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Epcot’s ‘Habit Heroes’ Exhibit Causes Controversy

26 February 2012 7 Comments

A few weeks ago, Walt Disney World’s Epcot installed a new exhibit in Innoventions, a showcase of various exhibits designed to promote new ideas and technologies. The new exhibit, “Habit Heroes,” was a joint effort by Disney and Blue Cross and Blue Shield to combat childhood obesity through interactive games.

In the game, superheroes Will Power and Callie Stenics lead kids and families in the fight against junk food and bad habits, represented through villains with such names as Sweet Tooth, Snacker, and Lead Bottom. In one activity, players wage a “food fight” against Sweet Tooth and Snacker, in which healthy foods like fruits and vegetables knock out junk food like cream puffs and hot dogs. In another activity, using technology similar to the video game “Just Dance,” players get their heart rates up and dance while fighting Lead Bottom. Outside of Innoventions, players could also visit the Habit Heroes site on their computer or smartphone for virtual games, featuring even more villains with such names as Drama Queen (gossiping), Ice Cappuccino (too much caffeine), the Glutton (overeating), and Insecura (lack of self-esteem).

However, this week, the exhibit became a target of controversy, as health professionals and weight researchers, largely from Canada, began petitioning for the exhibit’s immediate closure. The depiction of the villains as overweight and overall fat vs. skinny tone of the exhibit, critics say, causes shame and ridicule in young guests, and should not be the way to present the topic of healthy living.

In Canada, the Binge Eating Disorder Association, National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders, and a chair of the Canadian Obesity Network have joined together to recognize the exhibit as guilty of “blatant discrimination.” Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a professor at the University of Ottowa and the family medicine chair of the Canadian Obesity Network, calls the exhibit a “gross oversimplification,” saying:

“It’s so dumbfounding it’s unreal. I just can’t believe somebody out there thought it was a good idea to pick up where the school bullies left off and shame kids on their vacation.(…) Disney couldn’t close it down too soon as far as I’m concerned.”

Freedhoff goes on to suggest that a better alternative would be to educate children about such healthy habits as how to read food labels, the exercise required to burn calories, and how they can learn to cook from scratch.

Following news of the controversy, the Habit Heroes website, www.habitheroes.com, has since closed down for maintenance, and the exhibit is currently closed until further notice. It is currently unknown when or if the attraction will reopen in a reworked form.

Sources 1, 2, 3, 4

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7 Comments »

  • Samuel said:

    Are you kidding me? My family recently returned from vacation and we visited this attraction. Being what most would call “obese,” our entire family loved this experience…enough to repeat it four times. We came home inspired to make more healthy choices and committed to doing some kind of 15 minute exercise each day. It has only been a week but we can already tell a difference in our overall outlook.

    Get off Disney’s back. Obesity is a nationwide problem and ultimately, the problem lies with us parents who made bad choices for our kids. It is not too late to turn it around. What are you going to attack next? Cartoons??

    Send those Canadians back to their country. In my opinion, you people need to worry about wiping your own backsides before trying to wipe everyone elses.

  • Debbie said:

    I think you guys have completely lost your mind with the criticism of Disney’s Habit Heros attraction. Healthy eating is essential, especially with children. Lighten up and get real! The world is going to critic kids as they come into the work place and WILL discriminate against them in more way than one.

    …and I am a former Anorexic. I KNOW and this venue does not do anything as you claim.

  • Brooke Fehr said:

    Debbie, thank you for your heartfelt comments. We wanted to share this story with our readers to gauge your feelings and reactions about the attraction. None of the opinions that are expressed here are the opinions of DisZine or its staff. We remain neutral on the position of this attraction, and agree with you that children should be taught lessons about healthy eating and exercise. Thank you again for taking time to comment, and for reading DisZine!

  • Brooke Fehr said:

    Samuel, thanks for offering an opinion as a person who experienced this attraction firsthand! I’m thrilled to hear that it has inspired you and your family to make some positive changes in your lives. We could all use that kind of motivation! Sounds like the intention of the attraction’s creators hit home with you and your family. Thanks so much for reading DisZine.

  • Laura dispensa said:

    I think Disney did a great thing listening to what professional say. My son is considered obese and he is tormented at school. I do not want him to think he is a villain. Thank you to Disney for caring about my son.
    PS My daughters love the idea that a princess can look like them too!!
    Signed,
    Mother of a Nota blonde hair and fair skinned daughter and a large son!

  • Brooke Fehr said:

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Laura. It will be interesting to see what the future of the attraction is as Disney looks into it further. Thanks so much for reading!

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