Barneys & Disney Defend Skinny Minnie Campaign

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Earlier this year, several execs from Barneys New York headed out to Disneyland to tour the park and go on some rides, but they weren’t just there to have fun – they were there to do research too. The luxury retailer has teamed up with The Walt Disney Company for a holiday campaign called “Electric Holiday.”

The theme of the campaign is combination of Disney’s well-known electrical parade, New York’s holiday light installations, and the bright lights on a runway. Barneys’ flagship on Madison Avenue will debut “Electric Holiday” on November 14 through a 3D electric light show and a short film. The film focuses on Minnie Mouse’s quest to be a model in Paris, where she runs into many of her famous friends, including Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Daisy Duck, Cruella de Vil, and Snow White. All the characters are dressed by the likes of Nicolas Ghesquière for Balenciaga, Alber Elbaz for Lanvin, Olivier Rousteing for Balmain, Dolce & Gabbana, Rick Owens, and Peter Copping for Nina Ricci.

Barneys’ makeover of Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, & Goofy

Your favorite characters get a chic makeover by your favorite designers – it’s like one of the best parts of your childhood mixed with what you love now! Sounds like a fun idea, huh? Well, not everyone thinks so. Almost as soon as a sneak peek at the campaign was released, there was outrage over the decision to make the characters as thin as could be. Body image activists attacked the images for portraying anorexic-looking versions of “beloved children’s characters” and for promoting sexuality and eating disorders. Several petitions are circulating online that insist young girls are tortured enough by unrealistic body images without Disney’s negative influence too.

Traditional Minnie Mouse, Daisy Duck, & Goofy

Barneys isn’t taking the criticism lying down though. They released a joint statement with Disney to say they’re “saddened that activists have repeatedly tried to distort a lighthearted holiday project in order to draw media attention to themselves.” Barneys’ creative director Dennis Freedman claims the characters had to be changed in order to maintain the “authenticity” of the campaign, as well as of the modeling industry and the designers’ clothes. “The standard Minnie Mouse will not look so good in a Lanvin dress,” says Freedman, which just added fuel to the fire for those against the ads. Plus, Barneys says the skinny Minnie only appears in a dream sequence before she “happily awakens” as her normal self.

Barneys and Disney believe “Electric Holiday” is a harmless way to celebrate the holidays, but consumer activist groups and plus-size models and actresses are pushing for the campaign to be changed before it debuts in stores. What do you think about the characters’ makeovers? Do you love their new looks, or did Barneys go too far by modeling them after extremely thin icons like Kate Moss and Karlie Kloss?

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