A Happy Meal is displayed for a photograph on a tray at a McDonald's Corp. restaurant in Little Falls, New Jersey, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant chain, said sales at stores open at least 13 months rose 6.7 percent globally last month as beverages and Chicken McBites helped the U.S. business. Photographer: Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A Happy Meal is displayed for a photograph on a tray at a McDonald's Corp. restaurant in Little Falls, New Jersey, U.S., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012. McDonald's Corp., the world's largest restaurant chain, said sales at stores open at least 13 months rose 6.7 percent globally last month as beverages and Chicken McBites helped the U.S. business. Photographer: Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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(CNN Business) —  

McDonald’s Happy Meal might be for kids, but officially it’s over the hill.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the company’s first Happy Meal, the kids meal that helped McDonald’s achieve fast food supremacy. Today, roughly one in every four orders at McDonald’s includes a Happy Meal, according to retail data tracker Sense360.

Each Happy Meal contains the option of a hamburger or chicken nuggets, a side like french fries and a drink. And a toy, some of which have become collector’s items.

McDonald’s (MCD) is celebrating this milestone by re-releasing some of its most popular toys over the past four decades, including Ty Beanie Babies’ Patti the Platypus and the Tamagotchi. McDonald’s (MCD) will sell a “Surprise Happy Meal” in 90 countries that will include the throwback toys beginning today, Thursday, November 7, through Sunday, November 11.

Some of the Happy Meal toys McDonald's is bringing back for a limited time.
McDonalds
Some of the Happy Meal toys McDonald's is bringing back for a limited time.

It’s the latest quick-service restaurant to tap into nostalgia to excite customers. Since fast-food customers are not particularly loyal to any brand, fast-food companies must resort to marketing tactics or wacky food creations to draw in customers.

Here’s a brief history of the Happy Meal:

1979

McDonald's first Happy Meal box.
McDonald's
McDonald's first Happy Meal box.

The Circus Wagon Happy Meal, as it was originally known, launched in the United States in June 1979. The meal included a hamburger or cheeseburger, fries and cookies. Some of the early Happy Meal toys included a McDoodler stencil, McWrist wallet and a spinning top. The box became instantly recognizable with the meal.

1982

After becoming a hit in the United States, McDonald’s expanded the meal internationally. It debuted first in Latin America before hitting Australia and New Zealand.

1984

McDonald's added McNuggets as a Happy Meal option.
Shutterstock
McDonald's added McNuggets as a Happy Meal option.

McDonald’s added McNuggets as a Happy Meal option. The addition inspired a line of Happy Meal toys modeled after the McNuggets.

1991

McDonald’s partnered with United Airlines to offer Happy Meals on some of its flights. The deal ended in 2001.

1998

The first-ever global Happy Meal debuted with Disney film “Mulan.” The meal had identical packaging and toys across 40 countries.

2012 - 2013

McDonald's added milk and fruit as optons.
Emile Wamsteker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
McDonald's added milk and fruit as optons.

As its customers shifted toward healthier eating habits, McDonald’s began overhauling the Happy Meal. In 2012, McDonald’s made the french fries portion smaller, and it added fruit as an option. In 2013, it added milk or juice as beverage choices.

2018

McDonald’s said it would provide cheeseburgers in Happy Meals only upon request. It removed artificial preservatives from some of its entrees and added bottled water as a drink option. The company said that 3.4 billion fruit, low-fat dairy and water items have been served in Happy Meals in the US since 2013.

2020

Starting next year, McDonald’s will add a new reduced-sugar and low-fat chocolate milk option. It has 25% less sugar compared to the previous version.