McDonald's and Disney Approach the End of the Affair

07 June 2005

Two of the planet's best known brands, McDonald's and the Walt Disney Company, are about to part company.

The marketing deal between the Mouse House and the fast-food titan finishes next year, after a decade of Happy Meal promotions and plastic toys.

McDonald's is now actively seeking new partners and has been linked to major Hollywood animation studios Dream Works and Pixar, both of which have in recent years notched bigger movie hits than Disney.

However, the studios will not comment and McDonald's spokesman Walt Riker will say only: "We're talking to many creative studios with the mission to get the best properties for our customers. It's inappropriate to name any individuals ... talks are going broadly."

Disney has found it hard to replicate the success of The Lion King, which marked the beginning of its union with McDonald's. As a result, the relationship has become increasingly difficult.

Some observers would say the movie studio has gained most from the current deal. Disney always benefits from the promotional and advertising support; the payoff for McDonald's depends in large measure on a movie's success at the box office.

But forging deals with others does not mean the McDonald's- Disney partnership is completely finished.

Rather, the burger purveyor's ceo Jim Skinner is looking forward to "flexibility around these promotional activities". New marketing arrangements might include music and sports, he says but declines to elaborate. "We don't speculate about what kinds of deals we'll have."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff