How fun does this sound: You take the kids all the way Orlando, so Disney can set them up to hit virtual hot dogs with broccoli arcade style and wage war against such fearsome villains as Sweet Tooth.
Well, Disney isn’t having much fun either, after criticism forced the company to close their new anti-obesity attraction.
In the exhibit Habit Heroes, which opened on a trial basis last month, buff animated characters called Will Power and Callie Stenics led visitors through interactive sites meant to fight bad habits. (Disney had some help with the exhibit: health insurance providers Blue Cross and Blue Shield.) The particpating children would fight over-sized bad guys like Glutton and Lead Bottom, known from darkening the world by eating too much food and watching too much television.
However, the exhibit came under fire for the manner of its message – for being too negative and for failing to recognize the mental health and physiological reasons for obesity. The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance said that Disney was using “tools of shame” in its approach. In a statement that appeared on the Time website the organization said: “We’re appalled to learn that Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination.”
Ottawa bariatric surgeon Yoni Freedhof also criticized the exhibit in a blog post on his web site Weight Matters, posting pictures of the villains Glutton (a postly gangster-type) and Snacker, a plump though hardly evil-looking fairy.
He wrote: "Thanks for being so helpful Disney - I mean if your kid's not overweight or obese, here's to Disney reinforcing society's most hateful negative obesity stereotyping, and if they are overweight or obese - what kid doesn't want to be made to feel like a personal failure while on a Disney family vacation?"
So it isn't just the message that Disney got wrong, but also the time and place: Shouldn’t you be able to hang out with Mickey Mouse and have your first taste of cotton candy without worrying that you have fallen in with the villainous Lead Bottom gang?
Do you think the critics were right – did Disney make a mistake with its exhibit?