Over the past decade, the fast-food giant has included Disney movie-character figurines in the Happy Meal deals, which are aimed at children.
The last Disney films to feature in Happy Meals will be this summer’s Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and the Pixar animation Cars.
McDonald’s and Disney rubbish rumours
However, both companies have distanced themselves from US press reports that the move was fuelled by Disney’s concerns over rising childhood obesity.
It recently emerged that the number of obese children aged 11 to 15 has nearly doubled in a decade – with around one in four in that age-group now considered obese.
Which?’s recent Childcatchers report – see ‘Related links, below’ – revealed how children are being targeted by certain junk food advertisers using underhand methods to push unhealthy food.
The Los Angeles Times claimed that ‘multiple high-ranking sources’ within Disney believed that one reason for the end of the partnership was that the company wanted to distance itself from fast food and the link to obesity in children.
But McDonald’s said the story was misrepresentative and based on ‘Hollywood hearsay’, adding that the decision to end the alliance was mutual.
Senior Vice President of Corporate Relations, Jack Daly, said: ‘For our part, McDonald’s did not exercise our option to renew the agreement in 2004 based on our desire to have more flexibility and options in our entertainment relationships.’
He pointed to the burger chain’s new two-year deal with Disney rival DreamWorks as evidence of this, adding that McDonald’s was talking to other studios as well and may still work with Disney in the future.
He added: ‘The ten-year McDonald’s-Disney alliance is ending for sound business reasons on both sides. This was a mutual decision made more than a year ago – a fact that is well known in the business world.’
Pirates of the Caribbean figures
A statement from the Walt Disney Studios said: ‘We have had a very positive relationship with McDonald’s for the last ten years and are looking forward to our upcoming movies Cars and Pirates of the Caribbean which will be supported by McDonald’s promotions.
‘While our contract with them will expire at the end of the year, we look forward to a more flexible, non-exclusive relationship where we will be working with them on a case-by-case basis.’