MCDONALD'S HUNGRY FOR DISNEY TIE-INS

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McDonald's Corp. is determined to get back on Disney's dance card, as the leading fast-food marketer competes with Burger King Corp. for the hottest movie tie-ins.

Burger King is launching a $10 million Kids Club promotion tied to Disney's "A Goofy Movie." But the partnership that forged last summer's big hit, "The Lion King," may be at risk if McDonald's has anything to say about it.

Summer is the most crucial season for fast-food, and no one dishes up colossal summer promotions like Walt Disney Co. Burger King has been the chief beneficiary of late, preparing to promote this summer's "Pocahontas" and next summer's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame."

Despite the bittersweet relations McDonald's and Disney have had in the past, the fast-food leader has come a-courting for the holiday 1996 movie, a new adaptation of "Treasure Island." Disney has remained non-committal.

"It's highly unlikely we will ever partner with one fast-food marketer exclusively. These deals are too lucrative," said Brett Dicker, senior VP-promotions for Buena Vista Pictures Marketing.

The studio giant doesn't limit its fast-food tie-ins to Burger King and McDonald's. Subway Sandwich & Salad Shops has become a favorite partner, promoting non-animated Disney films, such as this summer's "Crimson Tide."

And Jack-in-the-Box this summer supports "Judge Dredd," a Disney action picture.

But the big-budget, animated films are reserved for promotional partners with financial muscle, and in fast-food that's Big Mac and BK.

Burger King has no official Disney ties, but a marketing executive who has worked with both fast-food chains said Disney prefers the more flexible Burger King.

The marketers have clashed in the past over McDonald's wish to sell discounted home videos through its restaurants. McDonald's has also pushed for greater involvement in the development of movies it sponsors, a compromise most studios have made-except for Disney.

McDonald's has been burned twice by the Warner Bros. Batman films, once in 1989 when parents complained of the original film's dark undertones, and again in 1992, when Warner Bros. altered the "Batman Returns" logo just months before the June premiere, forcing McDonald's to overhaul its promotional merchandise.

But the fast-food giant now appears to be backing off from its demands, fearing the implications of a long-term relationship between Burger King and Disney.

Video retailing is definitely off the table: "It's no longer an issue," said one Hollywood insider.

Executives close to McDonald's say it has signed on for Disney's next Muppet movie, based on the novel "Treasure Island" and set for release in late 1996.

Burger King has made it all but impossible for McDonald's to break into Disney's schedule before late 1996. In addition to the next two summers, Burger King will promote this holiday's "Toy Story," through Ammirati & Puris/Lintas, New York. The computer-animated feature has already attracted $80 million in promotional sponsorships.

Disney, however, isn't blind to the advantages of working with McDonald's, one of the most powerful marketing partners around.

Mr. Dicker said Disney is in negotiations with McDonald's for at least three upcoming films, possibly including the live-action version of "101 Dalmatians."

Still in question is whether this summer's Disney release will ensure Burger King another triumph over McDonald's.

Big Mac in June promotes "Batman Forever," starring box-office draw Jim Carrey as the Riddler, with marketing support from DDB Needham Worldwide, Chicago. In July, McDonald's will tie-in with "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers" a guaranteed hit provided the toy super heroes don't lose momentum.

Jeanne Whalen contributed to this story.

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