When Habit Heroes opened for previews in Innoventions in early 2012, it faced an immediate firestorm for its portrayal of fat people. The story went viral and became national news when the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance objected strenuously, and newsrooms everywhere reacted to the delicious story about the big bad tourist trap making visitors feel guilty while on vacation. So Habit Heroes closed down. It never got out of previews and never had its grand opening… until last week, when version 2.0 quietly opened. Verdict: greatly improved. Read on to find out what was changed…
Gone are the offensive characters that created the stink in the first place: Lead Bottom (who looked like Fat Bastard), Sweet Tooth, and the Snacker were the bad guys, while the heroes were the freakishly buff Callie Stenics and Will Power. Now, the characters are less memorable, but also more realistic. We have three heroes (named Quench, Dynamo, and Fuel) and three villains (Scorchers, Sappers, and Blocker Bots, each of which has a kryptonite-like weakness that one of each hero controls). There’s also a new main character–Director Jin, who gives us our charge.
Simply put, the goal is to eradicate the bad guys from our own health, from the city, and the from the world. These levels correspond with the rooms of the exhibit, which are unchanged physically from the first version. The big difference is that you now go through them in reverse order. First up is the disco dancing room, where you swing your arms to play an onscreen video game rather than dance. It’s much less embarrassing.
The second room, with cannons like Toy Story Mania, has us shooting bad guys in the digital cityscape. Each cannon has a color, and your ammo works on only ONE type of villain, so there’s definitely some teamwork necessary.
In the third room, we defend “the world”, which really means World Showcase apparently, since the same villains rain down the skies toward stylized World Showcase pavilions, and we attack them in a room-sized version of Missile Command. The actual mechanism is an RFID card we hold to stations under each digital city, the idea being that we have to run around the room activating our defenses from spot to spot. It’s meant to get you moving, and it works.
There’s a final room for debriefing. Director Jin separates us into teams that roughly correspond to the villains we’ve been battling, and then charges us to take on a mission out in Epcot. My card had a map with a section cut out of it; we’re meant to look at the wall map in the room to see which Future World pavilion we go to. Below that on my card is the actual mission: go to this location and find out the missing word, and then return here to Innoventions to use the kiosk outside the exhibit to see the result.
I was very excited by the concept, but it only took me a moment to realize that the word I was looking up came at the end of the phrase “Universe of” and there was a picture of it on my card. It is no exaggeration to say that my five year old could have done this last year without being able to read and without leaving Innoventions. I would rather that they come up with something that requires an actual visit to be able to answer. That would have been neat! The onscreen reward for typing the answer (“energy”) was pretty minimal anyway, so perhaps it’s nothing to get so excited about.
Overall, the revised exhibit is a big improvement. The vibe is upbeat, friendly, inclusive, and fun. In short, everything the first version of the attraction should have been. The designers licked their wounds and came back with something that addresses all the problems of the first iteration. Instead of making people feel guilty, it helps them feel good about themselves (but still educates). Instead of asking them to perform embarrassing dance moves in front of strangers, it lets them perform less-stigmatizing maneuvers (but still gets them moving). Instead of pretending this exhibit exists in a vacuum, it recognizes its place in Epcot by including the World Showcase pavilions as a kind of Easter egg, since they aren’t labeled as such but are unmistakable once you make the connection.
I doubt I’ll seek out the new Habit Heroes on every visit, but then again is that true of ANY attraction in Innoventions? Even my young boys don’t clamor for these exhibits all the time, though they do like to play each of them every so often. Habit Heroes will be on the list, too. It’s more fun than the Don’t Waste It exhibit about trash and landfills, and I’m glad they went out of their way to re-do this exhibit right.
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