W00t! I got another interesting contact from a PR person. This one was from Conservation International, which has “partnered” with McDonalds to promote a “healthier” Happy Meal in conjunction with the marketing of the Bee Movie.*
“Hi Bug Girl,
I noticed your blog about insects and thought you and your readers might be interested in this news about bees…(list of links omitted)… I hope you find this interesting and thank you for your attention.
Online Promotion Coordinator
I already have a fairly major problem with the Bee Movie, which like most Hollywood movies is very male-focused. Nearly all of the main characters are male–which isn’t the way a honeybee hive works. In a real honeybee hive, only a few males appear at all–and they are barely tolerated by the workers. The vast majority of the 60,000+ bees in a “queenright” hive are female.**
Someone needs to re-queen Jerry Seinfeld’s hive :D
Otherwise, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief enough to concede this movie might turn out to be a good thing–the movie does claim that it will focus on the relationship between humans and pollinators, and that isn’t bad.
The press release says:
“McDonald’s and CI recently collaborated to launch the “The Bee Movie” Happy Meal. CI helped develop an online pledge for the Happy Meals, called “Bee Good to the Planet,” which encourages children to get outside, see what their backyards have to offer, and care for the environment. McDonald’s has also made a generous donation to help CI conserve crucial bee habitats around the world.”
Now, I’m sure it’s totally a coincidence that the #3 on the Board of Directors for Conservation International is the president of Dreamworks. You know, the folks that made Bee Movie.
CI has indeed developed a large online site, heavily branded with Bee Movie stuff and the McD’s logo. The pledge is pretty benign:
“I recognize that I play an important role in the future of our planet. I pledge to get outside and do my part to learn about nature and to protect all living things. I will be a force for good in my neighborhood.”
Of course, this assumes that kids that are eating at McDs have internet access, and that their parents will allow them to go to the CI site. Or to “happymeal.com” which is also pushed as a destination site for kids. (BTW, the happymeal site is completely Flash-based, so if you don’t have that installed, you get bupkis.)
As for the Happy meal:
“McDonald’s will continue to use characters from DreamWorks’ latest property, “Bee Movie,” to promote fruit, vegetables and milk in markets around the world….The promotion showcases Chicken McNuggets™ made with white meat and the movie’s main character, Barry B. Benson, on Apple Dippers (fresh, peeled apple slices with optional low-fat caramel dipping sauce) and low-fat white Milk Jugs served in child-friendly containers.”
According to McDonald’s website, the meal is not that shocking calorie-wise (370 calories), but it does contain 13 grams of fat. That includes 4 grams of saturated fat and 1 gram of trans fat. That’s not happy, or healthy.
This also assumes that you actually get that particular happy meal. There are a whole bunch of versions. In the interest of Science, I went out and actually bought one. Here’s what I got–notice the lack of apples, despite my asking for them.
The package itself contains another opportunity for education about bees; mine contained some factoids about how fast a bee can fly and how many bees are in a hive. But there was no information about the pledge; no information about Conservation International; and no information about how bees are important to the food supply. Even the milk was branded with the Bee Movie.
The box did have a conspicuous plug for happymeal.com. Oh, and my toy, a lot of plastic in a plastic bag. Very environmentally conscious.
In summary, the Happy Meal is just depressing. It isn’t nutritious; it’s promoting some weird ideas of what bees do; and it looks like a promo for a big movie and McDs to me. I hope Conservation International got a really big donation.
Conservation International itself is an interesting organization; some have suggested that it works a little too closely with corporations and the feds. It was nominated for a “Public Eye” award in 2005 for being a “Trojan Horse” for multinational corporations.
I’ll give CI the benefit of the doubt; a lot of NGO’s work very closely with corporate partners, simply because they need the money. That’s why we have an Orkin-sponsored Insect Zoo in the Smithsonian.
I gotta tell you though, this deal smells worse than a happy meal left out in the sun.***
*Clearly, they failed to notice what happened the last time someone sent me a news release to plug their agenda. Ha!
**Unless they are “anarchist bees“. I’m not making that up.
***I seriously considered titling this post “Bend Over Beefriend” in parody of the movie.
EDITED 11/8/07 to add: my review of the movie, in which I discover an even worse crime against bees.