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Cartoon CultureDisney

Protest Erupts Over Disney’s Skinny Minnie

Barneys New York has partnered with Disney for their Electric Holiday campaign, set to debut at Barney’s Madison Avenue flagship store on November 14th. Part of this promotion includes a film “about Minnie Mouse’s fantasy to attend Paris fashion week”. In it, Mickey Mouse will be dressed in Balenciaga, Minnie Mouse in Lanvin, Goofy in Balmain, Daisy Duck in Dolce & Gabbana and Snow White in Nina Ricci. Nice – for characters created during the Depression, this is quite a step up. But must they follow the emaciated super-model look (above) in a pathetic effort to be trendy? Maybe these are gag promotional pictures? I hope so.

UPDATE 10/24/12: Women’s groups and parents have become outraged and more vocal since we first reported this story back in August. There is now a petition on asking that Barney’s and Disney to “leave Minnie Mouse alone”. The new “skinny Minnie” sends the wrong message to women and especially little girls about their body image. Over 135,000 people have already signed the petition.

Meanwhile, Popeye the Sailor has been hawking healthy Spinach products for decades. Now Taylor Farms is starting a new line of Popeye branded “Superfoods” with a license from King Features/Hearst. Notice anything different? Popeye no longer has his pipe! Not on the packaging, not in any of their promotional materials. I get it, it’s unhealthy to smoke – but this is getting ridiculous! His pipe is part of his character! Toot! Toot!

(Thanks, David Alvarez and Fred Grandinetti)

  • I think they look cool. The way the Disney characters are being envisioned for this campaign certainly is different. I love how exaggerated they are. I’ve never thought of the Mickey/Minnie/Daisy/Donald/Goofy cast as being cool before, but cute or retro in their best envisionings. I think Daisy looks cool. Popeye doesn’t look cool.

    • I hope you are being sarcastic…

      • MrBatWayne

        I hope you’re not being so closed minded. No. wait, you are.

  • dbenson

    Maybe they’re afraid if children saw the pipe, they’d try to smoke the spinach.

    In the original strip, Segar was pressured to clean up the sailor after he began catching on. He responded with some Sunday strips where Popeye, informed by local urchins that he’s their idol, makes well-intentioned but eccentric efforts to be a role model. In one, he beats up a man who was making a child cry, then discovers it was a father applying discipline. Popeye then lets the father appear to beat HIM, so the child will regain respect for Daddy. One of Olive’s suitors happens to witness the second brawl, and is emboldened to pick a fight with Popeye himself. The usual cheery mayhem returns.

    Segar also gave a corner of his Sunday page to “Popeye’s Cartoon Club,” which offered cartooning tips and sometimes scary life lessons: Don’t play with guns, don’t mess with strange dogs, don’t jump in front of cars, etc. And parents: Spank your children, don’t strike them across the face. Written in Popeye’s voice, they’re funny and a hair unsettling at the same time (Nearly all the Cartoon Club run is in volume 4 of the reprints).

    From then on, Popeye, always well-intentioned, became less of a loose cannon but still had to work at respectability — a bit like a kid growing up, which may have been part of the appeal for children. But through it all the pipe stayed put — although it was less a functional pipe than a facial fixture.

    Animated Popeye also kept the pipe, although he seemed to use it a lot more: Tooting, whistling, suctioning spinach cans, latching onto branches, acting as a periscope and sometimes being handled like an actual smoking pipe. But even there, it was more an idea of a pipe than an actual pipe. Like Magritte’s apple.

    • James

      Yes, later animated versions of Popeye had a “no smoking” rule, but he was allowed to toot, suck spinach, and other non-smoking related things with it. After all, the musical cue “I’m Popeye the Sailor-man *toot*-*toot*” with Popeye blowing through his pipe was too classic to meddle with.

      Not to mention there’s hadn’t and still isn’t any real danger of kids picking up pipe smoking. Heck, it’s much less common for adults to do these days.

