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Disney Pulls EPCOT Exhibit Over Insensitivity Claims

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Disney World Castle

(AP Photo/Reinhold Matay)

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ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) – Kids dream of going to Walt Disney World to experience fairy tales, princesses and super heroes.

They love the rides, the shows and meeting their favorite characters.  One interactive exhibit at EPCOT, however, has been temporarily closed after critics claimed it used stereotypes to portray obese people.

Habit Heroes was designed to teach children the health hazards of being overweight.  It used characters like superheroes Will Power and Callie Stenics and super-sized villains Snacker and Lead Bottom who ate junk food and watched too much television.

Critics said while it may have seemed like an entertaining way to teach children, it also reinforced the stereotype that obese children are lazy and eat unhealthy foods.

Inactivity and poor eating habits are not always the causes of obesity, according to doctors who say it can sometimes be attributed to genetics, certain medications and food 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,” said Peggy Howell, a spokeswoman for the group. “These pictures further the stigma against people of higher body weight.”

Blue Cross and Blue Shield partnered with Disney to create the exhibit. Blue Cross spokesman John W. Herbkersman said it 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.”

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

In the meantime, the official opening of Habit Heroes has been postponed until further notice.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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