Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Mountie (tm) and Disney Corp.

The image of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer in his scarlet uniform and broad-brimmed brown stetson hat, is a classic image of Canadiana.  Many Canadians would be surprised to discover, however, that from 1995-2000 the trade-mark to this image was owned by the Disney corporation.

The RCMP licensed its quintessential Canadian emblem to a major corporation in hopes that the Mountie icon would cease to be used for unsavoury products.  The Mountie image has been used for various and sundry purposes, ranging from the usual tourist trinkets, to pornography, and even a World Wrestling Federation character whose special move was called "The Mountie Mash".  In shades of a later RCMP taser controversy, the offending perpetrator, dubbed simply "The Mountie", used a cattle prod against his opponents.
Labatt's corporation was also chastised for commercials which featured "Malcolm the Mountie" singing to a moose puppet.  A British Labatt's ad featuring Malcolm the Mountie, who purportedly always got his can, can be found here. In the 1995 license agreements, no liquor or tobacco products could feature the brand.

The original decision was made due to Disney's international clout in pursuing copyright infringement violations.  In 2000, the RCMP refused to renew the contract with Disney, as they felt they were savvy enough to defend their own brand.  Canadians can rest assured that when they buy their Mountie mugs, keychains, and t-shirts, they no longer send a share to Mickey Mouse.  The "Made in China" emblem found on the bottom of these "Canadian" products, however, will presumably remain for some time.

Video from CBC archives on the announcement of the Disney copyright deal. 
Christopher Gittings article on the Mountie image
Review of  Michael Dawson's The Mountie From Dime Novel to Disney

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