. I’m not sure if this was considered imagination or just a serious case of the munchies.

McDonaldland | Alex Inspired

Ahh McDonaldland… can you remember the smell of the cedar chip ground, surrounded by three dark brown brick walls, and one open view to the beautiful McIntyre Centre parking lot?  You would enjoy your time climbing, sliding, running around and snacking on your fries – possibly giving your exhausted parent 10 minutes of quiet. If you were like my buddy Nick, you’d hide in Big Mac Climber, refusing to go home – knowing your mother couldn’t reach you.

My friend Missy and I were reminiscing about our time spent at McDonaldland, which began as innocent and cheerful conversation, and veered off into a dark point of no return.

McDonaldland Big Mac Climber, I became Claustrophobic in the Big Mac Climber | Alex Inspired

Repressed memories surfaced – thoughts of a pee-smelling playground filled our minds. I remember being trapped in the Big Mac Climber. It was a long way down, and a confined space above. My pregnant mum was unable to come get me… and a poor, poor unsuspecting McDonald’s employee was called in. Although I don’t remember much, I do remembering kicking said employee in the face, while he gallantly tried to save me from the clutches of the McPrison burger.

Missy reminded me of the Grimace Bounce & Bend. It was this cagey wobbly structure which was supposedly Grimace’s body, with his purple head firmly planted on top. It reminded me a bit of the top of the rocket ship slide at Chippewa Park. You could stand inside the caged torso and rock back and forth and it would spring back to its upright position. Seemed like a super idea, for those kids loaded up on orange pop and McNuggets.

Grimace Bounce and Bend | Alex Inspired

We had a Captain Crook twirly slide (red and yellow beetlejuice stripes) – which smelled like pee, and we had these weird spring ride things in the shapes of McDonald goblins and filet-o-fish… which I guarantee, probably also smelled like pee.

Captain Crook Slide - McDonaldland | Alex inspired

Oddly enough, everyone I’ve asked about McDonaldland has so many stories and memories. Sadly not one person has a photograph from being there.

When you think back on many of these childhood McDonald moments, you never think about the safety hazards or liability. You went, ate your food, played and hoped to never get stuck in the Big Mac Climber ever again.

Filet-o-fish Spring Ride - McDonaldland | Alex Inspired

I really wanted to know what happened to our precious pee-infested childhood memories of McDonald merriment, tantrums, trauma and fries.

What is with this new McDonald’s PlayPlace nonsense; non-primary coloured ball pits, padded mats, plexiglass, plastic everything and something called safety? Whatever happened to steel, fiberglass, and sharp cornered structures we all knew and loved? Aren’t these things the reason we all had tetanus shots and neon coloured band-aids as kids?

Turns out, that shit we played on was SUPER unsafe and McDonald’s was undergoing lawsuit after lawsuit throughout the 1980s and 1990s.

Something we never had, called a “tug n’ turn” merry-go-round (drugs, I tell you), was a massive injury causing piece of equipment. There was nothing merry about this leg breaking, concussion causing hamburger twirly hellscape. Apparently there was a safety device that was was never installed, and went neglected for years. There were at least 120 claims amounting to $190,000 USD, paid to families whose children suffered injuries on the merry-go-round. Injuries included: a dislocated elbow, concussions, a severed finger, and broken bones. In one case, a girl from Bakersfield broke her leg in two places.

Tug n' Turn Merry-go-round - McDonaldland | Alex Inspired

The list of injuries grew, ranging from kids breaking bones from running into “fry trees” and falling off “apple pie stools”. You really can’t make this shit up. One kid had a 125 pound hard-plastic Ronald McDonald fall on her, after she was caught SWINGING from his extended arm. This great McFall caused the loss of the “fleshy tip of her left middle finger” leaving her and her family with a $41,400 payout for her “pain, suffering and continued emotional trauma”.
Maybe the 125 pound Ronald ALSO smelled like pee?

Hard plastic Ronald McDonald at McDonaldland | Alex Inspired

McDonaldland had much to offer us.

Injuries aside, it was a place for fries to die a moldy death, in between stinky cedar chips or maybe in the Big Mac Climber. It was a place to begrudgingly hangout on the crappy spring rides, for what seemed like a million years, waiting for your turn to go down the slide. It was a place you’d scream bloody murder if your brother got a better Happy Meal toy than you, and your embarrassed parent would have to go inside and ask to exchange said crappy toy, for another crappy toy.

Most importantly, McDonaldland was a good memory for most of us; and if you didn’t suffer or experience any of the above, did you even really experience McDonaldland?

McDonaldland Official Citizen - Alex Inspired

If you’re wondering where these photos came from, I “borrowed” them from this extremely informative video – created by the McDonald’s Setmakers people. You can watch below to relive your memories (and question who wrote this terrible script), or give yourself some childhood anxiety followed by a hankering for some nuggets and famously delicious orange syrupy pop.

Point of contention. You can no longer get orange pop…. or the McRib, or the McSalad Shaker, Arch Delux or McPizza.
My bad. Don’t crave all the things. 

Want to learn even more about McDonaldland, and get sucked into the interweb, check out this great blog on Tumblr.

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