The collaboration comes nearly a decade after Disney cut ties with the fast-food chain over nutrition guidelines.
McDonald's Happy Meals Are Getting Healthier
Credit: Photograph by McDonalds

After more than a decade, McDonald’s and Disney will once again team up on Happy Meal toys. The newly announced collaboration follows the Golden Arches’ recent decision to scrap cheeseburgers as a part of its kids’ menu offerings. The last time either megabrand worked together was back in 2006, after Disney officially passed on renewing a 10-year-deal allowing McDonald’s to offer Happy Meal buyers Disney-licensed toys. The split was a result of Disney’s decision to associate both its characters and its brands with more nutritionally balanced foods as it became the first major media company to establish nutrition guidelines.

Disney claimed that its then-new standards, developed using experts and science-based resources, were meant to align with the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The company used three criteria to assess food items: does the food contribute to a nutritious diet, encourage kid appropriate portions, and limit nutrients to avoid, including sodium, sugar, saturated fat, and trans fat. This was at one point accompanied by a “Mickey Check,” or a visual tool placed on all Disney-licensed food products that were being sold at retail. The check could also be found on certain and recipes, as well as at various locations throughout both the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. The standards have since been updated to offer guidelines for several countries.

As a result of the new multiyear deal between McDonald’s and Disney, Happy Meal purchasers can expect to see toys based on Disney live action, Pixar Animation, Marvel Studios, and Lucasfilm properties. Ad Age confirms that two properties will “kick off” the new collaboration: this year’s Incredibles 2 and Wreck-It Ralph 2. The non-exclusive deal could also see movie promotions in ways that go beyond toys such as space on the restaurant’s digital menu boards and within the McDonald’s app.

McDonald’s evolution towards healthier Happy Meal options started as far back in 2011 when apple slices were added to the kid’s menu. In 2013, soft drinks were pulled off of McDonald’s Happy Meal menu board, followed up last year by the addition of Honest Kids organic apple juice drink. Beyond this month’s reveal that McDonald’s was removing the cheeseburger option, a Happy Meal staple since the kids’ menu option was introduced back in 1979, the franchise also announced that all Happy Meal combinations would begin totaling 600 calories or less in June.