Disney misses the mark on childhood obesity

By: Jennifer Pretty Apr 10, 2012
  Editorial
Disney tackles childlhood obesity

So I recently heard about a new virtual exhibit called Habit Heroes that Disney featured at its Epcot Center, intending to educate kids about the dangers of childhood obesity. Seems like a bizarre choice for Epcot, right? Is this not a park where ice cream, cotton candy and sodas are sold on every corner? Regardless, apparently everyone got into an uproar about it quite quickly, so I had to research more to see what this “Habit Heroes” thing was all about.

The Habit Heroes exhibit featured two champion characters called Callie Stenics and Will Power, who had to conquer the hugely obese, insatiable characters called Glutton, Snacker and Lead Bottom. It included things like shooting broccoli at hotdogs to destroy them, and virtually fighting the bad habits of too much TV and too much junk food. Because of a huge backlash by people who saw or heard about the exhibit, Disney quickly closed it down. And smart of them to react so quickly...

I’m not sure who came up with this exhibit or who decided to approve it, but it painted an extremely belittling and stigmatizing portrait of obesity that probably made kids attending the exhibit feel shameful about something which is quite honestly not their fault. The problem with childhood obesity is that it is almost 100% attributable to parents and other role models who teach (or more importantly, fail to teach) kids about healthy eating habits and the importance of regular exercise. I guess Epcot decided it was their duty to step in and take on this role. In my opinion, they went about it incorrectly.

Childhood obesity is an extremely serious issue. However, I think that most will agree that when a child goes to the “happiest place on earth” for a family vacation, it’s not the place to be attacked about their weight—especially not in the way Epcot presented it. Disney is a place to vacation, be a kid (regardless of your age) and a chance to let your hair down and have a Mickey Mouse-shaped ice cream, while park exhibits and rides make you feel happy and full of wonder.

Unfortunately for Disney, the creators of Habit Heroes seem to have missed the important idea that children shouldn’t be shamed into eating healthy and exercising. Instead, they should be taught in a much more positive way that we need to value our bodies and treat them right, if we want long, healthy lives. Pointing fingers at overweight kids and saying, you’re disgusting and lazy and should be vanquished by the thinner kids isn’t going to work—it’s just going to make the kids feel awful about themselves. If Disney wants to promote healthy attitudes, they need to do it in a more positive, inspiring way. I think Disney definitely made the right decision by shutting the exhibit down as quickly as they did.

 

Until next time,

Peace, love and vitamin C!

 

Jennifer Pretty began her career as the director of artist development for a well-known Canadian music label. Branching out on her own, she then started her own PR business “Pretty Media Management” planning and hosting various charity, entertainment and fashion events. As a dance and fitness class enthusiast Jennifer is a firm believer in the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. She also loves to cook, travel, spend time with family and friends and most importantly living life to the fullest!