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by Artemis

Remember childhood? For most of us (by which I mean "me," and I'm just going to assume everyone else is likewise), that was the 1980s - bright and joyful times, when we hadn't yet learned that sequels wouldn't be as good as the original, we watched our Saturday morning cartoons free of the jaded knowledge that He-Man would never finally defeat Skeletor once and for all, and we were blissfully ignorant of how much of our clothing and hairstyles and music and, well, everything sucked. And best of all, "McHappy" was a synonym for "excitement," rather than "diabetes."

In 1987, Ronald McDonald - who, for some reason, none of us realized looked like a creepy child molester at the time - laid down the McHappiness law with the McDonald's Changeables. Yes, like the sucktacular Bamblebee two decades later, McDonald's didn't give up when Hasbro told them to go shove a McMuffin up their backsides, and went for the STBLDF (similar to but legally distinct from) option; and admit it, was it not the coolest thing ever to get a goddamn Transformer (or near enough) in a McHappy meal? "Look on my works, ye mighty," the bad-touch clown proclaimed, "and despair, for y'ain't never gonna top this."

Nowadays these rare and precious items can go for literally dollars on eBay, but I can't be bothered, so I'll just review the ones I had already.

First up, the icon of McDonald's itself, two layers of haphazardly grilled possibly-cow on a pre-chewed bun, the Big Mac. This guy appeared in both of the humanoid series of Changeables - 1987 and 1989 (they did some dino-themed ones in 1990) - and this is the original and best... but since the first series didn't bother with names and the second did, let's assume they're the same robot, Macro Mac. Measuring a cutesy 1½" by 1½", Macro Mac is the perfect image of the Big Macs you see on the light-up menus in the glorified feeding troughs McDonald's refers to as "restaurants," and never actually receive in reality, because the menu ones are made of plastic. Which, I suppose, makes Macro Mac even more accurate. He's cast in hamburger bun tan brown, which is kind of like the colour you find in the bathroom at very disreputable raves, and the "meat," "lettuce" and "cheese" are applied with paint, resulting in the yellow from the cheese seeping into the bread. Fair enough, it does that in real life too if you're not careful.

Transformation (do we call it that or what?) isn't exactly complex. Lift the top of the burger up, flip it back, and swing up the arms, and you have yourself a robot who towers to a height of 2½", which may not seem like much, but when you do some rough calculations these things come out to about 1:2.6 scale, which is larger - relatively speaking - than pretty much anything else in anyone's collection unless you're insane and buy life-sized statues. [Or mannequins, right? --ed.] Macro Mac's internal body is blue, with yellow and purple paint picking out his face and hands.

Next we have the Quarter Pounder, which seemed like a lot of meat (regardless of what animal it came from) when you were young, didn't it? Now I know people who buy these things four at a time to create Pounders as a matter of habit. This one was a generation-one-only robot, but gen2 featured a Quarter Pounder container - you remember, the old Styrofoam ones that are the reason you have to wear so much sunscreen nowadays - so perhaps they're different incarnations of the same robot, in which case this is Gallacta Pounder. I'm not sure what the two L's is about - there was a video game called Galacta, but I think that was during the '90s, so it can't have been an infringement issue in '89. Maybe McDonald's just can't spell.

Gallacta Pounder - who sounds distressingly like someone you'd find in a sci-fi jail shower block waiting for someone to drop the sonic soap - follows the same basic pattern as his bigger brother, only no lettuce, which probably makes him healthier. There's no vertical shift to begin transformation changeablization, so you just go straight to the flip-top, which runs along a J-shaped track to add extra height, and then rotate the arms up, with little chunks of meat patty remaining stuck to the tops, like some giant-shouldered anime robot. All of Pounder's internal colour is cast pieces - a blue body and yellow face - and unlike Macro Mac's four-fingered hand, this one has five, including an opposable thumb.

Smallest of the burgers is the humble Cheeseburger - again recoloured for round two and named "C2," so this guy is presumably C1, or just C. He's very much like Pounder from the outside, although his meat is a darker shade like Macro Mac, rather than Pounder's lighter, redder meat - maybe it's a different breed of dog or something.

Changeablefying little C is even simpler, with the head flipping up from the center, and the arms rotating out sideways, connected to the base rather than the head/chest part. He's got a blue chest and a pink face, with a cheery expression and helmeted design that suggests he'd be the one who makes friends with the obligatory human character if these things had a TV show.

Moving on from burgers to other long-term-lethal products, we have what I believe to be a milkshake cup, which wasn't remade in series two - they had a soft drink cup, but his transformation was different. Still, we need to name this boy, so let's go with G2's Krypto Cup, and assume he got re-engineered and refilled somewhere along the way. He's the tallest of the Changeables in his altmode by a whisker, at 2", and he's all white, with a painted spiral on the little bit of straw visible, and of course the McDonald's logo printed on the front.

Once transmorphed, Master Shake becomes the tallest of the group by a mile, at 3½", as the cup hinges in half to form his body and legs. His arms then swivel out, off a high joint that actually leaves most of them sticking out behind him. Blue, yellow and red paint apps detail him, and he's got a very humanoid face grinning out from amid its robotic setting - it looks, let's not mince words, like he wants to gut you and play with your innards, although I imagine that's not what McDonald's intended. Still, you know what robots are like for defying their creators.

And finally we have the French fries - "chips" to the civilized world, "Freedom fries" to idiots who A) don't know jack about how hard the French resistance fought, B) don't know the things are Belgian anyway, and C) would rather look like morons than just not eat chips while they're "protesting." Chip Fry Force, as this Changeable is known, holds the distinction of being the only one to have a faulty altmode, with his hands visible in the gap between his arms and feet. He's got his logo stamped on the front of him, and of course the fries are yellow - cast in the centre section, painted on the collar and arm tops.

Transmorphation has his legs extending a fraction of an inch and his head flipping up - total height two and a quarter inches - while the arms rotate forward. His face is a separate piece to the fry segment holding it, cast in lime green with red and blue painted details, and the hands are painted a not-quite-matching green - five fingers there, but no opposable digits. He's got quite a chin on him, but eating McDonald's will do that to you.

Are these sophisticated toys? No, not even close. But are they fun? Are they cool? Hell yeah. The Transformers - the real ones - have exploited all sorts of disguises over the years, to hide among humanity without our knowledge. We could be driving them, riding them, sailing them, flying them, listening to music on them, talking to friends with them, sending email over them, shooting people with them, enjoying their amusing antics at the zoo and staring in awe at their fossilised skeletons in museums. Hell, I'd say the President got off easily in the movie with just Frenzy being on Air Force One - if I'd been in charge of the Decepticons, I'd have made sure one of my guys was Air Force One. They're everywhere - but until now, they've never been on our dinner plates. Watch what you eat.

-- 02/17/09

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