I can fondly remember taking my kids to McDonald's many times when they were younger -- buying Happy Meals for all, then watching as they played on the McPlayground in front of our local restaurant. I also remember that, back then, Disney had a virtual lock on Happy Meal marketing. Every new Disney film brought a new Happy Meal toy or figurine or other tchotchke, including 101 Dalmations, Nemo, Cars, and Pirates of the Caribbean.
Sadly, this love fest between McDonald's and Disney ended back in 2006 when Disney decided that the food served up in Happy Meals -- a burger, fries, and drink -- didn't fit with its own healthy eating guidelines.
Said Steve Jobs, who was the head of Pixar Animation Studios at the time, "There is value [in these fast-food tie-ins], but there are also some concerns as our society becomes more conscious of some of the implications of fast food."
This all changed this month when McDonald's announced that it was going to make its Happy Meals healthier -- a policy change that was applauded by many. In a media statement, McDonald's said,
"In June 2018, 100 percent of the meal combinations offered on Happy Meal menu boards in the U.S. will be 600 calories or fewer, and 100 percent of those meal combinations will be compliant with the new nutrition criteria for added sugar, saturated fat, and 78 percent compliant with the new sodium criteria."
More specifically, cheeseburgers are off the Happy Meal menu and will only be available by customer request. A small order of fries will be replaced by a kid's size, and chocolate milk will be pulled from Happy Meals while McDonald's works on creating a version with less sugar.
This was music to Disney's ears, and it was just announced that the two business giants will rekindle their Happy Meal marketing relationship. All this comes just in time for Disney to create a Happy Meal-based marketing campaign for its upcoming Incredibles 2 (summer 2018) and Wreck-It Ralph 2 (fall 2018) animated film releases.
While I don't really miss those trips to McDonald's for Happy Meals, I am glad that parents will now have healthier eating options for their kids -- and someday their kids' kids.