If you’re into collecting somewhat unique Disney collectibles, you may want to pick up a set of the “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” toys that your local McDonald’s will be selling later this summer.
You see, those toys (which will be tucked inside the ten of millions of Happy Meals that McDonald’s will be serving in July) … They’ll be the last Disney-themed child-related items that the fast food giant will ever sell.
Come August, the Mouse & Mickey D’s will then try & forge some sort of new working relationship. One that will (hopefully) allow Disney to still promote its TV shows, movies and theme parks to all of the adults who daily visit the 30,000-plus McDonald’s restaurants that currently operate worldwide. But – at the same time – Mickey will be looking to scrupulously avoid having any of its characters and/or any of the corporation’s other products, productions & resorts used to sell junk food to children under 12.
Why is Disney doing this? Well, the Mouse’s attorneys are looking to distance the Walt Disney Company from the next big legal storm on the horizon. Which is all the pending “Big Food” litigation.
“What pending ‘Big Food’ litigation?,” you ask. Well, do you remember last week when former president Bill Clinton announced that he had just brokered a deal with the nation’s largest beverage distributors? One which would soon result in non-diet drinks being removed from vending machines in schools all over the country?
Or – better yet – how about last year, when Kraft announced that it would stop advertising junk food to kids under 12?
The nation’s beverage distributors and Kraft Foods aren’t doing this (I.E. Suddenly turning their backs on billions of dollars) because they’re just a swell bunch of guys. They’re doing this because of all the coming childhood obesity lawsuits.
“What childhood obesity lawsuits?,” you query. Surely, you’re aware of the new “hot button issue.” Our nation’s leaders are no longer obsessing about bird flu and/or gas prices. What concerns all the pols in Washington now is fat kids.
I’m serious, folks. Recent studies suggests that as many as 40 percent of America’s children (Ages 6-11) are now overweight. And about 20 percent of those kids fall into the obese category.
And since fat kids tend to grow up to be fat adults. Well, that’s eventually going to wind up having a huge impact on our nation’s healthcare system. Just geometrically progressing what it will cost this country to deal with all of these new cases of juvenile diabetes … We’re talking about an astronomical amount of money, folks.
And – of course – where there are astronomical piles of money, you’ll always find lawyers sniffing about. Hoping to “dip their beak” (so to speak) into that huge pile of cash.
And given that many law firms saw huge paydays back in the 1990s from being involved in all those “Big Tobacco” lawsuits … Well, a lot of these same firms are now eyeballing the childhood obesity situation. Wondering if – by suing companies like McDonald’s or Kraft for their role in making America’s kids so fat – a “Big Food” lawsuit could wind up being another huge payday.
And given that the Walt Disney Company has allowed its characters & films to be used over the years to help sell junk food to kids … Well, that makes the Mouse somewhat complicit in this situation
Which is why Mickey is now moving so quickly to distance himself from companies like McDonald’s. So that – when all these lawsuits are finally filed – the Walt Disney Company at least then has some deniability. They can then say: “Hey, we used to do that. But not anymore. We’re now much more responsible about how we allow our characters to be used when promoting food products.”
Speaking of which … Though the Mouse isn’t ready to make any official announcements yet, for the past year, Disney Consumer Products has been in discussions with a major supermarket chain about rolling out a brand-new kids’ food initiative. This arrangement would have the Disney characters appearing on the packaging for a variety of healthy food. Everything from fruit & produce down to whole grain pastas & juice.
More importantly, the Walt Disney Company will not be renewing many preexisting deals that it now has with several major snack food companies. Corporations that place its characters on foods & snacks that Disney now considers to be unhealthy for kids.
Take – for example – the pile of products below
Photo by Nancy Stadler
Mind you, Disney’s still going to look toward food products (More importantly, the companies that create these products) as potential promotional partners for its upcoming TV shows, films & resorts. After all, if the Mouse makes the right deal with the right corporation, that can wind up adding an additional $25 - $45 million to a movie’s marketing budget.
I mean, how many kids in America are already hawking their parents to take them to go see “Cars” just because these two Kellogg’s products pictured below are currently sitting on their breakfast table?
Mind you, in the years ahead, the Walt Disney Company probably won’t dare to use cereal boxes to promote any of its upcoming motion pictures. Something tells me that using food products to market any movies, TV shows and/or theme parks to kids 6-11 is going to become a huge “No-No” very soon.
And yet – at the same time – Disney is still looking to keep some sort of working relationship going with McDonald’s. After all, there are still those millions & millions of Big Mac fans who might possibly interested in visiting Walt Disney World someday soon.
And let’s not forget about the attractions that McDonald’s sponsors at the Disney theme parks, or the various food locations featuring McDonald’s products that that Disney has in its theme parks and/or around its resorts.
Photo by Jeff Lange
Which is why – though Disney is definitely getting out of the Happy Meal business come July – Mickey & Mickey Dee are still going to try & have some sort of working relationship. One that will hopefully allow Disney to specifically target the adult patrons of this restaurant chain.
After all, let’s remember that – just last year – it was revealed that Disney had filed a patent for a technology that would allow patrons of a fast food restaurant to download entertainment-based content to their portable devices. So that – in theory – these could watch a brand-new Disney-produced TV show while eating their burger.
So maybe that’s how Disney intends to make up for all the promotional opportunities that they’ll now lose out on by no longer having anything to do with McDonald’s Happy Meals. Maybe showing snippets of new episodes of “Lost” or “Grey’s Anatomy” holds the key to the Mouse holding onto Mickey D’s adult patrons.
Anyway … What do you folks think of this particular bit of news? That Disney’s trying to take itself out of the junk food business. Mind you, given some of the stuff that Mickey currently sells at the theme parks …
… Keeping Disney-themed toys out of McDonald’s Happy Meals is admittedly a start. But the Mouse clearly has a long way to go.
But how do you feel about the reason that Disney’s supposedly using to get out of the junk food / fast food business. That the Mouse isn’t doing this because it’s actually the right thing to do. But – rather – because Disney’s attorneys are worried about the coming “Big Food” lawsuits and feel like they have to do something now in order to limit Disney’s future liability.