So after only 3 or 4 weeks Innoventions latest exhibit is closing for a major rework, after a string of intensely negative reviews. People are saying that it portrays larger people in a negative light and that children should not be subjected to ‘Fat Shaming’ whilst on holiday. Some are even claiming that it picks up from where the school yard bullies left off.

Calgary Herald:

“It’s so dumbfounding it’s unreal,” says Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an assistant professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa. “I just can’t believe somebody out there thought it was a good idea to pick up where the school bullies left off and shame kids on their vacation.”

“Rebecca Scritchfield, an adjunct professor at George Washington University, said she was “disgusted” by the exhibit’s implication that weight is indicative of health, writing: “I would love to know what sickos thought this up.”

Fellow dietician Julie Duffy Dillon said news of the attraction — which she described as “another campaign showing the skinny heroes saving those dumb enough to be fat” — brought her close to tears.

Personally I have mixed feelings about this… from one perspective I can see that some larger people may take offense by the images of characters like Lead bottom who portray them as lazy people who don’t exercise however I do believe there is a lot to be gained from an exhibit of this nature.  Having talked to a friend of a larger disposition and a teacher explaining this exhibit to them they both thought it was a great idea to bring families together to talk about important health issues and get them working as a family to lead a healthier lifestyle.

To be honest having seen some videos of this attraction  it doesn’t seem that horrific and highlights what a big issue obesity(caused by overeating and lack of exercise) is. Many are claiming that it is the environment a child is raised in which is to blame for their weight issue and so a child should not be subjected to ridicule in this way. This may be so but the likes of Jo Frost, Jamie Oliver and Gok Wan who have worked with obese children in the UK have shown that even though the children have been essentially made fat by their parents habits the children understand the issue and want to know what they can do to become healthier. I do agree however that for children there could be more of an educational aspect in terms of teaching them the importance reading food labels and preparing food from scratch (maybe cooking demonstrations?) and highlighting other issues that could cause people to be over weight not just bad habits so it has a more sympathetic view point in that respect.

Something that springs to mind when reading about the controversy over this attraction is the similar backlash that happened when WALL-E was released in 2008  with  groups like National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance in the US. I think in some ways people are reading too much into Disney’s moral standings in both cases. When messages are aimed at children they are often exaggerated in order for it to get through clearly and the message here is all about living a healthy lifestyle and giving families an opportunity to explore and discuss  these issues together.

They say that this exhibit will cause people to bully others over their weight, I don’t believe this to be entirely true. The non bullying message should be starting at home, if your parents show acceptance of people no matter the size, race etc then you are more likely to grow up with an acceptance of people’s differences and something like Habit Heroes is unlikely to change that.

The criticism seems to be based mainly around the obesity issue which from the videos seems to be the main issue represented in this attraction but others have been blogging that the Character Insecura (Lacking self-esteem) is also causing problems. They have said a serious physiological disorder like low self esteem should not be labeled as a bad habit that can be fought. I disagree with this as I feel that Disney are encouraging children and adults to recognise the symptoms of this disorder and what steps can be taken  and helping people fight it as a family. Having suffered more then half my life at the hands of bullies I unfortunately  had a very low self esteem and something like this introduced at a younger age may have helped me recognise what I was going through and given me a chance to discuss it with my family, I certainly don’t think that it would have made me any worse.

This is a very delicate subject which has hit a raw nerve in the US Medical Industry and Guests alike and Disney need to tread very carefully indeed when reopening this but I really do hope they are brave enough to this as I  feel it does have an important underlying message. Of course you will never be able to please everyone and someone is always going to be offend, but if you know your child is of a sensitive nature especially about their weight then you should probably give this a miss.

The website and mobile sites are ‘Down for Maintenance’  whilst this is reworked.

I could wax lyrical about this issue all day (hence the long post sorry guys) and there is so much to be said good and bad! I would love to know what you all think especially those of you who got to experience it.

By Adam

Adam has been a fan of Disney since he was small. He runs the Disneybrit Podcast. He is also the author of several Disney books.

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