Disney’s Skinny Minnie Sends Wrong Message

My parents stopped patronizing our local cinema when I was a child because they were livid when the theater owner demanded to see a copy of my birth certificate as proof that I could pay the child admission price. The boycott lasted six years. Although it satisfied my mother’s desire to “not give that theater” her money, the theater’s business didn’t crumble. I am not sure it prevented the theater’s management from treating another young girl the same way.

It was, however, an effective display during my formative years of using consumer power as a response to outrage. It’s something I’ve practiced independently as an adult.

Yesterday, the Walt Disney Company provoked my irate consumer response when I saw images of the soon-to-be released versions of Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck and Goofy characters in my newsfeed. (Yet to be revealed are new versions of Mickey Mouse, Cruella de Vil, Princess Tiana and Snow White.) Disney and Barney’s New York companies teamed up on a three-dimensional short film featuring Disney characters as supermodels. It’s part of Barney’s advertising campaign for the holiday season. The launch of the film, where “runway ready” Minnie Mouse fantasizes about attending Paris Fashion Week, is slated for Nov. 14.

I’m disappointed that Barney’s marketers altered the 84-year-old character to fit to current high fashion instead of tailoring fashion to work with the icon.

And while we won’t soon be seeing skinny Minnie dolls, this is not the image we want glorified for our children, nor one I want my daughter to emulate.

According to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, 24 million people in America of all ages and genders suffer from anorexia, bulimia and binge eating disorders. It is our responsibility to keep our young people safe. As a mother, who from time to time hears her healthy teenage daughter complain about being “fat,” it’s my responsibility to actively counter market messages. As an educator of 17 years who has witnessed the social-emotional struggles and bullying of teenage boys and girls because of size bias, I need to do more than boycott this new campaign. 

So I want to invoke my consumer power and advocacy and voice my disgust.

How many impressionable young people will look at these new versions of the lovable Disney characters and believe they display the ultimate body image? Too many will. Instead, what an outstanding example to young boys and girls it would be for traditional Minnie Mouse to realize her dream about Paris Fashion Week and arrive on the catwalk in the form we have known and loved since 1928.  This is what we would expect from Disney.

Wicht is a teaching and learning specialist for Teaching Tolerance.


Marketing should reflect

Submitted by M. T. P. on 2 October 2012 - 10:14pm.

Marketing should reflect diversity so that all children can find images to which they can identify, as well as be exposed to and appreciate other images that they may not regularly encounter in their environment. In this sense, yes, having a character that is thin can be representational to the body image of some children. But why is it that ALL of the revamped characters are stick-thin? Where are the ones representing other body types, making heavier bodies look just as sleek and appealing? This does not seem to be a media marketing push for diversity (or to help boost the esteem of skinny kids) as much as to glamorize something previously displayed as "cute" and "child-like" so that it becomes "sexy" and "hip." In this case, the primary colors, innocent expressions, and doll-like clothes that formerly were used to appeal to youth through characters such as Minnie Mouse have been updated to draw sensuality into a youthful mindset. I see it at school with 6th graders in Playboy bunny tee-shirts and 8th graders whose red thong underwear shows above their low slung size 2 jeans. This new Disney imagery may be reflecting the attitude of young people, but it may also be imposing its expectations upon them. I'm not pining for an age of bygone innocence, but I am aware that external influences change self-images and that this can be detrimental to the emotional and physical health of children. Why push for the heroin chic look? Such an iconic and influential institution could rise above anorexic body imagery to endorse a healthier lifestyle.

Question: What is the process

Submitted by Elle on 2 October 2012 - 11:58am.

Question: What is the process for new product development? Is this what the public said they wanted? And if they said "yes", who was in the demographic pool?

What about the girls and boys

Submitted by BJ on 2 October 2012 - 11:32am.

What about the girls and boys who are naturally skinny? Perhaps these versions of the Disney character's appeal to those children who are constantly belitted because of their "skinniness". When I look at these images, I see the posture and attitude of young people, not an anorexic person. I think we should promote that all marketing, media efforts reflect a diversity of sizes, shapes, and colors so that our children can see themselves in one of the images presented rather than the notion that everyone has to look alike...

Right...all those bullied

Submitted by aj on 3 October 2012 - 7:51am.

Right...all those bullied kids who are picked on for "skinniness". Really? Not so much, BJ. Serious- there is not a national epidemic of kids being picked on for that. At all. Except maybe in imaginary land where people need to defend this. I've worked in two middle schools for close to 5 yrs and never had a kid come down because he or she was being picked on for being...too...skinny. these are anorexic, super-thiin, slightly-ugly looking versions of these characters. I get the joke- they're supermodels!- but it is just poor taste. Really. No one complains that kids are skinny. That's fine. But this is not skinny- its unhealthy, bulimic/anorexic looking models of them. That's not fine.

perhaps you are in a

Submitted by bj on 3 October 2012 - 9:23pm.

perhaps you are in a different environment...but i've worked in schools for 33+ yers and i have counseled students - borh secondary and post secondary...about being picked on for a variety of reasons and being too skinny is one...As educators, we need to be sensitive to all the ways we are different and teach tolerance for all.

I was skinny as a young girl

Submitted by kgritten on 3 October 2012 - 3:51pm.

I was skinny as a young girl and people accused me of being anorexic and/or bulimic. People frequently made comments like, "you're so skinny it makes me sick". I felt bullied and considered myself ugly and repulsive.

I agree that these new disney

Submitted by Shadow on 3 October 2012 - 11:55am.

I agree that these new disney images are wrong, and present the wrong attitude towards fashion and our bodies, but to clear up the point; when I was in elementary school I was naturally really thin, to the point where my mom told me I looked like a refugee. Kids in school did call me beanpole and so on. Nowadays, if you are too skinny people will make fun of your for being anorexic whether you are or not. Either way, it's wrong. So if you're too thin, or too big, you're never right and people will pick on you. However, yes, these disney characters are presenting a very wrong image to our young people.

Yes, some people are

Submitted by Rebecca Nichols on 3 October 2012 - 7:04am.

Yes, some people are naturally thinner and even "skinny", however Daisy Duck and Minnie Mouse were not those...and now they actually look ill.

Wow. Mostly when I see things

Submitted by Jenn on 1 October 2012 - 10:11pm.

Wow. Mostly when I see things that people are offended by, I just say they are over reacting. However, this time I'm just in a state of... WOW. Who the heck is responsible for the creation of this THING and who in the world said ok?? Please give them both their brains back because they obviously need them!
The author is absolutely right. And a runway-ready anyone somehow spiraled out of control when CK used what appeared to be starving heroine addicts in jean ads. Everyone knew it for what it was, yet the fashion industry went into a whirlwind of condemning every model (and other women) who have curves, muscle, or even the slightest tone to their bodies. Oh, by the way fashionistas, that is healthy, not the knee-bones-smaller-smaller-than-your-wrists look.
Much to my horror I saw Tyra Banks on her modeling show talk about a candidate for plus size modeling and the girl was a 14! I was once proud that I had the same measurements as Tyra, who was a size 10 when I was a size 10. After child birth, I was a size 16, then a 14, and now floating between 14 & 12 through healthy exercize & muscle (re)building! (LOL) Now, seeing my ex and his wife encourage &/or allow my daughter to like Bratz & Monster High dolls is just as bad as this!
Heavy make up, barely-there clothes, and an impossible waistline without *severe* surgery is just going too far. Minnie looks more like a spider in this new version. She needs to stay as a mouse, and adorable which is why the characters gained such fame in the first place.