You'd think a holiday ad campaign featuring iconic Disney cartoon characters would be pretty safe political territory. But in the case of this year's Barneys New York campaign, you'd be wrong.
In a video that is part of the holiday display to be revealed November 14, various Disney characters will appear reimagined as high-end fashion models, which means Minnie Mouse will transform into a 5-foot-11, size 0 model.
The campaign is sparking protests from the likes of actress Virginia Madsen, 'True Blood' star Kristin Bauer, and Disney heir Abigail Disney, all of whom signed a petition on Change.org created by Ragen Chastain, a body image consultant from Los Angeles.
In the text of that petition, Ragen says "there is nothing wrong with tall thin women," but adds "girls have enough pressure to be thin, now the beloved Disney mouse of their childhood has to add to the message that the only good body is a tall, size 0 body?"
Barneys and Disney responded with a joint statement that reads in part: "We are saddened that activists have repeatedly tried to distort a lighthearted holiday project in order to draw media attention to themselves.
"They have deliberately ignored previously released information clearly stating this promotion is a three-minute 'moving art' video featuring traditional Minnie Mouse in a dreamlike sequence set in Paris where she briefly walks the runway as a model and then happily awakens as her normal self wearing the very same designer dress from the fashion show."
The decision to create the tall, thin version of Minnie (as well as similarly stretched reimaginings of Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Daisy Duck, Cruella de Vil, Princess Tiana and Snow White) came about when six Barneys executives went to meet with Disney execs back in March to discuss the campaign.
"When we got to the moment when all Disney characters walk on the runway, there was a discussion," Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman told WWD. "The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress. There was a real moment of silence, because the characters don't change. I said, 'If we're going to make this work, we have to have a 5-foot-11 Minnie,' and they agreed."
Some plus-sized models have spoken out about the decision.
"People may think it's blowing it out of proportion, but where does it stop?" said plus-sized model Lizzie Miller. "This is a big step backwards."
Miller rose to prominence when her photograph appeared in a September 2009 Glamour magazine story about women who are comfortable with their bodies. The picture sparked a broader discussion about body image.
Meanwhile, Wilhelmina Models' Robyn Lawley, the first plus-sized model used for Ralph Lauren advertising, had a slightly different take.
She says that Barneys holiday display is created each year "in the name of whimsy and fantasy." But Lawley also states, "I've always found Minnie fine as she was," and notes "the issue of body image is always prevalent and should always be considered."
Barneys says it will not give in to pressure and is moving forward with the campaign as planned. "Electric Holiday" kicks off November 14, starting at the flagship Barneys store on Madison Avenue in New York.
What do you think? Is the decision to make Minnie a tall, skinny model damaging to young girls? Let us know in the poll below.
POLL: IS THE WORLD READY FOR A SKINNY MINNIE? ...