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Monday, June 1, 2009

The 8 Coolest Sets of Fast Food Premium Glasses

By Chris Cummins

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From the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, promotional glasses were huge merchandising tie-ins for films and TV shows. Sometime after Batman Forever brought cinematic misery to theaters (with corresponding etched mugs being hawked at McDonalds) the trend died. Wild stories about lead paint and tales of kids injuring themselves and others with the drinkware ensued. It's fun to envision middle school toughs manufacturing shivs out of shattered Papa Smurf glasses, but in reality the premiums were most likely discontinued because of high production costs. Thanks to Burger King's recent Star Trek offerings, the collectibles are back in vogue. Those of you drinking from 32-yeard-old chipped Darth Vader glasses will especially appreciate this news. In honor of a whole new era of nerdy drinking containers, let's take a look at the coolest fast food glasses ever released.

8) Pac-Man


Arby's is constantly getting shafted by popular culture. The roast beef-schilling fast food chain has been the target of ribbing from Fargo and The Simpsons. Even Adam West got in on the act with his recent Batman Garage Sale video. First off, this is terribly unfair as the restaurant's Big Montana sandwich is a carnivore's dream. Secondly, Arby's was somehow able to one-up McDonald's and Burger King to release glasses based on Pac-Man at the height of the game's popularity. An incredibly respectable feat from the purveyors of Horsey Sauce, wouldn't you say?

7) Star Trek III

The tired theory that the odd Star Trek movies are shitty and the even ones are great always overlooks the fact that Star Trek III: The Search for Spock is really quite awesome. The same can be said for the four glasses that Taco Bell released in conjunction with the film. Diners who made the run for the border could scarf down burritos while gazing at the destruction of the Enterprise and other key moments from the movie recreated on glass. (Admittedly they did miss a huge opportunity by not making a "David Is Dead" glass). Trek completists also may want to get their nerdy mitts on Dr. Pepper's 1976 promo glasses based on the series and the elusive three-glass set that was released in conjunction with 1979's Star Trek: The Motion Picture. They'll look cool in your cupboard--not that anyone but you will ever see them.

6) Mcdonaldland

In the glory days before Birdie the Early Bird interrupted McDonaldland's sausage party with her mentally handicapped antics, life underneath the Golden Arches was paradise. To allow customers to share in the burgertastic fun, Mickey D's began offering glasses of Ronald McDonald, Big Mac, Captain Crook, Grimace, Hamburglar and Mayor McCheese in 1977. The promotion was successful enough that McDonaldland plates went on sale shortly thereafter. The above clip features a look at the "McDonaldland Action Series" offerings from 1979 in which Ronald and Mayor McCheese both appear to be evacuating their bowels. Eating all those fries will catch up to you.

5) King Kong

Forget all that Bicentennial garbage, 1976 was all about King Kong. Rick Baker groupies will attest that the film is kind of a mess, but that ape something else. The movie's merchandising blitz gave the public everything from bop bags to crazy drinking straws--which were perfect to use with these glasses from Burger Chef. If you didn't have one of the restaurants in your neck of the woods, you were shit out of luck--just like Chuck Grodin at the end of the flick! Substandard paint jobs and collectors who have snatched up anything even remotely World Trade Center related have made tracking down complete sets in good condition fairly difficult. Check out the descriptions from the back of the four glasses:

"A Crazed King Kong Destroys the Skull Island Wall."

"King Kong Wreaks Havoc on a New York Subway Train."

"King Kong Straddling the World Twin Trade Towers."

"Mighty King Kong Battles a Giant Serpent for Control of Skull Island."

Yeah! As a proud owner of the subway train one I can tell you that these are worth every penny you might shell out. If you have don't care about paying excessive prices for merchandise based on goofy Jeff Bridges movies, grab yourselves some online and fill up your empty life with ape fun.

4) Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom

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If thirst has a name, it must be Indiana Jones! The fucking up of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom merchandising wasn't just limited to LJN's action figure line. These jaw-droppingly cool glasses are amongst the best Indy swag ever released. So naturally they were only available at the regional food chain TacoTime in 1984. It's heartbreaking that a drinking glass emblazoned with the image of Mola Ram holding a still-beating heart exists and is so hard to come by. Between this and the scarcity of Hasbro's recent Temple of Doom assortment of figures, fans of the film have had to endure plenty of suffering. And that's not even mentioning Willie Scott.

3) Marvel Comics

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Imagine spending an afternoon seeing Star Wars then heading to 7-11 to get a Slurpee in a commemorative Marvel Comics glass. In that magical geek year of 1977, you could have done just that. Having previously tested their feet in the waters of collectible cups with their DC and Marvel tumblers, 7-11 issued a variety of glasses that featured characters ranging from Spidey and Howard the Duck to Captain America and Falcon. With treasures like these available in '77, why would the folks on Lost ever want to get back to their own timeline?

2) The Great Muppet Caper

The second Charles Grodin property on this list, The Great Muppet Caper was immortalized in this 1981 series of McDonald's glasses. The underrated film suffers from the middle child syndrome as it was the second of the three Muppet movies that Jim Henson worked on during his life. Alas, fans of the flick could get their (red?) hands on four glasses that were designed by frequent Muppet illustrator Daryl Cagle. My personal favorite? The Happiness Hotel bus crammed with the film's puppet cast. Drinking with Beaker is bliss.

1) Star Wars Glasses

Along with Kenner's original action figures, the most iconic Star Wars collectibles from the original trilogy were the 12 glasses Burger King issued between 1977 and 1983. You owned them, you loved them, you probably still drink from them. We here at Topless Robot love you for that. So many of the sets were produced that you can still get the things dirt cheap on eBay. More than just your ordinary Star Wars collectibles, they remain the perfect pop culture tchotchkes.