UPDATE: As of 2/25/2012 this attraction is closed to be reworked. The review below discusses the original attraction as it appeared in early February.
The Walt Disney World resort unveiled their latest addition to Epcot this week in the form of Habit Heroes, a new mini-attraction in Innoventions East sponsored by Blue Cross and Anthem of Florida. As with all Innoventions exhibits, this addition brings attention to a particular cause that the sponsor wants to showcase – in this case, the unhealthy habits of teens and young people.
It’s an imposing structural addition overall. Walking south along the old “road-to-tomorrow” through Innoventions East the facility rises up along the right side of the path across from the popular Sum of All Thrills attraction. A large wall is covered with comic book style depiction of the various bad-habit-themed villains doing their dastardly deeds. If you remember Innoventions from a few years ago it’s worth noting this location used to be the site of Waste Management’s multi-station garbage truck game “Don’t Waste It.” The new building is very imposing and sort of massive in scale on that curve in the path. The sheer wall of comic book depictions nearly reaches the two-story high purple Innoventions ceiling.
An overflow queue runs back along the comic book wall and the wall itself gives way to entry alcove. The alcove looks like something that fell straight out of the Great Movie Ride. Though small (and perhaps even a bit cramped) the area is themed to look like a big city alleyway with tall brick walls, false windows, and someone’s laundry hung out overhead. Within the alcove participants are grouped and experience a sort of pre-pre-show.
A search light scans the cluster of guests waiting in the area occasionally as a helicopter is heard overhead. At this point it’s assumed a bit of the back story is meant to be conveyed by the Innoventions Cast Member manning the entryway, but our host sort of bombed the entire thingy noticeably. I’m pretty sure it’s meant to be the entrance to a gymnasium – some sort of historic gymnasium with valuable athletic trophies inside. I think we were waiting for a tour – she really got the whole spiel messed up – and guests are supposed to be waiting outside for a tour of the gymnasium. She did go out of her way to say the police were searching for something, hence the helicopter, and that it’d be a shame if some villain stole one of the valuable trophies inside the museum – “wait no, it’s not a museum, it’s a gymnasium!” Yes, that’s exactly how it went. Confused? So was I!
This was admittedly a “testing” day but we were told the attraction had been open to guests the day before and was going to open for regular operations the next day. One would think an idea of what the back-story was for the experience would be clearer for both the audience and the host. Regardless, after a few minutes of waiting our group of volunteers/extras/people-going-on-a-museum-no-wait-a-gynasium-tour was let into the gymnasium.. museum… whatever. We were let in.
The first room inside is actually a very nicely themed box resembling an old-timey gym with a pommel horse and all sorts of old old trophies. One could say it looks like an extension of the Main Street Athletic Club over at the Magic Kingdom. A large projection screen takes up one wall and in a nicer thematic touch an old fashioned projector begins a sepia-hued video slide-show of the history of the gymnasium. So perhaps it’s a gymnasium that’s been converted to a museum? Regardless, there’s bad habits and people’s awesome physical activity and general “doing of stuff” has keep the nefarious villains at bay for years.
Until now – the crap has apparently hit the fan and some poor “teen” (he’s maybe 13.. and that’s really pushing it…) is generally schlubby looking and perhaps a bit porcine. By golly, it must be some bad habit villain. Ditch the sepia, cue these form fitting spandex bodysuit clad folks at a futuristic bright colored not-so-secret-lair.
It’s Whats-Her-Face and That-Guy! No, it’s actually Will Power and Callie Stenics, despite the girl obviously being the same actress (and nearly the same hairdo) from the Sum of All Thrills – which wouldn’t be so bad, if the other attraction wasn’t directly across the sparkly path from this one. Now, a quick note, and since it came up other park guest comments as well – Will Power in the skin-tight suit has obvious whos-its and what-its galore. That’s a costuming decision that might need some rethinking in a family friendly park.
