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Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editor
New Disney Store concept; More park news - 1/30/02

We spent a lovely morning at "Walt Disney's Disneyland" on Saturday, January 26, a special event benefiting the Ryman- Carroll Foundation. Despite the early morning and a threat of rain, the breakfast and tour were exactly what we had hoped for. You can read Sue Kruse's report for the first presentation of this event, which was identical except for a different panel of speakers.

Marty Sklar
Marty Sklar at the first event - photo by Sue Kruse

Someone asked me why I would spend $100 to listen to a bunch of Disney legends repeat the same old stories in person. In fact during the first presentation, Harriet Burns said she was worried that she was boring us with stories we had already read about in books. Afterwards, I made it a point to tell her that how we enjoyed her talk. No matter how well we may think we know a story, there is always a detail or tidbit that has been left out of earlier telling. Hearing a story told by the people who lived it is infinitely more interesting and personal that reading about it.

There are dozens of Disney legends like Harper Goff, Joe Fowler, even Walt Disney, who are, sadly, no more than names to me because I never met them. Everyone that I meet at these events becomes part of my personal Disney heritage – and that to me is more than worth the cost of admission.


A reminder: Disney returns the "Mulan," "Pinocchio," "Tarzan" and "Snow White" videos to the "vault" tomorrow for a seven- year slumber.

While you might be able to pick up copies here and there as outlets sell through their remaining inventory, these titles may become scarce rather quickly.


Disney's California Adventure celebrates its first birthday with a very low- key event. Look for more details in a future D-I-G update, but here are the basics: On Friday, February 8, a thousand KABC-TV promotion winners will have early access to the Hollywood Pictures Backlot district.

The main gates open to day guests at 9 am. A small ceremony with Cynthia Harriss and Barry Braverman is scheduled at the Sunshine Plaza area for 9:45. Guests receive an anniversary button as they enter the park, and will be held in a viewing area near the Sunshine Plaza until the ceremony ends at 10 am.

As for merchandise, there might be an anniversary pin released, but no other commemorative items are planned.


The Disney Store is testing a new concept, turning several locations into "Kids & Home" stores. After receiving a barrage of direct- marketing postcards, we trekked to the Del Amo Mall location in Torrance to see what all the fuss was about.

Our first observation is that the store is terribly misnamed. "Kids at Home" might have been a better choice. This store is aimed directly at the under- 12 set. Unless you sleep in a twin- sized bed, adults have little to choose from to decorate with.

What you will find is a series of "bedrooms," each decorated to a specific character or theme. This type of lifestyle display is intended to create an environment where a child can look around and say, "I want my room to look just like this." If your child is taken in by the merchandise, be prepared to spend a pretty penny to re-create the displays.


The $1200 bed

The focal point of the Princess room is a four- poster bed. The display tag said it was hand-painted and crafted entirely of solid poplar. For $1200 plus $75 shipping, I would hope they used 14- karat gold paint. Upon closer examination, we found that the "solid poplar" seemed anything but, and the construction was appallingly poor, with loose bedknobs and exposed bolts on the display piece.

Even if the bed had been a rock- solid piece of craftsmanship, I doubt that it would have been worth the asking price. I admit it was cute, and I'm sure most little girls would love it. But it looked like it could have been equally at home in a Bergstroms or a Sears. There was not one single Disney touch to it – no characters, no Disney icons; nothing to make it special enough to pay the Disney premium for it.

We found the same in the other rooms of the store. The Pooh-theme bunk bed was painted to look like a treehouse, but there wasn't a single character or identifying image anywhere on it. The rocket headboard in the Toy Story room wasn't the Buzz Lightyear spaceship, and the cowboy headboard could have worked for a Roy Rogers theme just as easily as a Woody and Jessie motif. The choice of bedding did more to convey the theme than did the furniture. Perhaps that is the idea – children do grow out of a character, and the more generic headboards might be more versatile. They do not however, command the $900- plus Disney price tag.

The Mickey Mouse room held the only truly character-related bed: a bright red headboard with Mickey- head cut- outs, capped with Mickey- head bedknobs. I doubt I'm the only one who wouldn't mind having that in a nice oak or cherry finish and in a queen or king size. The matching nightstand, lamp, and phone were all character-related. We found a display of bath accessories, all taken directly from the Walt Disney World At Home store in Florida. Seriously – the packaging has the Walt Disney World logo on it. I guess after years of Disney Store products landing in the parks, turnabout is fair play.

