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Disney hesitates over junk-food ban

22nd May 2006

In May, the national press hinted that Disney might cease to associate its popular children’s characters with junk food, after the entertainment company ended its 10-year partnership with McDonald’s. A change of heart? We fear not.

It is over two years since the Food Commission’s Parents Jury shamed the BBC into withdrawing Teletubbies and Tweenies from promoting junk food.

Not only did Disney fail to attend a special meeting that we set up with the BBC, Food Standards Agency and leading character-licensing companies to discuss concerns about the nutritional value of children’s food promoted with children’s characters, they have also been busy arranging for Disney characters to appear on sugary confectionery and snacks aimed at young children.

Winnie the PoohWinnie the Pooh continues to help promote cakes and biscuits to little children

Cartoon confectionery is a regular item in Disney Stores; Winnie the Pooh biscuits and cakes are available in many mainstream supermarkets such as Asda and Tesco; and in recent years, the company’s cartoon characters have been regular give-away toys with fast food.

Animation companies such as Disney make millions of pounds from ‘character licensing’; payments to allow their copyright characters to appear on children’s products, and Disney is one of the major players in the character-licensing field

TeletubbiesDisney has not yet followed the BBC’s lead by banning junk-food promotions associated with pre-school characters.

Disney Consumer Products is the business department of the Walt Disney Company (or rather, empire) that extends the Disney brand to merchandise ranging from clothing, toys, home décor and books to games, food and drinks, stationery and electronics. Marketing is ratcheted up by Disney’s subsidiary businesses: Disney Toys, Disney Softlines, Disney Hardlines, Disney Home, Disney Publishing, Buena Vista Games, Baby Einstein, the Muppets Holding Company and Disney Shopping’s catalogue and website.

McDonald’s and Disney both denied that the end of their deal related to health concerns, and Disney said that the two companies may work together again in the future. A McDonald’s spokeswoman revealed more by announcing: ‘The only thing that's changing is that it's no longer an exclusive arrangement.’

Parents should therefore resign themselves to continued arguments with toddlers nagging for sugary snacks featuring popular Disney characters.