Habit Heroes, an exhibit at Epcot's Innoventions that teaches guests about healthy lifestyles, reopened on Friday. It soft-opened in February 2012 but quickly was closed after widespread criticism about the game's insensitivity to overweight children.
I did not see the first version of Habit Heroes, but from what I've read -- and now have seen -- the infrastructure of the exhibit remains the same. There are three separate rooms, each with an activity -- exercising with motion-tracking technology; a video game with pull-string devices to shoot targets on large screens; and a game that combines teamwork, technology and exercise.
The story and the focus, however, have changed. Childhood obesity is not the overall theme; instead, it's healthy living for everyone. And rather than entering a 100-year-old gym, visitors now prepare for a futuristic battle against the bad guys who contribute to unhealthy lifestyles: The Scorchers, whose goal is dehydration; The Zappers, who aim to distract people from being physically active; and The Blocker Bots, who block guests from getting the nutrients they need. Visitors learn to fight these villains with a different method in each room as they prepare to become Habit Heroes.
At the end, guests can choose a rubber bracelet representing each facet of healthy living: red for activity; green for nutrition; and blue for hydration. In addition, they each receive a map that leads them to a location near Innoventions East to discover a "secret code" that can be entered into the computer kiosks outside the exhibit.
When we received the maps, I thought it was a great way to wrap up the exhibit because scavenger hunts at Disney World, such as the Phineas and Ferb: Agent P's World Showcase Adventure, are so popular. We each took off on our missions, easily found the code words and returned, expecting to play a game on the screen. Instead, we punched in the codes and were asked for an email address so we could receive a link to a free app. That was disappointing. I wouldn't waste my time on the missions when my family could get in line for the Sum of All Thrills, a roller coaster simulator across from Habit Heroes.
Certainly this exhibit, which is sponsored by Florida Blue and Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, is sending an important message to families, and it is delivered in a much more appropriate fashion than the first version.
But the exhibit really is not as engaging for kids, or even adults, as you might expect for a Walt Disney World attraction. The cast member who serves as a tour guide through the rooms repeatedly chants, "Now is the hour to build our power," which can seem forced. And, with the exception of the pull-string video game -- much like the insanely popular Toy Story Mania ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios -- there isn't much to get excited about with the first and last games in the attraction. Those games feature brightly colored video images and sound effects, but there's little skill or strategy involved in the activities used to drive home the point about making healthy lifestyle choices. As any parent can attest, it's hard to capture kids' attention when you aren't challenging them.
It is possible to design educational exhibits that also are entertaining; this is what Disney Imagineers are famous for. My children love other Innoventions attractions like The Great Piggy Bank Adventure, where they learn about spending and saving money; and the Where's The Fire?, where they learn about fire safety. And they were dismayed to see last year that Don't Waste It!, a game about recycling, was removed to make way for Habit Heroes. After experiencing the new exhibit, I have to agree with them. By creating only a so-so attraction about an important topic for families, the exhibit's creators missed an opportunity to entertain AND teach.
Full Video of the Revised Habit Heroes!
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