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Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editor
Build-A-Bear opens, New Disneyland auctions - 11/16/01

ONE | TWO

The new, two-story Anaheim location
The new, two-story Anaheim location

A new shop opens in Downtown Disney today, filling the lone remaining space in the new shopping / dining / entertainment complex. Billed as a "teddy bear- themed experience retail store", the 4- year old Build-A-Bear Workshop chain has turned a staid toy- store staple into big news.

Build-A-Bear in Newport Beach, California.
Build-A-Bear in Newport Beach, California.

The Anaheim workshop joins 9 other California locations, including the glitzy new Hollywood and Highland center in Los Angeles, and tony Fashion Island in Newport Beach. The Downtown Disney location is actually two stores in one. Each level of the two-story building is a self-contained workshop. During slower days, only the lower floor will be used, while the upper level is available to handle overflow crowds on busy weekends.

The "Choose Me" station, only the first of many decisions
The "Choose Me" station, only the first of many decisions

Even if you've never been to one of the 50 existing "workshops", you'll immediately understand the allure of the concept. First, "Guest Bear Builders" choose a critter skin from an assortment of bins scattered around the "Choose Me" station. The partially- stuffed skin has a completed head and paws, and looks like a very skinny teddy. A drawstring in the back seam makes it very easy to quickly complete the stuffed animal.

A bear skin, waiting to be stuffed.
A bear skin, waiting to be stuffed.

Bears are the name of the game here, and there more than two dozen styles, colors, sizes and fur choices. If your taste runs to the more exotic, you can also find turtles, monkeys, rabbits, dogs, and cats - even elephants. The critters range in size from 8" - 24" tall, and start at $10.00.

Give your bear a voice in the world.
Give your bear a voice in the world.

Next, you take your bear skin to the "Hear Me" station where, for an additional $3.00 - $8.00 you can add a sound box to your bear. Available sounds include "Teddy Bear Picnic", "Here Comes the Bride" and elephant, cat or monkey noises. You can also record your own special message or sound to really personalize your creation.

Fluffing the stuffing in a giant blower.
Fluffing the stuffing in a giant blower.

Stuffing the bear through the drawstring seam
Stuffing the bear through the drawstring seam

The next stop is "Stuff Me", the stuffing and stitching station. The official "Bear Builder", a store employee, uses a fantastic-looking machine to blow stuffing into your bear skin, with some pedal power from you. I was impressed that the machines also have a hand control, for guests who can't use the foot pedal. You get to decide how soft or firm you would like your critter to be, for a truly custom feel. Once the bear is stuffed to your specifications, place a small satin heart inside, and watch as it is sewn up.

Give your bear a heart before it's completed.
Give your bear a heart before it's completed.

There is a bit of a ritual involving the heart. Some people kiss them, others spray perfume on them or write a little love note on them. In addition to the heart, the "Bear Builder" will tuck your bears unique bar code inside. If a lost bear is returned to the Build-A-Bear headquarters, as requested on a tag sewn to each bear, this bar code will be used to reunite it with its owner.

Disneyland Resort President Cynthia Harriss gives her new bear a bath.
Disneyland Resort President Cynthia Harriss gives her new bear a bath.

After the rather painful-looking stuffing process, which one observer called "reverse liposuction", your bear will need some TLC. Head over to the "Fluff Me", where a long blast of air from the "shower", and a little brushing, will make you new friends coat shine.

Just one display of the many clothing options that await you.
Just one display of the many clothing options that await you.

When I have purchased teddy bears in the past, I never thought twice about taking them home au natural. But at Build-A-Bear, a bare bear is something of an anomaly. You feel as if you are somehow failing the bear if you don't buy it a nice new outfit, complete with miniature Sketchers-brand sneakers and a tiny backpack. To assuage your guilt, the "Dress Me" section offers walls and racks of bear clothes, hats, shoes, and accessories.

Cheerleader, pilot, race car driver  - your bear has tons of choices
Cheerleader, pilot, race car driver - your bear has tons of choices

Your bear can become anything it wants to be when it grows up - doctor, firefighter, or even a ballerina. There are scouting uniforms, cheerleading costumes, football jerseys, sweaters, outerwear and pajamas. Bride and Groom bears are popular choices, but an entire collection of formal bear-wear is available. How about a "boy wizard" costume, complete with tiny stuffed owl? Or a fisherman costume, complete with pole and fish. By mixing and matching a few accessories, I even made a pin-trading bear, with a vest and lanyard.

An angel bunny for the holidays
An angel bunny for the holidays

Seasonal offerings include Halloween costumes, Santa suits, angel dresses, dressy party gowns and velvet suits. A selection of city, state and university-logo T-shirts are available, alongside holiday and special occasion shirts. You can even order print boxers and satin panties.

CONTINUED


Build-A-Bear

ABOUT THE EDITOR

Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix is the super-shopper behind MouseShoppe, your personal and unofficial shopping service for the Disneyland Resort, and the owner of CharmingShoppe, a Disney collectibles store located in Anaheim.

In addition to scouring the park to find you the latest and greatest merchandise, she keeps you updated on all of the merchandise events happening in the parks.

If you want to talk to her about this column, merchandise, or events, contact her here.

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