Back to the story at hand, Will and Callie need to defeat the villain who has taken over the life of our chubby little teenaged friend. Will and Callie can’t just do this themselves, because of the reason, and we’re here, we’re humans, and we’re apparently on the side of good. By golly, we’re perfect and we’re now recruited. An Innoventions host comes in, congratulates us on getting the job and gives us Not-A-Livestrong-Bands™ bearing the Florida Blue Cross and Anthem logos. Guests are told to wear these bands, which are color coded and given out at random, to know their role in forthcoming challenges. That seems do-able.
Too bad it never does. A door opens and the small hoard is ushered into an elliptical-shaped room with a large screen encompassing the upper level. At this point each guests is sent to a remote-control-looking station. This is where things got even more confusing than the whole gymnasium/museum back story. As I said, each guests was told by the Innoventions host to go to their own remote control station and there was the exact number of guests to the match the stations. However, Will and Callie suddenly appear on the screen overhead and ask us to raise of hands for each color group – denoted by our wristbands. They say that we are only supposed to push the button on the remotes that match our wristband color.
So you’re at a station with multiple buttons but you’re only supposed to push the color button that matches your wristband per the recorded video spiel. Pushing a button is supposed to zap “something” as it falls from above on the screen. Everyone else has only one color, and the falling things could be anywhere and could be any color. How is this supposed to work? Confusion sets in and nearly everyone in the room looks at the Innoventions hosts in the room with a face that says “How is this supposed to work?” and then TV sets start falling down on the screens overhead.
And did I say overhead? Really, almost completely “overhead” – not in front of you a few feet and upward at an angle that easy to see and right within your sight-line, no, it’s almost a vertical wall you’re about a foot away from. All of the participants in my group groused it put a crick in their neck to try and play the game.
As we began to miserably lose the game of falling TVs by actually doing what the instructions said, the Innoventions host began to huff frustratedly that we were supposed to hit all of the buttons and then even later in the game hit two buttons at once to destroy multicolor TVs. Ok, whatever you say boss. Oh, did I mention there’s long stretches where nothing will fall down from above a particular remote control leaving that player with nothing to do but wonder if theirs is broken?
There’s a sneaking suspicion that the game was designed to have guests be in the middle of the room – thus able to actually see the screen properly – and then run to a remote control to hit the button on an as-needed basis and then later in the game two people would need to be at a remote and hit the buttons. That’d be a fun group game wouldn’t it? Not here – we’re staring straight up at a wall with TV’s falling at us and a frustrated Innoventions CM trying to explain how it works contrary to all logic and the stated rules in the intro-film. Fun fun fun.
We really hadn’t given up all hope of having fun yet. A game during a “test” period might be buggy – and hey, apparently we defeated some sort of villain. Go us! Then Will and Debbie Downer appear to tell the group that another villain has gotten hold of poor chubby and he was at risk of getting even chubbier. Some sort of tempting food villain. Doors open and we’re off to yet another room.
The next room is a long hallway with Toy Story Mania ride guns stationed every few feet in front of long rectangular screens. One side is fighting the evils of snack food like pizza and chips while the other is going after sweets like ice cream and cookies. Guests are supposed to fire at will to destroy the deliciousness. The guns supposedly shoot healthy things – mine had carrots and broccoli. Under normal circumstances I’d opt for the ice cream, but I made a vow of some sort by putting on that Not-A-Livestrong-Band™ and I needed to uphold it.
There have been some improvements made to the Toy Story Mania gun system for this new attraction. There’s a button on top to fire with instead of the pull-string, if desired, and there’s also the option of switching between two types of ammunition. Each gun seems to have it’s own two types as my veggies were adjacent some lovely fresh fruits.
But there are problems in the design of the game itself. The screen is once again really close making the angle for aiming the gun rather difficult. Being on the end of the row I could barely shoot anything. Second, the choice of ammunition seems to have zero effect on the game play. Finally, progress in the game itself seemed non-existent after the first few seconds. Guests would begin wildly shooting and globs of ice cream would dissipate but there was no indicator of progress or goals. Not all ice cream would breakdown and several static pieces that looked like active targets just remained no matter how many times you hit them. Did we win? I suppose so.