      • rnigma

        Yeah, the HB Popeyes from the ’70s had those “educational” bits, usually involving Popeye and his nephews; if I recall, there was a wolf character who was trying to persuade the nephews to smoke. Popeye drove the wolf away and told the boys that he only used his pipe to “toot” through.

        Didn’t the Deseret News or some other Mormon-owned paper always white out the pipes/cigars/cigarettes from the mouths of comic strip characters?

        • That wolf character was named “Mr. No-No” and he was designed to resemble Ron Maidenberg, a brilliant cartoonist who worked at H-B at the time and who was the studio’s equivalent of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson in terms of his intake of tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs. Ron was a sweet and thoughtful guy; he knew his vices might be dangerous to others so he refused to ever drive a car.

  • James

    My only issue with the Disney models is that Daisy’s hands should be eggshell white and Goofy’s hands as well as Minnie’s neckline and shoulder should be black.

    • Yes, the “whitewashing” of Minnie is a bigger issue then her weight loss. It has racial overtones…

      • edelillus

        QUITE the reach there buddy. Simmer down.

  • Paul M

    Hooray for censorship, taking away Popeye’s pipe so kids won’t follow his example and start smoking dope (you don’t think that’s tobacco in there do you?). Now they need to keep pipeless Popeye for Genndy Tartakovsky’s new feature and remove all of those awful violent scenes of fisticuffs. Perhaps it’s time to take him out of that militaristic sailor outfit and dress him in something less aggressive, like a pink tutu perhaps.

  • cool goofy…. an oxymoron unless I am mistaken

    I suspect a joke. Unless I see Mowgli selling volvos then I trust people are not so dumb as this looks.

    I like cartoons and I never heard of daisy duck so what appeal would she have to some cash heavy attention light kids who buy this type of rehashed ‘like toadally’ 80s nightmare clothing?

  • SKent.

    The Goofy disturbs me. It’s like they took a casual glance at the old drawings and then redesigned him with a complete ignorance and a complete disregard for the whole point of the original character.

    • dbenson

      True. Goofy is all about big dopey enthusiasm, even when (especially when) he thinks he’s being cool or competent. Our goof would work a lot harder at looking blase, affecting a huge yawn or oh-so-nonchalantly polishing one of those little buttons (and causing the trim on his jacket to unravel).

    • Polecat

      I agree. Something seems terribly wrong with trying to turn Goofy into a fashion plate. He’s not supposed to be elegant–he’s Goofy!

      • Polecat

        Oh, and one other thing–where are the buck teeth? I can’t see any!

      • Funkybat

        These designs are like big-dollar, high-end fashion versions of the “ghetto Looney Tunes” t-shirt characters from the late 80s/early 90s. The characters are like empty vessels, meant to be filled with whatever personality traits the buyer aspires to.

  • Certainly the pipe is part of Popeye’s character but I can accept its loss in this one, specific case where his image is being used to sell Spinach.

    From a practical design level, the pipe always bothered me. It always seemed to be sticking out of his chin. Given the way Popeye is drawn on the advert, the addition of the pipe would look very strange.

    Segar’s drawings do make visual sense though. The pipe is always attached at the point between the nose and the chin. You can easily imagine the mouth wrapping around to the unseen side of Popeye’s massive chin. Even the Fleischer model sheets make an attempt to handle the pipe placement properly but I’m certain that in actual use, the pipe must have given the animators plenty of headaches.

  • Katella Gate

    Yes, they look cool. They also look smug, judgmental, and anorexic, and in a few months, very dated.

  • Kartoonz Kritik


    Mom! Dad! it’s evil! Don’t touch it!

  • Brad Constantine

    “if it aint broke…”

  • ShouldBeWorkin’

    Hi Jerry,
    Years ago I saw a mutligenerational photocopy of a gag memo circulated at Hanna Barbera on how they were politically correcting Popeye. Do you know of it? It ended with the resolution that he was going to be called Visually-impaired The Nautical Person or some such.
    Speaking of HB, they did a little interstitial for their series explaining Popeye’s pipe was only for tooting.