Scattered around the beds are matching bookcases and nightstands – all for sale – serving as display fixtures for the assortment of bedding and accessories for each theme. The walls hold racks of children's clothing and stacks of toys. Unfortunately, the rooms resemble a child's bedroom in ways I doubt the planners intended. That is, we found toys thrown everywhere – on the beds, on the furniture, on the floors. Like an extremely messy kid's room, there were piles of clothes on the ground. We watched one clerk walk to and from a stockroom, repeatedly stepping over a broken Lucite sign holder laying in an aisle. Welcome to the Disney Stores under Project Go – selling is everything; cleaning is something done only after the store closes.

Strangely missing from this Kids & Home store were things for the rest of the home. Disney make great kitchenware, but there was none to be found here. Even my regular Disney Store carries toasters, but there was no appliance in sight. In a quick tour of the Disney Store Web site, I found fireplace sets, furniture, bath accessories and housewares – and even that Mickey headboard, in a cream- and- blue finish and in a king size. Walt Disney World has an entire store devoted to home accessories. This type of merchandise is what I hoped to find at this new store, not overpriced beds and toys.

With the Disney Stores in such dire straits, these concept stores are supposed to identify new markets for the company to pursue. Unfortunately, this store has the same flaw as the rest of the Disney Store chain: children rule the day, and adults are left to shop elsewhere.

Don't they realized that this is the problem? It doesn't make a difference whether you are selling sheets or shirts – if there is nothing for adults to buy, you do not get their money. It reminds me of the punchline of a Dilbert cartoon: "You're solving the wrong problem!"


The Disneyland Resort's World of Disney Store got its own remodel last week, and also wound up with a bed. This bed is a less- expensive and better- themed version of the castle bed we found at the Kids and Home store. At least this one has the princesses painted on it. A mini- bedroom is set up inside the main entrance to the store, featuring the "pretty princess" headboard, matching sheets, pillows, comforter, shams, vanity table, and even a lamp.

A sign next to the display holds a pad of paper, listing all of the SKU inventory control numbers and prices for the ensemble. At first I thought this was like an IKEA display – take the tag to the register to request the items. Right? Nope – the paper gives you a phone number to call and order the items from the Disney Catalog. The merchandise is not even available in the store; this display is just an advertisement.

Are you scratching your head yet? I certainly was. I spoke with one of the people responsible for the display, and she told me that this is all about synergy: cross- promotion between divisions of Disney. Also, since the Anaheim World of Disney Store does not carry the same home merchandise as the Florida location, this is a good way to judge the demand for such merchandise.

Of course, home merchandise does not sell very well in Florida, and those are the people who make many of the decisions for Disneyland. If Florida merchants decide that a product line is selling poorly based on Florida sales figures, do not expect to appear at Disneyland.

Never mind that we have completely different customers. Never mind that many of our visitors drive here and can easily pop a comforter into their cars, whereas the Florida tourists must worry about packing or shipping their items home. The economies of production mean that Disneyland has to share merchandise with Disney World, and even the Disney Stores. Disneyland cannot develop entire product lines unless it can demonstrate that it can sell the merchandise well.

Unfortunately, this isn't even a fair test of potentials sales. A truer test is to send a small inventory of the merchandise to the store. All they are measuring right now is how many people remember to call and order something once they get back home (after they get the bill for their vacation!). They are completely losing the impulse sales that are so important when selling $300 headboards.

When the World of Disney store opened here, the Disneyland Main Street Emporium cast members worried about losing its sales. Now WOD is losing sales to the Disney Catalog. Synergy or no, this cannot be good for the parks – not when stores are already closed most of the week because of poor traffic and sales. Another person told me that this is just the first step; we can expect to see more home merchandise if these other "tests" go well. I guess we can only cross our fingers and wait.


More store hour reductions... After telling you last week about the store hour reductions at the Disneyland Resort, I received additions to the list from readers, including some Disney Cast Members.

The Indiana Jones Adventure Outpost, Le Ornament Magique, and Guide Stand One (just inside the Main Entrance, near City Hall) also remain closed during the week. Tropical Imports is also operating on reduced daily hours, opening three hours after park opening and closing one hour before the park.

