I’m all for constructing positive, healthy role models for kids. I just don’t think we need to be fat-shaming them in the process. Disney’s Epcot Center, in a collaboration with Blue Cross Blue Shield, launched an interactive educational attraction called “Habit Heroes” last spring. What was meant to inspire kids to be healthy ended up just making kids feel pretty awful and pissing off their parents. Way to go, Disney. The attraction lasted all of three weeks before Disney closed it for “maintenance.”
Habit Heroes got a much needed revamp and is re-opening this week. Gone are the “villains” Snacker, Glutton and Lead Bottom. Apparently, the “Most Magical Place On Earth” didn’t realize it would be offending anyone when it fancied overweight characters as gluttonous disgusting forces that destroy the health and well being of America. Oops.
From The Orlando Sentinel:
“When the attraction had its soft opening last February, the creative team sought guest feedback,” said Brent Strong, creative director for Walt Disney Imagineering, who oversaw the project.
And they got it.
“We’re appalled to learn that Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination,” came a scathing statement from the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, which triggered a nationwide reaction.
“Most negative habits were attached to really fat bodies,” said Peggy Howell, spokeswoman for the fat-acceptance organization. “These pictures further the stigma against people of higher body weight.”
The new version of the attraction doesn’t portray fat characters that aim to destroy health fighting against buff and beautiful thin characters, or “the good guys.” Instead, it uses non-human cartoon symbols. “For instance, the Scorchers are animated flames that dry you out. The Sappers resemble life-like boulders that weigh you down and sap your energy. Blocker Bots are many-armed monsters that stand between you and healthier food choices.”
It is certainly true childhood obesity is a huge problem in this country. But making overweight children feel awful in the “Happiest Place On Earth” isn’t going to do much to combat that.