Disney closes controversial fat-fighting exhibit

Fri Mar 2, 2012 7:42pm EST
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By Barbara Liston

ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - Obesity experts on Friday applauded Walt Disney World for shuttering a new attraction that drew fierce criticism for its potential to shame overweight children and misrepresent the causes of the global obesity crisis.

"I think they (Disney) likely subscribed to that common misconception that this is something we should just be able to push away from the table and cure," said Ottawa bariatric surgeon Yoni Freedhoff, whose blog post sparked a public outcry over the attraction at Walt Disney Co's world-famous Florida theme park.

"The truth is, if it was that simple to manage weight, I'm pretty confident we wouldn't have a problem," said Freedhoff.

Disney last month unofficially opened the interactive exhibit called "Habit Heroes" at Epcot, one of the sites at the park, and introduced a companion online game.

In both, svelte heroes, "Callie Stenics" and "Will Power," combat fat and misshapen villains with names like "Lead Bottom" and "The Snacker."

"Here, they (children) are in Disney, the happiest place on earth, and basically Disney is being the schoolyard bully that's been making fun of them for years at home," Freedhoff said.

Freedhoff blogged on February 23 about what he called the "horrifying" exhibit.

Disney closed the exhibit two days later following complaints and petition drives by other advocates for the overweight and people with eating disorders.   Continued...