Bring Back Collectible Glasses, You Cowards 

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In an era where seemingly any scrap of intellectual property can be turned into a film, so too can anything be turned into a food merch opportunity. It’s a phenomenon we’ve seen a lot of in recent months, most pointedly with the blockbuster release of Barbie, which has spawned pink fro-yo, pasta, even a Pepto-pink-sauced Burger King burger in Brazil. But brands are missing out on an opportunity to tap into a particularly deep well of millennial sentimentality: adorable drinking glasses adorned with our favorite pop culture characters.

It’s a thought I had over the weekend while browsing an antique store in Oklahoma City, where one vendor had a staggering collection of vintage juice glasses from fast-food chains in the ‘80s and ‘90s. And sure, you can still find collectible plastic cups — like this Post Malone collection from fried chicken chain Raising Cane’s — but the glasses that preceded them had a lot more gravitas. They were typically free with the purchase of a meal and collected in sets, with different characters from Care Bears, the Peanuts cartoons, The Smurfs, and others. If you were a kid during these decades, one of these glasses is likely still sitting in a cupboard at your parents’ house.

Of those on offer in this dusty antique mall, my favorite glass was emblazoned with Miss Piggy riding a motorcycle. Released by McDonald’s in 1981 to promote the The Great Muppet Caper, it was a steal at just $5. There were other glasses, including a set from Hardee’s my husband owned as a child featuring Alvin and the Chipmunks. I don’t know what it is about these glasses, but looking back on them all these years later, they inspired the same sense of joy I felt when I pulled one out of the cabinet long after the Happy Meals that accompanied them had been eaten. Maybe it was because, as kids, we pined for a cool drinking vessel of our own. Or maybe it was just because the ‘80s were more boring, a time when kids could be reasonably entertained by a drinking glass.

Unfortunately, many of these old glasses that linger in thrift stores and grandma’s kitchen may be tainted with unhealthy levels of heavy metals. Some research has shown that the paint used to create those adorable Disney characters may contain lead and cadmium, and as the glasses are washed and used, it can end up in your beverage. As such, the glasses from our childhoods were perhaps not safe to drink from then, and you probably shouldn’t now. And that’s exactly why it’s time for collectible character glasses to make a comeback — this time without the lead poisoning.

Mattel has about a billion movies in the works based around its toys, and the Marvel universe is still kicking, which means there are countless opportunities for character glasses to have another moment in the sun. Who among us wouldn’t want a cool Pizza Hut glass decked out with Leonardo, Donatello, and Michelangelo in celebration of the new Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie? Don’t I, a ‘90s kid, deserve to sip a fizzy soda from one of those pebbled glasses made even cooler by the presence of Ninja Turtles? If there were pink Barbie glasses that you could get with the purchase of a Doritos Locos taco at Taco Bell, I would probably already have an entire cabinet full of them.

To be clear, I’m not advocating the return of collectible character glasses to spark joy in the hearts of Gens Alpha or Z — they’ve got Squishmallows and emoji toys, their own versions of Care Bears and Smurfs. I want them for myself and every other nostalgia obsessive, just a little treat for those of us who like a little reminder of the past alongside our fast-food meals.

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