  • Polecat

    I can only imagine the reaction if the Disney princesses were used in this campaign instead of Mickey’s gang. All hell would break loose.

  • Alissa

    I’d expect to see those three… things in a horror production. Imagine those skeletal limbs flailing about while their barely-cartoon heads bob erratically. Thanks for the nightmares Disney.

    And Popeye just looks weird without his pipe. Like he’s missing a limb or something. Not that mass consumers will probably notice.

  • Sarah J

    Those skinny Disney characters look really, really creepy and unsettling, like something out of one of my nightmares. Ugh…

    Also, I never thought about it, but Popeye looks really weird without his pipe.

  • Polecat

    Maybe I’m beating a dead horse here, but the words “haute couture” and “Disney” do not usually go together in my head unless Cruella De Ville is involved. One is for aloof grown-ups, the other is for happy-go-lucky kids. I don’t know what marketing genius thought it would be a good idea to combine the two.

    And I miss the smoking Popeye! :(

    • Polecat

      I stand corrected. Some random Googling has confirmed that Cruella De Vil will be in the lineup after all. Isn’t that just special?

  • Jeff

    Those Disney…things…look as if their bodies were intended to be something else and just had Disney characters’ heads slapped on top.

    As others have pointed out, the coloring of the bodies doesn’t match the heads. Goofy’s hands should be black as should the rest of Minnie’s body. Daisy’s body should match her head and her legs should match her beak. (And obviously they shouldn’t be anorexic.)

  • Frank Ziegler

    The Disney things are hideous. I can’t believe they went along with it.

  • Andreas Wessel-Therhorn

    absolutely terrible. But then, disney already has a ‘fashion’ line featuring the skinny minnie, which is just as dreadful.

  • Emaciated? Seriously? You’re worried about what the kids are going to think is cool for the characters at the top, but then say you’re missing Popeye’s pipe? Can’t we all understand stylistic choices? I’m afraid of what you’d call Jessica Rabbit. It’s a different design that Disney is playing with their characters. Like it or not, they do this all the time. Ever seen these? Would you call these too fat or racist?

    It’s clear that someone paid Disney some money to design trendy versions of their characters. That’s the business. Draw and make money so you can feed your kids and pay your mortgage.

  • Time to rape more classic cartoon characters. I didn’t think it could get worse than how Tink and the menagerie of princesses have ended up. But these stretched out anorexic gals are frightening to me, and my future daughters.

    Goofy looks alright. A little fem, but that stupid look on his face.

    I guess Popeye has finally contracted cancer from his 80+ years of smoking. Too bad. Still love the guy!!

  • While he may be missing his pipe, it’s still nice to see Popeye keeping his classic design, unlike Minnie, Daisy and Goofy. I won’t nitpick about Popeye’s missing pipe if we get to see Popeye actually looking like Popeye. And it’s nice to see he’s changed to bagged spinach instead of canned. Fresh spinach tastes better than the canned stuff.

  • top cat james

    Shouldn’t Swee’Pea be featured on the baby spinach package?

  • Sarah J

    Oh, I think I just realized part of the reason that skinny Minnie and Daisy freak me out so much! They remind me of the Slender Man!

  • Albert

    I really hope that is some sort of joke. Do you have holes for eyes? This looks awful. I was so glad that this wasn’t their new forms or something like I originally thought.They look like broomsticks with clothes on. Couldn’t they have given them some curves or muscles or shape if they wanted them to be in high fashion. Minnie and Daisy look like Jack Skelington. They look like things that belong in Tim Burton cartoons. And taking away Popeye’s pipe is crap. Even the old Popeye never really indicated that he was smoking it. I don’t remember any carton showing Popeye filling it with tobacco or leisurely puffing it. The most he used to do is blow a puff of smoke every now and again and use it to hang on to things, reach his spinach, eat spinach through it and toot it like a steam boat.

