Sustainable packaging for Disney’s Moana doll is both responsible and fun

Kate Bertrand Connolly 1, Freelance Writer

November 14, 2016

The packaging design for the new Moana doll from Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media is environmentally responsible, but it also adds a fun interactive element: Kids can transform the box into a boat for the doll.

The product and its innovative packaging appeared on Disney Store shelves in September 2016, ahead of the release of Disney’s computer-animated film “Moana.” Set to open on Nov. 23, the movie is about an island girl who sails across the ocean to save her people.

The Disney Moana Classic Doll’s package—a paperboard box with plastic window—was designed using The Walt Disney Co.’s SmartPackaging Initiative sustainable packaging measurement and design tool. The paperboard component contains 70% recycled content and is printed with vegetable-based ink. PET is used for the window, because it’s easier to recycle than PVC, and the package includes no adhesives.

Disney’s SPI tool focuses on reducing packaging waste, boosting recyclability, maximizing retail performance and reducing costs. (These goals may sound familiar to those who follow sustainable packaging news: Walmart’s recently updated sustainable packaging priorities are to optimize design, source sustainably and support recycling.)

​Candela Montero, director, corporate citizenship, at Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media, provides some details and background on the packaging.

Please describe Disney’s sustainable packaging design tool.

Montero: The SmartPackaging Initiative (SPI) is a sustainable packaging measurement and design tool that aims to improve the environmental performance of toy packaging in ways that are measurable, visible and optimize on-shelf performance. ​The ​SPI uses a zero-to-100 score based on several attributes: Source Responsibly, Design for Recycling and Optimize Resources. These scores have several sub-metrics that include a variety of attributional measures (such as recycled content, cube utilization) and lifecycle assessment (LCA)-based indicator measures (such as carbon footprint, materials health).

The tool allows for packaging concept comparisons and also provides dynamic design guidance on how to improve the environmental performance of a package. This tool was in development for more than six years, and the metrics were validated by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, which confirmed that it is one of the most innovative and robust packaging-sustainability assessment tools out there.

How many toy packages have been designed using this tool?

Montero: Disney Consumer Products and Interactive Media began a pilot of the SPI tool in October 2014 with Disney Stores and several of our key licenses (Hasbro, Mattel, LEGO and Jakks Pacific). During the pilot, more than 100 packaging designs were entered into the tool. The Disney Store C​ars packages were improved using​ the​ SPI, and learnings form the Moana box are being integrated into the broader Disney Store Classic Princess doll line. We are just beginning the SmartPackaging journey, and more sustainable packaging changes will be rolled out over time.

How does the structure of the Moana doll package facilitate recycling?

Montero: The​ two​ major ​pieces—the paper outer box and PET plastic window—​do not use glue/adhesive to connect. ​Instead, the plastic is held in place by the outer st​r​ucture of the box. The consumer opens the top or bottom of the box and the doll slides out​, ​automatically separating the plastic from the paper for easier recycling. The Sustainable Packaging Coalition How2Recycle label is ​also ​included on the box to help consumers recycle the package appropriately.


The paperboard and plastic components of the Moana packaging easily separate. 

Are there any internal package components?

Montero: Yes, there are some ties​ and​ tape that are required to adhere the doll to the backer insert​ and​ to ensure safe transport​. However, the main claim to “separability” relates to the major packaging pieces (the carton and the window), which make up 96% of the material used in the package—​including the boat. In this case, the smaller materials used to secure the product, such as the ties/tabs, are separate from the major packaging pieces that are intended to be recycled​. ​

What is the consumer reaction to the Moana packaging, among kids and parents?

Montero: We’ve conducted several focus groups with the new Moana doll box and found the response from parents to be very positive—they loved how easy it is to open the box and appreciated that Disney is doing its part to help conserve the environment. Parents also loved that building the boat c​ould provide teachable moment​s​ about recycling with their kids​. They also ​thought their kids would enjoy the activity. ​


Learn about the latest developments in sustainable packaging design at PackEx Montreal 2016 (Nov. 30-Dec. 1, in Montreal, Quebec, Canada).

About the Author(s)

Kate Bertrand Connolly 1

Freelance Writer

Kate Bertrand Connolly has been covering innovations, trends, and technologies in packaging, branding, and business since 1981.

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