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I Tried McDonald's Halloween Boo Buckets: The Good, the Bad and the 'Lids'

Allow me to walk you through the three different varieties, the oddball "lid" and the enclosed sticker sheet.

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My McDonald's had the McBoo pail, a white ghost, on day one of the promotion, Oct. 18.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

McDonald's Halloween pails, aka Boo Buckets, are back for Halloween. What the heck are they, you ask? They're simply plastic trick-or-treat pails in three designs that replace the usual paper Happy Meal containers McDonald's uses to serve up its kids' meals. 

The fast-food chain first introduced the pails in 1986 and have offered them off and on, with plenty of changes, since then. Their return wouldn't seem like a big deal, except that lots of people are feeling nostalgic about their return, and the anticipation for them dominated social media as the pails' arrival neared.

They're now available at participating McDonald's across the US, and I ordered one (uh, really two) to take a look.

McDonald's Boo Bucket: My review

I ordered two Happy Meals on the McDonald's app and picked them up in the drive-thru at my local McD's. The app let me choose between a four-piece serving of Chicken McNuggets, a six-piece Chicken McNuggets serving, or a hamburger (you can upgrade to a cheeseburger). The meal comes with a kid-size order of fries, and you then choose between extra fries or apple slices, and select a drink. At the end of my order, the app asked me what kind of toy I wanted, and let me choose between "Halloween pails," "toddler toy" or "no thanks." (WHO WOULD DECLINE A TOY?) 

Spoiler: I picked "Halloween pails."

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You can choose between Chicken McNuggets or a hamburger or cheeseburger for the Happy Meal entree.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

The Halloween pails themselves are pretty much what you'd expect -- plastic treat pails that are really too small to hold a kid's Halloween candy haul unless they're a toddler. But they're cute nonetheless. 

There are three varieties, but my McDonald's had only the white McBoo ghost-faced pail on day one of the promotion. (In the past, the white pails have been glow-in-the-dark, but I tested mine and it wasn't.) I asked when my McDonald's would be getting the other two colors -- orange McPunk'n and green witchy McGoblin -- but the employees didn't know. I'd guess each restaurant eventually may get all three colors, but depending on demand, it seems like a crapshoot as to which one they hand out when.

In the past, the buckets have sometimes come with plastic lids you can put on and take off, and sometimes the lids have even featured built-in cookie cutters. Not this year. Instead of a lid, there's ... kind of a faux lid, meaning a piece of plastic resembling a pumpkin top arches between the two spots where the bucket's handle attaches to the bucket. It's cute but will likely break five seconds after a kid starts trick-or-treating. Also, as a Minnesotan, I think the white pumpkin top design looks like the now-demolished Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome.

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Here are the McDonald's Boo Buckets with the sticker sheet top in place.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

The food in your Boo Bucket is covered with what looks like a round piece of paper, which turns out to have Halloween stickers. My two Happy Meals came with the same McBoo ghost bucket and the same sticker sheet. The sticker sheet has drawings of skeletons on one side and (mostly) pirate-themed stickers you can peel off and use to "dress" the skeletons on the other side.

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Here are the two sticker sheets I received with the McDonald's Boo Buckets. 

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper/CNET

These Happy Meals don't come with additional toys. The bucket is the toy. But McDonald's new adult Happy Meals do come with toys -- classic McDonald's figures, plus one new character, all of whom have not two but four eyes. (My McDonald's is sold out of those. Something tells me Ronald and pals have hit on a moneymaking oil well here, and I expect to see more adult Happy Meals in the future.)

I give McDonald's Boo Buckets a solid B+ as a promotion. The three different colors and faces are cute, and I totally understand why they may sell only one variety of bucket at a time. Imagine the poor frazzled clerk who has to take orders when little Liam wants a ghost, but Maddy wants a witch, and meanwhile, no one wants the pumpkin, and the orange buckets are piling up in the stock room next to 800 gallons of ketchup. You get what you get, and you don't get upset, as they say in daycare.

I would've graded the promotion higher if each bucket had an actual plastic top instead of a piece of paper and the faux top, but stickers are a good consolation prize, and kind of like a toy.  

I'm not grading the food. It's McDonald's. You know what it is.