There’s also in-theater effects that blow and possibly spritz the same way Toy Story Mania does, but these seemed randomly timed. If they were triggered by guests or an extension of the villain flitting around the screen it was impossible to tell. Also, those wristband team colors were never mentioned in this room and will not be mentioned ever again in the attraction. Oh well, they’re free souvenirs.
And… there’s another room. A big dark room with Habit Heroes logo circles on the floor in pools of light. Everyone gets their own pool of light for dramatic effect. The big screen in the front of the room lights up and we’re now going to battle a third villain – some big fat guy in a singlet who is apparently lazy or something. So apparently that kid we’re defending has the bad habits of watching too much TV, eating unhealthy food, and now is also lazy. I hope he got paid pretty well to be depicted this way in front of thousands of people daily, especially at his age. While the villains are CGI, that kid is real and at this point I feel kind of bad for all this dirty laundry being aired in the middle of Epcot.
But there’s no time to think the attraction is making nameless-actor-kid look bad, no, it’s time for you to look ridiculous in public! Now begins the Mousercise portion of attraction! (Mousercise was a children’s dance aerobics show involving fur characters and young children that aired on the Disney Channel in the 80′s.)
It begins innocently enough with the Will and Callie asking you to wave your hand to encourage the villain to move as well. Then there’s hopping… then there’s spinning and hopping and jumping and bouncing and all kinds of physical exertion. There’s actually a warning sign at the front of the attraction mentioning that it requires moderate physical exertion.
This could somehow be construed as fun by hyperactive younger children. The almost entirely adult population of our group – no, not all Disney bloggers, just a random group of people in Epcot – were mortified by this. Midway through the game almost everyone had stopped and given up from either being tired out, over it, or not wanting to look that silly.
Come to think of it – this was a cool overcast day in February with highs in the 70′s. Can you imagine someone wanting to do this in the middle of the summer heat at Epcot? I can’t and a quick survey of my group suggested the feeling was the same all around. That said and the game now over, Will and Callie chirpily congratulated that two people left spasticly dancing by the end of it. All the villains vanquished, we were shown the door. Thank you, come again, goodbye.
There’s a post-show area that was being finished with some game consoles but it wasn’t open yet. One can assume it’s going to have games similar to those available at the sponsor’s website: http://www.habitheroes.com
So that’s pretty much it. Was it awful? Sort of. Would I do it again? Not unless I’m really bored in Epcot or with a very young hyperactive child who needs to burn off some sugar. There have been some great strides in bringing offerings to Innoventions that aren’t just blatant corporate advertisements. Sadly, while Habit Heroes did attempt to be more than an advertisement it failed in many aspects at being entertaining or engaging. There’s just too many flaws in the execution to overlook. If it’s going to be a big video game, it needs to be functionally playable.The sets themselves are pretty nice and nothing seems overly “cheap.” It just doesn’t function the way it was intended to.
Also, a note on the Cast Members staffing the attraction – each section had us handed off to a different Cast Member. That means the spiel-butchering pre-pre-show host was not the one bungling the TV remote game. It was an overall spotty experience throughout with multiple employees who had undergone full training on how to operate the experience. So to suggest it was just one bad Cast Member having one bad day would simply not be true. It was bad across the board and not up to the touted Disney standards. If it’s not ready to open, don’t open it to the general public. That is a choice Disney had made and they still had the option of having cast member or staff previews to work out the kinks. Instead they chose to open the attraction in that state and it must be judged on how it was presented – not fanciful thoughts of how good it may later become.
It officially exists for the completionists to give a try, but otherwise there are far better ways to spend your time in Epcot. On the Epcot attraction scale of good to bad ranging from Soarin’ to Symbiosis, this is distinctly on the Symbiosis side.