- Associated Press - Thursday, March 1, 2012

ORLANDO, Fla. — Walt Disney World is retooling an Epcot exhibit on childhood obesity after critics complained it was insensitive to obese kids and reinforced stereotypes.

The interactive exhibit, Habit Heroes, featured animated fitness superheros Will Power and Callie Stenics and super-sized villains Snacker and Lead Bottom, who eat junk food and watch too much television. Critics said the exhibit reinforces stereotypes that obese children are lazy and have poor eating habits.

Doctors say obesity can sometimes be attributed to genetics and certain medications, and food can be used as a coping mechanism.

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

“I was really disturbed to see the most negative habits were attached to really fat bodies,” Peggy Howell, a spokeswoman for the group, said after viewing a companion website. “These pictures further the stigma against people of higher body weight.”

The exhibit was closed shortly after its unofficial opening in February, the Orlando Sentinel reported Thursday. The official opening has been postponed indefinitely.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield partnered with Disney to create the exhibit. Blue Cross spokesman John W. Herbkersman said the exhibit was meant to be helpful.

“Our goal is to ensure that the attraction conveys a positive message about healthy lifestyles in a fun and empowering way,” Herbkersman said. “To work on further improving and refining the experience, the attraction is closed for the time being. We look forward to officially opening it soon.”

Added Disney spokeswoman Kathleen Prihoda: “That’s why we have a soft opening. So we can open it up to others and listen. We’ve heard the feedback.”

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