Disney’s ‘fat kid’ health show shuts over outcry

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Disney has closed a new theme park exhibit promoting healthy eating and exercise after it was deemed as offensive to overweight children.

Habit Heroes at Disney’s Epcot resort in Orlando, Florida, used obese cartoon villains called Snacker, Lead Bottom and The Glutton to highlight the dangers of junk food, too much television and inactivity.

But critics accused Disney of reinforcing stereotypes and “stigmatising” overweight children, prompting the company to close the attraction for a “re-tooling”.

“Disney, a traditional hallmark of childhood happiness and joy, has fallen under the shadow of negativity and discrimination,” said America’s National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance in a statement.

“Disney has taken the side of the bullies. The attraction and associated game feature negative stereotypical characters. The use of these stereotypes, traditionally used to torment overweight kids, will potentially reinforce and strengthen a cycle of bullying, depression, disease, eating disorders and even suicidal thoughts.”

The new attraction was part of Epcot’s Innoventions area, intended to showcase futuristic ideas in a child-friendly way. Groups of up to a dozen were led through a series of rooms by a pair of animated fitness fanatics buffs called Will Power and Callie Stenics, learning of the dangers of unhealthy habits.

Disney said Healthy Habits would remain closed indefinitely. “We’ve heard the feedback,” said spokeswoman Kathleen Prihoda.

The exhibit was partly funded and promoted by Florida insurance company Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which said it was surprised by the outcry.