The Bee Movie, McDonalds, and greenwashing

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.

{name omitted}
Online Promotion Coordinator
Conservation International

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.

14 thoughts on “The Bee Movie, McDonalds, and greenwashing

  1. Be (bee?) careful, ma’am. Getting yourself mixed up between McDonald’s and the bee mafia could get…. Well, let’s just say that others have tried and they got, ummm, stung….

  2. I wonder if Jerry had the balls to have a Rev. Jackson character in the movie asking for reparations after the Bees find out that humans have been stealing there honey from them over the years and enslaving the bees in commercial beehives.

  3. It is a movie people! Yes there are more males in the movie, but guess what??? Bee’s don’t talk, or wear sweaters, oh God forbid fall in love with humans!
    Get over it! You people have GOT to get a life!

  4. The whole four-legs thing makes it difficult for me to expect much verisimilitude; Antz managed it, and even put in quite a bit of ant-lore taht enriched the plot. Sure, it’s “just a movie”, but it looks like they’re really aiming for the bottom-end of B movies …
    andrea

  5. Variety just came out with the first official review of the movie (no mention of the science):
    they weren’t impressed.

    Amanda, if a movie is going to have a promotional campaign claiming to educate the public, they need to actually do something educational for me to play along with them. Especially if they contact me and ask me to give them free PR.

    Of course, they could be working under the theory that all PR is good PR….

  6. It might just bee a coincidence but last night there were two (!) specials on PBS and 60 minutes about CCD. If I would have seen McDonald’s ads I’d buy a conspiracy theory…

  7. Ah, that explains the presence of a McD’s contingent at my place of employment last week. I have noticed the predominance of male bees in the commercials for the bee flick. Glad to see I’m not the only one saying WTF to that.

  8. Pingback: The Salt-Box :: A 4-yr-old reviews Bee Movie

  9. Pingback: Skeptics’ Circle #73: please tick the appropriate boxes « Holford Watch: Patrick Holford, nutritionism and bad science

  10. The four legs and the failure to show what is anywhere near reality of bee society royally pisses me off. It’s damaging idiocy.

  11. Bumble Bees
    There are many differnt kinds
    of bees.For exsample a
    Bumble Bee is a hard
    working,bee.It can die after
    it,looses it’s stinger.I think it is harder for them
    to live than us to live are
    lifes.I think we should stop
    useing their honey.

  12. Loved your critique. I wrote a similar review for my local beekeeping organization. I’m a beekeeper myself and I too was apalled by the complete lack of even the most elementary facts about the lives of honey bees. Also, the representation of beekeepers was horrible! We hobbyist beekeepers are generally a group of very nice and down to earth people who love our bees and enjoy caring for them. U.S. farmers could not produce the amount of food that they do without the help of the beekeeping industry.

    Even more upsetting to me was that the National Honey Board has been telling U.S. beekeepers to use the “free promotional materials” from the Bee Movie to promote our honey sales. I could not believe this!!!! They obviously were clueless to the content of the movie! As yet I haven’t seen an outraged response published by a beekeeper anywhere in the media.

    The movie’s promotional materials are plastered on cereal boxes etc. with games that do nothing to relay any bee information either! They (Dreamworks, Spielberg, Seinfeld) made no effort at ALL to teach a single thing about honey bees. Kids leave the movie hating beekeepers and feeling quilty for eating honey “stolen” from the bees. Honey bees by their nature will produce up to a hundred pounds of honey per hive in excess of what they need for survival. It is their instinct to do this. We humans simply discovered how to manage the bees and harvest the excess crop.

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