A halloween pizza promotion depicting Sir Edmund Hillary dancing in a graveyard has upset those closest to him just 10 months after his death and has this morning been removed from the fast food chain's website.
The animation, by Hell Pizza, shows a mostly skeletal Sir Ed, flanked by Heath Ledger and the Queen Mother, emerging from graves to dance to Michael Jackson's song Thriller.
It was posted on the Internet two days before Halloween and has been called grotesque by Sir Ed's son, Peter Hillary.
"I think it's a bit disturbing ... a little grotesque. I don't think it's funny and I'm not very impressed," Mr Hillary said yesterday.
"It is early days and it's still pretty raw. It's extremely poor taste really."
The video clip, which was on the company's website this morning, was removed shortly before midday.
Hell promotions have attracted complaints in recent years about campaigns featuring Adolf Hitler, a mail drop that included condoms, and a spoof of Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's death.
Sir Ed died in January, aged 88. Heath Ledger died this year and the Queen Mother in 2002.
Glenn Corbett, retail operations manager for TPF Group, which acquired the Hell chain in 2006, said the company had no intention of offending anyone, especially the Hillary family.
"Clearly he's revered in New Zealand and we all love him. It's the sort of thing that Hell does to create a little bit of fun and a little bit of humour.
"The idea of Sir Ed being there was intended to be a light-hearted remembrance of Sir Ed that was a bit hellish."
Mr Hillary said the executors of his father's will and the family should have been consulted.
"The reality is they've put it on the Internet. It is now uncontrollable. The damage is done. ... I think [if I had been asked] I would have said it was inappropriate."
A close friend of Sir Ed, cartoonist Tom Scott, said Sir Ed had a good sense of humour, but he was appalled when the animation was described to him.
"It strikes me as tasteless.
"It's way too soon to make fun of a great New Zealander. They wouldn't dare do it while he was alive and they should be doubly cautious when he's dead."
The owner of Wellington's Webb St Hell Pizza franchise, Jason Buckley, said he did not like the promotion but franchisees had no say. "They do it without talking to us."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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