Dudley DoRight and Donald Duck? They won’t be on joint patrols quite yet, but the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has surprised Canada by hiring the Walt Disney Co. to oversee the licensing and marketing of the Mounties’ image.
The news was greeted with ridicule and anger, forcing Disney and RCMP officials on the defensive Wednesday as they sought to explain a deal involving the most cherished of Canada’s national symbols.
“The Mounties go Mickey Mouse,” said Tim Cogan, a spokesman for the legendary federal police force. “We saw that coming a mile away. There’s nothing we can do about it.”
The Mounties had been looking for licensing expertise since January, when they declared they were fed up with tasteless exploitation of their image. Sample offenses: a pro wrestler dressed as a Mountie; a pseudo-Mountie in a porn movie.
Even when Mountie products were tasteful, the police force was receiving no royalties from sales. So an all-volunteer Mounted Police Foundation was formed to negotiate strict licensing contracts.
After hearing proposals from Canadian and U.S. firms, the Mounties selected Disney’s Canadian affiliate, Walt Disney Canada, to administer the worldwide licensing of Mountie hats, T-shirts, postcards and so forth.
Gary Gurmukh, owner of a company that makes T-shirts with Mountie themes, was among several business executives irked by the deal. The Mounties were “a Canadian institution” and should not have chosen a U.S.-controlled company to market them, he told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp.
Cogan said the bottom line for the Mounties was to pick the most capable firm.
“There’s bound to be some backlash from those who didn’t get selected,” he said. “We decided to align ourselves with the company that could best do the job … the company that is probably the leader in licensing and marketing in the world.”
Under the deal, any company that wants to produce Mountie-related souvenirs or other products will have to sign a licensing agreement with Disney Canada. Preference will go to Canadian firms.
Disney will control the selection of designs, though the Mounties will retain ultimate veto power if they disapprove of a certain image.
Each company awarded a license will pay a 10 percent licensing fee that will be split between Disney and the Mounted Police Foundation. Initially, the foundation will get 51 percent of the proceeds, and its share will rise to 55 percent after five years, Cogan said.
By September, companies that persist in pirating the Mountie image without permission from Disney could face fines, or even jail terms for their executives. But Cogan said the initial enforcement effort would not be heavy-handed. “We are not out to hurt anybody,” he said.