Disney Strikes Out on Initial Obesity Effort

An example of good intentions gone awry, from no less than the Walt Disney Company.

Walt Disney World is retooling an Epcot exhibit on childhood obesity after critics complained it was insensitive to obese kids and reinforced stereotypes. The interactive exhibit, Habit Heroes, featured animated fitness superheros "Will Power" and "Callie Stenics" and super-sized villains "Snacker "and "Lead Bottom," who eat junk food and watch too much television.

Critics said the exhibit reinforces stereotypes that obese children are lazy and have poor eating habits. Doctors say obesity can sometimes be attributed to genetics and certain medications, and food can be used as a coping mechanism. "We’re appalled to learn that Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination," the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance said in a statement. "I was really disturbed to see the most negative habits were attached to really fat bodies," Peggy Howell, a spokeswoman for the group, said after viewing a companion website. "

The exhibit was closed shortly after its unofficial opening in February, the Orlando Sentinel reported. The official opening has been postponed indefinitely. Added Disney spokeswoman Kathleen Prihoda: "That’s why we have a soft opening. So we can open it up to others and listen. We’ve heard the feedback," she said, according to an AP news release.