Disney and fast food giant McDonald’s are ditching their 10-year Happy Meal deal, it emerged today.
The cross-promotional pact, which saw movie-character figurines packaged in a special box with a burger, fries and drink will be no more after this year.
The last Disney films to be made into Happy Meals will be this summer’s Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and Pixar animation Cars.
The Los Angeles Times claimed that according to “multiple high-ranking sources” within Disney, one reason for the end of the partnership was that the company wanted to distance itself from fast food and the links made between it and 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.
“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,” a statement from senior vice-president of corporate relations Jack Daly said.
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.
Such projects could include Happy Meals, a spokeswoman said.
“We will continue to explore additional Disney opportunities in the future,” Mr Daly said.
“McDonald’s decision to not renew the exclusive alliance with Disney also allows us to work with other studios and we have a number of relationship discussions under way.”
He added: “The 10-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.”
A statement from the Walt Disney Studios said: “We have had a very positive relationship with McDonald’s for the last 10 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.”
The LA Times reported that the agreement had been worth $1bn (€788m) to Disney, with McDonald’s paying $100m (€78.8m) in royalties and conducting 11 promotions a year for Disney films, videos and TV shows.
Seven of these were aimed specifically at the young Happy Meal consumers.
Disney also agreed to have McDonald’s restaurants in its theme parks, a part of the deal that will continue.
Happy Meals were born in 1979, and have featured a wide variety of toys, gadgets and games as well as Disney characters.