Weight Loss Theories
Today on what was to be its official opening day, the new Habit Heroes attraction at Epcot remains closed indefinitely after creating a stir last month over what some called insensitive treatment of overweight kids.
"There will be no grand opening since the exhibit is closed," said John Herbkersman, spokesman for Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which sponsored the interactive exhibit to encourage kids to adopt healthy exercise and eating habits.
"Disney remains in a test and adjust phase, and we will be in collaboration with Disney throughout the adjustment process," he said.
Specifically, Disney and the insurer are responding to angry reactions from those who think the exhibit and its super-sized villains — including Lead Bottom and Snacker — shame fat kids.
Peggy Howell, spokeswoman for the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance, was initially "appalled" when she learned of the exhibit and visited the Habit Heroes website. But she's grateful that Disney is taking another look, and for the national awareness the delayed launch has brought to the issue of stigmatizing "people of large body size."
"We're really delighted that they seem to be listening," said Howell. "I hope it's for real and that when the exhibit and website reopen they will not still be filled with stigmatizing characters."
Still others say this is a case of political correctness gone too far.
"Really?" writes one of the nearly 200 readers who responded to the Orlando Sentinel's online story. "Are we suppose to just forget that obesity is a deadly epidemic? Let's all just put our heads in the sand and ignore the obvious. Disney is doing a fantastic service to society in bringing drawbacks of a lazy lifestyle to light. This is a perfect example of teaching kids personal responsibility: eat healthy and live well, or eat junk and be fat."
And not all heavy people find the exhibit offensive. Linda Kreplick, of Davenport, says if she had gotten more of this tough-love message when she was growing up, she wouldn't be in the trouble she's in today. "When I was 9 years old, I weighed 160 pounds," said Kreplick, who is 5-feet-3-inches and now weighs 260 pounds.
"I have fought weight all my life, and now have major medical problems — and medical bills — as a result. People really need to know being fat is not healthy," Kreplick said.
Getting feedback "is an important part of the creative process," said Disney spokeswoman, Kathleen Prihoda. "It's something we do whenever we prepare to open a new experience." Habit Heroes had a soft opening last month, but closed after a few weeks.
"As a listening company, Disney values and appreciates feedback," Prihoda said. "It helps us create the best guest experiences possible. Our goal is to make sure Habit Heroes conveys a positive message about healthy lifestyles in a fun and empowering way. We hope to officially open it soon."