Mickey McLeaving?
Motley Fool - 5/8/06

Mickey McLeaving?

Is the promotional pact between the leading fast food chain and the family entertainment producer coming to an end? According to this morning's Los Angeles Times, Disney and, McDonald's are not looking to renew their cross-promotional deal, which had Disney characters popping up exclusively in Happy Meal boxes for nearly 10 years.

The writing was pretty much on the Golden Arches last year when Mickey D's announced that it would be promoting Shrek 3, put out by Disney rival DreamWorks Animation, in time for the ogre flick's 2007 release.

The Times article alleges that Disney is bolting because of concerns that have tied McDonald's to childhood obesity, but that's seems like odd timing. McDonald's has improved its offerings during the span of the Disney contract, offering kids apple dippers instead of fries, and turning to premium-priced chicken breast products to shore up its once overly fatty menu.

Disney isn't doing a whole lot better at its theme parks, where sugary Coke products are the beverage of choice. Yes, Disney also offers kids the ability to substitute fries for healthier fare like carrot sticks, but many of Disney's parks even offer McDonald's-branded eats.

Fast food is fast food. Can McDonald's be more aggressive? Of course. Wendy's recently introduced turkey breast sandwiches into their kid's meal menus. Sides aren't limited to fries or apples -- patrons can opt for mandarin oranges, baked potato chips, a baked potato, or salad. McDonald's has had some fires to put out, but it's taking baby steps in the politically correct direction.

That's why I'm not buying the notion that Disney is trying to distance itself from the McDonald's name. I think the key is that now that Disney has acquired the proven brain trust of Pixar, it's unlikely to put out inked drivel like The Wild, Home on the Range, or Valiant. If Pixar's vision proves true, Disney can forgo the royalties and make it up in greater licensed toy sales.

So, sure, Disney is worried about obesity. It wants to fatten its bottom line.
Mickey McLeaving?