It's not exactly a secret that America's children are getting fatter, so Disney's Epcot theme park in Orlando decided to help tackle the problem head-on with a new attraction called Habit Heroes. Kids were invited to partake in activities like shooting hot dogs with broccoli spears, and defeating an obese villain named Leadbottom in a dance off.
The attraction, which had its "soft opening" earlier this year, has now been closed after criticism by "fat acceptance" groups.
"We're appalled to learn that Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination," read a statement released by the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, an organization that apparently exists.
"It appears that Disney now believes that using the tool of shame, favored so much by today's healthcare corporations, is the best way to communicate with children," it continued. "Disney, in partnering with Blue Cross/Blue Shield, has taken the side of the bullies."
"Because after all, kids with obesity are obviously just gluttonous and lazy and they probably lie around and eat junk food all day, right?," Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, wrote on his blog Weighty Matters.
Well, yeah, that's basically what I did when I was an obese kid. Not sure an amusement park ride would have helped matters much though.
In the attraction, kids were lead through various activities by two tour guide characters named "Will Power" and "Callie Stenics." They helped kids defeat obese villains like Leadbottom and his cohorts The Gluton and Snacker.
Fat acceptance groups were outraged that only noticeably obese people were shown with unhealthy habits, and believed the attraction reinforced negative stereotypes and bullied obese children during their vacation. The groups would like to see negative habits attached to non-obese people as well.
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So now the attraction has been closed indefinitely for retooling.
"Our goal is to ensure that the attraction conveys a positive message about healthy lifestyles in a fun and empowering way," John W. Herbkersman, spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield which partnered with Disney for the amusement, told the Orlando Sentinel. "To work on further improving and refining the experience, the attraction is closed for the time being. We look forward to officially opening it soon."
Either way, we're not sure whether a theme park ride is going to matter much in the fight against childhood obesity in the first place. Not when we have a Congress that considers pizza a vegetable anyway.