Monday, August 31, 2009

Dangerous and Daring Burger King

Sunday afternoon, while the dogs barked 'hello' at every person who walked past the van and the Wifey and I stretched our road-weary legs, I stood in the entry of the Burger King just off the Highway 93 exit in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, studying their new Kid's Meal promotions. The current promotion is divided into "girl toys" and "boy toys", but rather than Hot Wheels and Barbie, these two are quite related. The boy toys are based on The Dangerous Book for Boys, and the girl toys are based on The Daring Book for Girls.

Fast food restaurants have often had book-related toys, but usually those are released in conjunction with a film or television show based on the book, one step removed from the original content. The Dangerous and The Daring books aren't being adapted and re-released, as far as I know at the moment, but Burger King says the promotion was chosen because those books are "a perfect example of the brand harnessing the popularity of the books and bringing that sense of adventure into Burger King restaurants." Books and adventure — and fast food! Sure, I play my hipster card and mock any attempt of mainstream culture to spread outside its banks, but I can't help but be pleased with the attempt.

The toys leave a bit to be desired, though. I know, what can I expect from a cheap meal? Well, I can expect more than this: they pretty much just took different toys, put "Dangerous" or "Daring" in the title, and tossed them into the kiddie bags. The Boy toys are "Dangerous Fossils", "Dangerous Space", and Dangerous Snake." The snake is a flashlight, the space 'danger' are space-themed stencils, and the dangerous fossils (?!) are a Play-Dough style mold. The girls toys are similarly un-Daring: "Daring Animals," "Daring Watercolor", and "Daring Creatures". The creatures are a dough-mold toy like the fossils; the animals are a stencil set like the space boy toy. The saddest toy is the Daring Watercolor: it contains neither a real brush, nor real watercolors. It has a fake brush which, when it absorbs water and transfers it to the "paper", a picture appears. What could be sadder than a painting whose content, color, and style has already been decided for you, masquerading as Daring Toy for Girls?

From a kid's standpoint, compared to a Devo toy, an educational toy might seem to suck, but other restaurants have done a better job of it in the past. Come on: last fall Arby's had a "metal detector" as a kid's toy reward. Sure, you can't expect to find lost gold with it, but even if it remotely detects the difference between a nickel and a finger, you've got something there. My daughter got a Spy Kids themed camera in a McDonald's Happy Meal a few years ago, and it actually took pretty good pictures for an all-plastic 110 (Lomo enthusiasts probably would pay $50 for one now). One big feature of the Dangerous and Daring books are how they encourage kids to interact with the outside world around them — a snake-shaped penlight is hardly doing the job. D also remarked that the timing was rather odd: a book of activities, fun, and games might have been better timed for the spring, before school was out. The toys may not spread the safe subterfuge of the two books, but the wall-sized posters and banners hung in fast food restaurants around the U.S. will hopefully make a difference. The toy might be discarded before the kid gets back to her carseat, but we can hope that the seed was planted, and a Daring Book for Girls will appear under her Christmas tree in a couple months.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had heard of a "Dangerous Book for Boys" film, but considering that it's a how-to book (meaning, no characters and no storyline) it would have to be an "in name only" adaptation.

5:54 PM  

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