It was supposed be a chic makeover for a famous mouse, but critics think it’s just plain cheesy.
A rapidly growing petition on Change.org is urging Barneys New York to scrap an upcoming campaign that features rail-thin Disney characters in sexy threads.
Titled “Leave Minnie Mouse Alone,” the petition was launched by Ragen Chastain, a Los Angeles-based blogger who advocates for improving girls’ self-esteem, regardless of their size.
“There is nothing wrong with tall thin women,” Chastain wrote in the petition. “There is something wrong with changing a beloved children’s character’s body so that it looks good in a dress that almost nobody looks good in -- adding to the tremendous pressure on young girls and women to attain Photoshop perfection.”
The Barneys campaign, dubbed “Electric Holiday,” is a collaboration between the luxury retailer and the Walt Disney Company (NYSE: DIS). Set to debut Nov. 14, it features the well-known characters -- including Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck and Goofy -- as runway models in stylistically detailed renderings featuring various fashionable outfits. The revamped Minnie Mouse is seen proportioned at 5’11’ and a size 0, wearing a hot-pink Lanvin dress.
In an August interview with Women’s Wear Daily, Dennis Freedman, Barneys’ creative director, said Minnie’s model-type body was decided upon after he pointed out to Disney animators that the character’s traditional look -- short and stubby -- would not flatter the clothing. “I said, ‘If we’re going to make this work, we have to have a 5-foot-11 Minnie,’ and they agreed,” he told WWD.
The campaign will launch as a window display at Barneys’ flagship location on Madison Avenue, which will feature a three-dimensional light show and a short film in which Minnie dreams of being in a fashion show in Paris.
IBTimes reached out to Barneys for a comment. A spokesperson for the company referred to a Q&A blog post on the Walt Disney Company website, which stresses that the campaign is temporary and that it ends with Minnie returning to her classic look.
“This one-time holiday project was designed to be a playful interpretation of the high-fashion world where Minnie briefly imagines what it would be like if she and her friends were a part of it,” the post said. “The images shown during the brief dream sequence in the animated short are highly stylized interpretations of these artistic characters. In the end, the short concludes with Minnie back to her classic self, happily wearing a Lanvin designer dress.”
But Chastain, in her petition, said that the images will add to the pressure young girls feel to be thin, pressure she believes leads to unrealistic expectations about their own bodies. On the petition, she points out much-cited statistics from the National Association of Anorexia and Associated Eating Disorders, showing that 81 percent of 10-year-olds are afraid being fat.
Disney's Q&A blog post was posted on Friday by Nidia Caceros Tatalovich, director of corporate communications for Disney Consumer Products. For the post, Tatalovich spoke with Luis Fernandez, senior vice president of global creative for Disney Consumer Products, who described “Electric Holiday” as a “fun and colorful campaign that gave our character artists the creative liberty to do something artistic and completely unique.”
Chastain’s petition has been signed by more than 118,000 supporters, including Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Walt Disney’s brother and business partner, Roy Disney.
In a tweet early Monday, Disney urged her followers to get involved and sign the petition against the “too-skinny Minnie.”
Other high-profile petition signatories include actress Virginia Madsen and National Geographic correspondent Mireya Mayor, who called the campaign “disturbing” via tweet.
Each new signature on the petition is sent via email to Matt Reed, Barneys’ vice president for display. Chastain has also urged fans to voice their concerns on Barneys’ Twitter and Facebook accounts.