Skinny Disney: Minnie Mouse, et al get an unhealthy Barneys look

More skinny Disney characters: What's a mother of a little girl to do? Healthy body image takes another cut as Barneys thins and stretches Minnie Mouse and company.

Skinny Disney characters just keep on coming as body image for little girls take on ever thinner proportions. Here, Minnie Mouse and Mickey greet fans in Hong Kong.

Et tu Minnie?

Sure, we knew that it was getting a bit tough for the Disney Princesses these days, what with all those body image pressures out there. Just the other week, an advertisement for a Venezuelan plastic surgery practice made the rounds on the Internet, showing what the hotter, sexier version of a Princess should look like. There, before our very eyes, was Ariel, the Little Mermaid, swimming up for a tail removal (and enhancement), some hefty breast implants, a tummy tuck and a lip augmentation.

But Minnie Mouse??  We were positive she was safe. Because, really, who would give the skinny treatment to an animated rodent?

Disney! That’s who. Along with luxury department store Barneys.

Turns out Minnie, along with girlfriend Daisy Duck and buddies Mickey and Goofy, are going to be the stars of Barney’s 2012 high-fashioned holiday window displays. (These displays are big deals in the fashion world – "Gaga's Workshop," with Lady Gaga on hand, was last year's campaign.) Executives from the department store flew out to Disneyland in March, reports, to find inspiration and do research on the characters. They eventually decided to put together a short film for the display that centers around Minnie’s desire to be a fashion model.


But when they got to the good part – when Minnie and all her friends walk down the runway – the fashionistas realized they had a problem.

No matter how cute and peppy was their little mouse, no matter how well she rocked the polka dots, she just didn’t look good in a Lanvin dress.

“I said, ‘If we’re going to make this work, we have to have a 5-foot-11 Minnie,’ and they agreed,” WWD quotes Barneys creative director Dennis Freedman as saying. “When you see Goofy, Minnie, and Mickey, they are runway models.”

Or, if you look at the photos, stick figures.

Seriously, it looks like someone took Popeye’s Olive Oyl and put her on a starvation diet and then stretched her. And topped her off with a weirdly emaciated Minnie or Daisy head. (Although I’ve got to admit, Daisy’s Dolce & Gabbana dress, with matching bow, is lovely.)

But fashion sense aside....  really, people?

This might be cute and “fun” (as the Barneys executives described it) and all that on Madison Avenue. And it would be easy to respond with a big “lighten up” to those folks who raise questions about the messaging this sends to little girls, who already face a nonstop onslaught of social messages to be skinny, beautiful, and sexy. 

But keep this in mind: Little kids love their Disney characters. And by this I mean that child development experts say that children actually have a real, true, emotional love for Minnie, MIckey, et al, the same way they might love the teddy bear in their crib, or even the family dog.

It’s why groups such as the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood worry so much about using these characters to sell products. They say that it is simply not fair – as well as damaging to children and bad for families – to have sophisticated advertisers manipulating these early emotions well before a child can have any sense of corporate motive. 

The Barneys holiday campaign – which will be called “Electric Holiday,” a riff off of the Disney’s popular Main Street Electrical Parade – is intended to “delight all ages,” according to Disney executives. Some of the stores will reportedly offer sweets and children’s toys, as well as Mickey Mouse ears.

Not to be a grinch here, but it just seems wrong. I mean, no time like the holidays to convince a little girl that beloved Minnie, in her regular shape, is fat.

Maybe the Disney Princesses have it easy after all.

Oh, scratch that: Snow White is scheduled to appear in the Barneys campaign, too. Guess we're all in this boat together.

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