McDonald’s Scary Sound Effects on Cassette
While McDonald’s Halloween Happy Meal buckets are all the rage here in 2022, those spooky pails are just the tip of the iceberg of amazing Halloween Happy Meals that have been released over the years. For example, in 1995 McDonald’s decided to add some audio to Halloween. That year, in addition to some great looking toys, you could also pick from four audio cassette tapes.
While I like audio, the draw of toys has always been too much for me, and I remember picking up the Hamburglar in a Spider Costume that sat on my desk for a long time. After that year’s Halloween Happy Meal was over, I started to find the cassettes at flea markets and garage sales, and couldn’t resist collecting all four.
The four were:
Ronald Makes Magic
Silly Sing Along
Scary Sound Effects
While I would eventually own all four, the one that I have played and enjoyed the most was the fourth, Scary Sound Effects. Not only was it the only one that thematically fit in with the Halloween Happy Meal, it also had a great Side B of actual scary sound effects.
The material on this album is not original. Side A, which has, I Like To Scare Myself by Rich Seidelman, Barbara Fallon, and Gary Fry, is pulled from the full-length album Ronald Makes It Magic and parts of Side B are from the album Scary Sound Effect: Nightmarish Noise for Halloween. According to the back of the cassette case, “both albums are available on cassette or compact disc from Kid Rhino and Rhino Records.” The partnership with Rhino record seemed to be a very important part of McDonald’s audio strategy.
The cassette, which came in a colorful cardboard sleeve, is short, only ten minutes in total with five minutes per side. The cassette itself is a rather boring. The one neat thing on it is the McDonald’s logo. It would have been much more memorable if the case was orange and/or had a more interesting font treatment.
Side A starts with Ronald, played by Jack Doepke, mentioning that this is the Halloween broadcast of McDonaldland Magical Radio. It quickly jumps to a back and forth with Grimace, played by Frank Welker, who seems to confuse various holidays with Halloween before breaking into the song I Like To Scare Myself. The message of this adorable song is that it can be safe and fun to scare oneself.
After Grimace finishes up, he goes to put on his Halloween costume and Ronald says he is going to sing Gorilla my Dreams. But something is wrong, and the song won’t play. Uh, oh!
While this is happening, a loud knocking begins to approach Ronald and his audience of kids. As it draws closer they start to panic, but no need to worry, it just Grimace in his robot Halloween costume. The costume, which was made from pieces of the radio station, were why the music stopped working, and they all have a good laugh with Grimace promising all the parts of his costume back where he found them.
(If he can remember where they went.)
In a fun twist, Grimace reveals he wanted to be a ghost anyway. So it is no coincidence that one of the Halloween Happy Meal toys you could choose in 1995 was a Grimace Ghost. With those antics concluded, Ronald instructs you to turn the tape over to listen to the scary sounds in Side B and make your own spooky radio show.
The sound effects are well done. You have wind, cackling witches, creaking doors, chains, assorted ghosts, an organ and much more. It is actually some excellent sound effects, the layering might be a little too heavy, but I think that can be forgiven since they needed to cram a lot into just five minutes.
I still have my copy and listen to it every Halloween on my cassette player, but if you don’t have a copy, don’t worry. The whole thing has been digitized and uploaded to various places online, like YouTube and the Internet Archive.
The concept of Magical Radio didn’t end with these tapes. Instead, it went bigger. In 1996, United Airlines began to feature the “McDonald’s Magical Radio,” as an in-flight audio channel for children. This service included a free headset, a copy of McDonald’s Fun Time magazine, and featured in-flight music from Kid Rhino records. It was a fun distraction for kids in a pre-tablet computer world, and also great advertising for the Golden Arches.
These McDonaldland Magical Radio tapes are still pretty common if you are interested in collecting them. You can pick up an entire set, still in their original shrink wrap, for just a few bucks each. If you don’t have a cassette player, you don’t need to worry, dozens of people have uploaded the audio of these tapes online. So you can head over to YouTube and relive your childhood memories or, if it is new to you, discover some fun McDonald’s theme audio magic.