Does anyone else remember Mousercise? It was one of the original Disney Channel shows in the mid-1980s, featuring morning workout routines for the entire family. It may have been cheesier than Mickey Mouse, but it did send the appropriate message of achieving physical fitness through regular exercise.

The show eventually fizzled away, and Disney's (NYSE:DIS) health kick went with it. Over the past few years, the family entertainment giant has lent its brand and its fleet of animated characters to things like sugary cereals and teeth-rotting sweets. Let's not even get into the fat-laden connotations of providing kids'-toy premiums to fast-food giants.

Disney may have fallen off the wagon, but now it's ready to get back on the scale. Sending a powerful message that it won't condone the epidemic of childhood obesity under its watch, Disney has announced strict dietary guidelines for licensed food products and promotions that bear the Disney name.

Effective immediately in the U.S., with a more gradual implementation overseas, new deals for Disney licensed foodstuffs will have to adhere to capped levels of calories, fat, and sugar. Disney will still allow seasonal candy and birthday cakes to top its new dietary guidelines, but it plans to scale back on those licenses.

Keeping it in the park
Perhaps one of the more intriguing aspects of yesterday's announcement is that Disney plans to eliminate items with trans fats at its theme parks over the next two years. Folks who associate a day at the theme park with pigging out on fried foodstuffs like funnel cakes and churro sticks may or may not notice the shift away from partially hydrogenated oils.

For a company as big as Disney, this is a major undertaking. It's not just about kicking the McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) french-fry cart to the curb if it doesn't comply. Consider EPCOT and its many popular international eateries, which rely on indigenous recipes. This won't be an easy transition.

Then again, it also won't be a very difficult one. Industry trends have helped out. ConAgra's (NYSE:CAG) Orville Redenbacher serves up that sweet-smelling popcorn aroma that hits your nostrils as you enter the parks. Until just recently, most of the Redenbacher line was prepared in solid hydrogenated soybean oil. In February, ConAgra made the shift to trans fat-free palm oil.

According to California's Ban Trans Fat nonprofit group -- the same folks who campaigned for healthier Oreos and successfully got McDonald's to follow through on its promise to move to healthier frying oil -- trans fats are "invisible, tasteless, and odorless" and not necessarily cheaper than the good stuff. That doesn't mean that there won't be any challenges along the way. Earlier this year, Cheesecake Factory (NASDAQ:CAKE) experimented with a trans fat-free entree menu in California, and had to go item by item to make sure that it had the appropriate trans fat-free alternative for each dish.

It's the right thing for Disney to do. Despite its wide range of operations, and the large number of foreign visitors who aren't necessarily hit over the head with news about the evils of trans fatty acids, Disney has been a trendsetter in the past when it comes to health movements. It made its parks smoke-free years before regional rivals like Six Flags (NYSE:SIX) started kicking butts and setting up smoking areas away from where the kids are hanging out.

Fast food, slow decisions
In addition, Disney and fast food have been interlocked for years. In the early 1990s, Disney's animated blockbusters like The Lion King and Toy Story were aided by the promotional push of having Burger King (NYSE:BKC) serve up character toys with its kid meals. Disney later switched sides and signed an exclusive 10-year cross-marketing deal with McDonald's.

The deal wasn't limited to just the fast-food giant's eateries. In Walt Disney World, McDonald's presence is everywhere. There are stand-alone restaurants adjacent to the Blizzard Beach water park and inside the Downtown Disney shopping and entertainment complex. French-fry wagons are parked throughout the parks, and one dino-themed eatery even serves up McDonald's grub.

Disney and McDonald's are free agents now that the deal has expired, but you can't loosen all of those knotty ties overnight. It's not as if McDonald's is evil. It has also moved toward healthier fare, like salads and grilled chicken breast sandwiches. As at Wendy's (NYSE:WEN), kids can choose fruit over fries as a side in their kid meals. The catch, one would argue, is that most kids are still choosing the unhealthy fries.

Kudos to Disney for making the move and forcing the issue. Yes, guests should always have freedom of choice, but the integrity of Disney's brand is truly at stake here. It's the right move. Expect others to follow.

Mousercise, anyone?

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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz enjoys taking his family to amusement parks of all sizes, all over the country. He owns shares in Disney and Cheesecake Factory. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. T he Fool has a disclosure policy.