Over at DCA, Santa Rosa Seed and Supply is also closed Monday through Thursday. Gone Hollywood, Rizzos, and Off the Page all open at 11:30 am along with the rest of the Hollywood Pictures Backlot, part of that area's new reduced operating schedule.


Guide stand 1, closed for the day.

One CM wanted me to let customers know that there is a way to purchase merchandise from a closed location. If you want something specific from a closed shop, just go to the nearest open store and ask for assistance. If the item you want cannot be obtained in any other park shop, a lead or stock person is paged. They then take you into the closed store, or retrieve the item for you. Be warned that this process may take a while, especially if the person with the store keys is on a break or in another area of the park.

While this will not let you browse through a closed store on a whim, it should save you from disappointment if that can't- live-without- it item is locked away for the day. For annual passholders, many of whom visit the park on slower days when more shops are closed, this is something to keep in mind.


So long, Package Express? We have been hearing rumors about possible changes to the Package Express service for many months, but it seems that something is about to happen soon. Currently, Package Express is a free service. Visitors can shop up to three hours before the park closes, and have their purchases sent to either to their Disneyland Resort hotel room, or to a window outside Disneyland and DCA. In recent meetings, CMs have been told that a change is coming, but details are scarce and conflicting.

One version I have heard has the service to the main entrances eliminated completely, leaving only hotel service. Another rumor has customers paying for Package Express, but with hotel guests getting the service for free. I have heard that the DCA pick-up window might be closed permanently, with the service operating only from Disneyland's window. Yet another plan would reduce the operating hours of the pick-up windows, similar to the way the system works at Disneyland Paris.

Of all of the possible solutions I have heard, the last two seem to make the most sense. If you send something to Package Express at Disneyland Paris, you can only pick it up after 4 pm. This eliminates the need to staff the pick-up window for the entire day, and also means that merchandise can be collected from shops in just one run, rather than making repeated trips to each location throughout the day. This is much less convenient for customers, especially if they do not plan to stay in the park all day, but even this would be preferable to completely eliminating the service.

No matter what the final solution, CMs are concerned about visitor reaction, and the negative effect on sales of heavy, bulky or fragile items. Said one, "If this happens, we might as well close [a certain store]. No one is going to want to haul around a bag of [merchandise] and risk having it broken or stolen while they're on a ride. At the very least, they better build bigger lockers, so people have some place to store their packages."

Wrote another, "Package Express makes [Disney] money, if anything. Guests tend to spend more when they know they don't have to carry anything. Plus, if they're not carrying it around, it's almost like they didn't buy anything and they'll spend even more. Seems to be Disney's way of doing things lately. Spend a dollar to save 50 cents."


Disneyland has officially announced the next Disney Gallery exhibit:

In celebration of Walt's 100th birthday, we invite you to join us as we unveil the newest addition to The Disney Gallery.

We are pleased to present One Hundred Mickeys
by Eric C. Robison

Grand Opening Saturday, February 23, 2002
The Disney Gallery, New Orleans Square
Disneyland Park

Beginning Saturday, February 23rd, The Disney Gallery will open its doors to reveal a special contemporary art exhibit featuring 100 images of Mickey Mouse. Scheduled to appear through September 2002, this exhibit will give Guests the opportunity to view a variety of artistic styles and mediums, from Charcoal on canvas to Oil on canvas.

In addition, The Disney Gallery will launch a new "Print on Demand" technology, allowing Guests to obtain replicated poster size images of the One Hundred Mickeys. "Print on Demand" images are available in a variety of sizes on canvas & art paper. Images are available while supplies last and will be offered at selected prices. For a sneak preview of the One Hundred Mickeys exhibit, please visit www.100mickeys.com after February 8, 2002.

While I really enjoy the 100 Mickeys artwork, the most exciting part of this exhibit will be the launch of the Print on Demand program. We previewed this at the Disneyana Convention in August, and I was very impressed. The potential of this system is enormous. Disney can offer hundreds of images that collectors have been asking for, without spending millions to print artwork that might not sell. 100 Mickeys will be a good test of the system, but the future applications for this new technology are even more interesting.


Disney Home Store

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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