From the Orlando Sentinel
They’re ba-a-ack. Habit Heroes, an Epcot attraction that aims to help kids defeat unhealthy habits, will reopen today after undergoing a complete Imagineering makeover.
Following its debut last February, the attraction landed in big trouble when fat-acceptance proponents said its super-sized cartoon characters were cruel stereotypes and hurtful to larger-sized children.
By March 1, Disney had pulled the curtain, closing the exhibit and sending the Imagineers back to the drawing board.
“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.”
Disney and project partner Florida Blue got the message.
“We found that some pieces were getting in the way of our story, which is that healthy living can make us all feel like super heroes,” said Strong. “We had to try to tell that story in a different way.”
To create the Habit Heroes sequel, Imagineers gathered input from national experts in children’s health, weight and nutrition, including an obesity expert from Stanford University and a nutritional scientist from Cornell University.
In Habit Heroes 2, a host takes guests — 12 at a time — through the 4,700-square-foot interactive attraction. In the first room of the 16-minute experience, “recruits” meet Director Jin and her agents Quench, Dynamo and Fuel.
Together, they tell recruits that they all need to blast the enemies: dehydration, inactivity and poor nutrition.
Missing in action are all original Habit Heroes, the buff action figures (Will Power and Callie Stenics) who fought chubby animated villains — including Lead Bottom and Snacker.
The heavy adolescent who starred in the first edition — as he evolved into a slimmer, fitter teen — also is gone.
In the kinder, more sensitive attraction, bad habits are no longer embodied in super-sized human forms, but have morphed into 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.
Recruits fight back with water, activity, and fruits and vegetables in three simulation rooms.
In the first room, guests engage in motion-tracking technology that senses their movements as they extinguish bad habits. In the next room, visitors use blasters to defeat the enemies individually, then with the help of their neighbors. By the third interactive room, they are working as a team to defeat bad habits.