Disney toys return to McDonald's Happy Meals

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - McDonald's USA and the Walt Disney Co DIS.N on Tuesday announced their first Happy Meal promotion partnership since ending a previous relationship in 2006, after the fast-food chain slimmed down its menu for kids.

FILE PHOTO: A McDonald's restaaurant is seen next door to a KFC and a Virgin Active gym in Hillcrest, South Africa September 28, 2017. REUTERS/Rogan Ward/File Photo

Their last exclusive, 10-year cross-promotional deal was reportedly worth $1 billion to Disney, according to the Los Angeles Times. McDonald's Corp MCD.N paid $100 million in royalties and conducted 11 promotions a year for Disney movies and television shows and opened restaurants inside its theme parks, the Times reported.

The new multi-year, non-exclusive agreement will begin in June with promotions, including Disney movie-themed Happy Meal toys, for “Incredibles 2,” followed in the autumn by “Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2.”

Executives from both companies declined to disclose the duration or value of the new deal.

A McDonald’s spokeswoman said the new pact does not include any agreement on restaurants in parks but added: “We will continue to explore ways to bring this alliance to life.”

Disney introduced voluntary guidelines in 2006 that prohibited licensing of Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters for foods that fail to meet minimum nutrition requirements.

That same year, an Institute of Medicine report said junk food marketing contributed to childhood obesity.

McDonald’s since 2006 has taken numerous steps to make Happy Meals more nutritious and less fattening. Changes included adding fruit side options, cutting french fry portions and using menus to encourage consumers to order water rather than sugary soda.

In June 2018, all Happy Meals offered on McDonald’s U.S. menu boards in the United States will contain 600 calories or less, 10 percent of calories from saturated fat and 10 percent of calories from added sugar. More than three-quarters will have 650 mg of sodium or less.

Consultants and franchisees say Happy Meals account for roughly 15 percent of McDonald’s U.S. sales. The company does not break out product sales, but said family trips represent 30 percent of all visits to McDonald’s around the world.

Reporting by Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Tom Brown