One of the treats associated with the New Fantasyland is the variety of shops. They capture your attention not only for their themed environments, but for the products sold there. At this point there are two primary shopping locations; this article takes a look at Bonjour! Village Gifts.
Part of Belle's Village is a quaint little cottage that celebrates all things related to Beauty and the Beast. It's a perfect complement to the other facets of this section of Fantasyland, and it seems to fit right into the square.
I somewhat fancied from the outset that this shop would be designed much like a bookstore, much as we see in the film. I wasn't quite sure how that would come off. Main Street U.S.A. at Disneyland Paris was designed with a sort of library/bookstore in it. But in terms of merchandise, it didn't live very long with that retail product lineup.
Here at Bonjour! Village Gifts, you get a sense of a "bookstore" from a big window alcove that faces toward one side of the building. It's very similar to the one you find in the film. The movie shows the alcove from both inside and outside of the shop. Still, other than the word "Bonjour," you don't get many other references to the bookstore.
Similar to the film, this side of the shop offers some stone pedestals to sit and take a rest. Lots of low retaining walls can be found throughout the new Fantasyland. They offer a kindly place to sit and rest a while. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
One wall outside conveys that this might be a floral shop. At least that's what it suggests in French. In the film, a floral shop was referenced, but it was neither entered by Belle, nor was there any action from the townsprople that were near it.
Entering into the shop, you get the reference to flowers as a big arrangement greets you. Other flower arrangements are found throughout.
You don't see a wall lined with books, or a ladder to help reach them, but you also see assortments of book decor and other knickknacks. You come to realize that Bonjour really takes on many roles representing every form of retail that was represented in the movie.
You look around. What catches your eye more than anything is a fairly sizeable portrait on the opposite wall where you enter. I admit that I stared at it for some time. It looked familiar, but I couldn't put a finger on it.
Finally, someone told me it was Phil Holmes, who for the last several years has served as the vice president of the Magic Kingdom. [Lots of nods to Disney leaders are made throughout the park. Only a few receive some honor that features their image. In fact, the only other individual I can think of is the use of Joe Rhode's likeness as Harrison Hightower in the Tower of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea. But that is more about the story of the attraction than it is about honoring a particular Disney artist or leader.]
Phil started his career as a host at the Haunted Mansion. He noted, during the park's 40th anniversary that he wasn't very good with getting the ticket system right, and that if you entered the mansion while he was taking tickets, your chances of getting in with something less than an "E-Ticket" was fairly high.
Several items within the portrait point toward other Fantasyland stories such as peanuts (Dumbo), a magic lamp (Aladdin), and an apple (Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs). Still other details identify key moments in Phil Holmes career such as a map of the Magic Kingdom and his more than 40 years with the company (his 40th ring being worn, as well as a Donald Duck 40th anniversary award). Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Another wall offers the same window alcove that you saw outside. This provides perhaps the best platform for the retail products offered here in this shop.
Retail wise, I had very little expectations about the type of merchandise that would be available in this shop. I fully expected the shelves to look fairly similar to what you experience at Castle Couture near the castle. True, there are several items that appeal to young children.
But even much of the children-related product was of a higher quality than what you would find at other locations. There certainly isn't some deluge of pink. Equally important, it is neatly displayed, with little if any sense of clutter.
What more, there's a lot of collector/keepsake merchandise tied to the film.
Unless you have a great love for all things related to Beauty and the Beast, this retail center isn't going to occupy too much of your time and attention. But if shopping is a central part of your experience, you'll be happy to know that currently this retail experience is one of the finest in the Magic Kingdom. It's quality is on par with what you might experience in the France pavillion at Epcot, and is reminiscent of the kind of retail experiences you used to have in New Orleans Square or in Liberty Square. How long that product quality lasts depends on the popularity of the merchandise.
Either way, Bonjour! Village Gifts compliments the entire Fantasyland Forest experience. Make sure you check it out when you visit.
(Send an email to Jeff Kober)
J. Jeff Kober, (@MousePlanetJeff) president of Performance Journeys and CEO of World Class Benchmarking, is also a thought leader on best-in-business practices at the Walt Disney Company. He brings those ideas to organizations via keynotes, seminars, and workshops to organizations around the world. He has authored "The Wonderful World of Customer Service at Disney" as well as a "Disney at Work" series of apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, available via DisneyatWork.com. You can find out more about his newest book, "Lead With Your Customer: Transform Culture and Brand into World-Class Excellence" at LeadWithYourCustomer.com.