I’m a bit of a Disney fanatic.
I’ve been to Disney World maybe 20 times (OK, so maybe that would make me a full-on fanatic. But we’re talking about a friendly, uplifting giant mouse here—in person).
So this makes me an expert on the attractions and exhibits that have graced the park since my first visit 25 years ago.
As a kid, I was a fan of Kitchen Kabaret (1982-1994) and Food Rocks (1994-2004), both audio-animatronic shows at Disney’s Epcot Center that advocated healthy eating. The host of Food Rocks, Fud Wrapper (and no, I’m not making this up), talked for 15 minutes about the importance of moderation.
I listened intently, as any 6-year-old would (in part because they were always singing). And, though it might be a little much to give full credit to Fud for shaping my (somewhat decent) eating habits, I’ve always stayed active, practiced moderation and thought about the food pyramid throughout my life.
And fine, sometimes I still sing “Good Nutrition” as performed by the Peach Boys and “Let’s Exercise” by Chubby Cheddar. So sue me.
I also specifically remember one visit when I picked out a T-shirt that had Goofy playing basketball (my favorite sport and from what I learned there, a fantastic form of exercise). That exercise-themed shop sat in a pavilion called Wonders of Life, which revolved all its attractions around health and the human body.
That’s why it didn’t surprise me when I heard Epcot opened an exhibit focused primarily on childhood obesity. But the exhibit—Habit Heroes—shut down shortly after opening in February after a few pounds of backlash.
The National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance was among those who criticized the exhibit, with NAAFA board member Barbara Bruno saying “depression, despair, bullying, disordered eating and other unhealthy practices will be increased for children of all sizes who view Epcot’s Habit Heroes Exhibit.”
Critics weren't thrilled by its characters such as as the morbidly obese Lead Bottom and the beady-eyed Glutton. But it’s worth noting that Food Rocks also had a “villain”—Excess, a junk food heavy metal band that hates nutrition. Doesn’t sound all that different.
Unfortunately I was a couple months early in my last Disney visit to see this apparently controversial exhibit. It’s possible they went too far for some, but healthy eating and living has always been on Disney’s radar—and I don’t see how that’s a bad thing.
Just by visiting Disney World, you’re likely being very healthy—in one day alone, the average person walks somewhere between six and 13 miles (see—that’s why I go so often, for my yearly exercise marathon).
Sometimes and somewhere, someone is always going to get angry and point a finger. This country is full of people making a fuss or threatening lawsuits. But by doing this, nothing seems to get done. It’s, excuse the puns, admirable for Disney to weigh in on such a heavy issue.
And on a final note, I’m also an ardent fan of Belle and Cinderella, but I’ve never blamed them when my own love life didn’t result in princes, fairy tales and fabulous evening wear. Nor have I boycotted Disney for shattering my illusions because apparently (as I later found out) it’s impossible for a mouse to really grow that big.