LOS ANGELES: After a decade-long relationship, McDonald's kids' meals and Disney films are parting ways.
However, after reports last week that Disney wanted out because of childhood obesity issues, both companies are saying the reasons for the split are purely business-related.
A front-page article in this past Monday's LA Times citing "multiple high-ranking sources" alleged that Disney broke its ties with McDonald's to distance itself from fast food's links to obesity in kids.
The article prompted a flurry of statements suggesting that the decision was at least in part influenced by economics. Since Disney and McDonald's crafted their pact, other players have entered the family-friendly animation market, altering partnership options for both the studio and the Happy Meal-peddling chain.
Ending the companies' exclusive relationship was mutual, noted Jack Daly, SVP of corporate relations for McDonald's Corp., in a statement. It was a decision "made more than a year ago, a fact that is well-known in the business world," he said. Still, he added, McDonald's will unveil Happy Meal tie-ins with Disney properties Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Disney in its attempt to "set the record straight."
"We have had a very positive relationship with McDonald's for the last 10 years and are looking forward" to upcoming movie promotions, Disney Studios said in its statement. "We look forward to a more flexible, non-exclusive relationship where we will work with them on a case-by-case basis."
As far as alliance-tainting obesity allegations are concerned, those were "based on Hollywood hearsay from unnamed sources," said Daly. "The entire premise is a misrepresentation of the truth."
In July 2005, McDonald's announced it would not renew its alliance with Disney, citing the need to be more flexible in pursuing entertainment-oriented ties. Since then, the chain signed a two-year marketing deal with DreamWorks Animation SKG. For their initial effort, the two entities are expected to launch a cross-promotional campaign corresponding with the May 2007 opening of Shrek 3.
"We look forward to developing fun and entertaining promotions around the world," said Anne Globe, DreamWorks Animation head of worldwide promotions and consumer products, in a statement. "We're big supporters of McDonald's balanced, active lifestyles program."