    I am certain no child ever took up smoking or beat anyone to a pulp because they watched Popeye. I went through a whole generation of television even more violent, suggestive and scary then people seem to think cartoons are now and I came out unscathed.They are taking censorship too far. It is already bad enough that they are resorting to cheap CG and less animation to make cartoons, we have to deal with crappy censorship because they are afraid that the single person who is insane enough to follow it to the letter will hurt themselves and everyone else. I watched Batman the Animated series with all the injections, gun fire, scary transformations, implied death, violence and nightmarish situations without becoming a homicidal manic. Now Batman is a travesty and they want to censor then new CG Batman because the one idiot who went into a cinema and shot at people.I am all for a level of censorship but we are starting to backslide to the ridiculous standards they put on animators in the past like covering up cow udders.

  • Albert

    I am sorry but that is a horrible excuse. A tree will do anything to survive but it ends up looking gnarly, twisted, ugly and dead looking. So doing something like this because you need to survive and feed your kids doesn’t make it any better. We all understand why they did it but that doesn’t change the fact that it looks awful. Think of it like this. Suppose this is the way thy drew them permanently to feed their families. How would you feel about it then?

  • Casey

    It looks like Popeye made the right choice to give up the pipe. His teeth grew back!

  • Mapache

    Wow. I don’t think Change dot org people really know their groceries. Drawing a stylized Minnie Mouse could send a wrong mesage to kids as much as signing a petition for banning that draw can be interpreted as -skinny is bad-.

    Yes, media can pull some unrealistic beauty standards. But this is clearly not the case. Whether you like this designs or not, this is just a stylistic choice, made by some art department, to fit nowdays fashion. Because it makes sense as a portrait of reality, as a reflection of some specific asthetics. Not the other way arround.

    Won’t they let thin people feel pretty, without calling them a symptom of a disease suffered by society? That’s vindictive.

  • C

    Anytime I see the words ‘outrage’ and ‘cartoon’ in the same sentence I stop reading, but it does give me a chuckle.

  • CJ

    People are too sensitive nowadays it seems. I remember when I was a kid I had cartoons with smoking, drinking, murder, suicide, and racism. I also have family who smoked, drank, and committed murder. Now I’m in my early 20’s and I’ve rarely drunk, I don’t smoke, I have no intention of killing anyone; and am just fine. Let’s all make cartoons with invisible character and no dialogue so no one is offend. I say we also implement sarcastaball.

  • axolotl

    MMM, look at that fine Goofy! He’s GILF!

  • Sarah J

    Protest, eh? I can’t find myself getting worked up about Skinny Minnie because of “body image”. First of all, cartoons tend to be highly stylized. They’re not usually supposed to represent ideal body type, especially when their traits are so over-the-top exaggerated. (it would be physically impossible for anyone to be this skinny. You’d have to like, compress all your bones) Second, she’s a mouse. If you’re going to accuse a cartoon character of presenting a bad body image, at least pick a human character.

  • Max Swiecki

    What are these…Furries??

  • Polecat

    Well, I don’t think they can say they didn’t see it coming. For my money, Skinny Minnie is one of the worst rebranding failures since New Coke.

  • Alissa

    I really have to wonder about the kids who would, according to these people, idolize a rodent as the pinnacle of physical beauty… A mouse. Specifically, a mouse that is one part of a Hollywood power couple known for years to sell out at the drop of a hat to whatever might make a buck.

    The best way to ‘protest’ would be for everyone to ignore it. Then no one makes money and (hopefully) the idea goes away.

  • LaineyB

    Seriously? Enraged? You have too much time on your hands and too much energy if this is what you choose to become enraged about smh @@

  • Visonary Barrista

    Oh for goodness sake…
    Between a derp-eyed pony being taken off tv for being “Offensive”, and this…
    If you don’t like something, leave it be. Quit causing hysteria because of a physically attractive fictional mouse-woman. Who would idolize a rat-woman anyway? I for one like these figurines, however. If I hear one more group complain about a toy/cartoon/cereal being “offensive”, or “obscene”, I am going to lose it.