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|Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, editor|
|Shopping the Parks: Engine-Ears Toys at DCA - 03/30/01|
I don't think an opening of any theme park store has been as eagerly awaited as Engine-Ears Toys at Disney's California Adventure (DCA). Even people who had no other interest in DCA wanted to get a look at this store, for a myriad of reasons. Train lovers wanted to see what had become of the restored Western Pacific train engine they'd heard was used in the store's exterior. Model railroaders were dying to see what unique merchandise would be offered. Parents of train addicts wanted to find little conductors outfits for their children. Toy collectors drooled over the reports of the new DCA attractions models expected at this store. Never have so many people been so excited about one store. It was almost like a Mervyn's commercial, with readers across Internet newsgroups and message boards collectively chanting "Open, open, open."
Of course, I was chanting right along with them. Several months before the opening of DCA, I received a list of the new stores, with brief descriptions of their theme and merchandise assortments. Engine-Ears already looked like one of the more intriguing offerings, and because I had already seen a preview of some of the merchandise for this store, I could hardly wait to get in there myself.
Finally, the resort's first Cast Member (CM) preview day came, and I was lucky enough to be invited by a CM friend to join him for the day. Engine-Ears toys was my first -- if very, very brief -- stop once in the park. I just had to see it. But, alas, my extremely generous host wanted to experience something other than stores on his first day in the park, so I decided to return later. Since then, a number of you have written asking me to cover this store in my Shopping the Parks series. Only ten weeks later, here I am!
But first, let me warn you in advance: This is a merchandise / shopping column. If you want the real, nitty-gritty details about where the engine came from, who bought it, where they got it, and how it was restored, you're in the wrong place. MousePlanet contributor Byron Brainard will be telling you everything you ever wanted to know about this engine in an upcoming column. However, if you'd like to know what's inside the train, come along with me!
If you enter through the Golden Zephyr entrance, you find yourself inside the toy display area. This is built inside a mock train car, and allows you to see all the new toys up close and working. Plopped in the middle of this entrance is the requisite souvenir display. Engine-Ears Toys is located right inside the main entrance of DCA, so the store carries a huge assortment of park souvenirs, all aimed at giving guests one last chance to grab a little something on their way home.
Fortunately, the "glow" merchandise in DCA is a little better themed than it is at the park across the way. Instead of the generic glow roses, DCA offers glow poppies (which are associated with California). The "light chasers" are themed to look like the Golden Zephyr attraction, and the fiber-optic wands have attraction icons on them. Yes, it's still glow, but at least it's themed glow!
Stepping through the train car into the main section of the store, it appears as if you walked back outside again. The interior of the store is decorated like a train station, with a blue sky ceiling above, painted with fluffy clouds. Each wall looks like a different train station, with its own signage and architectural style. One cash register has even been built into a recessed nook, which has been painted to look like a tunnel in a mountain.
Be sure to look down, and see the train tracks racing across the floor. It's like a giant, toy train layout, with merchandise displays serving as the models. Some fixtures look like track signals, others like trees. There are kiosks shaped like tenders, and even a three-piece train that sits right on top of the tracks on the floor. The engine of this train is filled with candy, which is all available for sale. Needless to say, it's wildly popular with the kids in the store.
The Candy Train (above three shots)
The merchandise is the usual DCA mix of store- specific merchandise and "available everywhere" items. Along with the assortment of candy, souvenirs and toys, you can find train- themed apparel, books, and even a few model trains.
Be prepared - Engine-Ears Toys is not a model train store. In fact, based on some earlier discussions with park merchandise people, I was surprised by the products I found. You can buy some individually packaged Lionel railroad cars here, but no Lionel sets. If you'd like a complete train set, the only ones offered are made by Bachman. You can get a Lionel 100th anniversary die-cast train, along with some audio storybooks narrated by LeVar Burton. All in all, this selection looks more like a few, random items than a deliberate, comprehensive assortment. I understand that the entire product line is under scrutiny, and that changes to the collection are expected based on sales trends.
Strangely enough, there is a large collection of model airplanes and cars in this store. This is twice as interesting because Fly 'n' Buy, the airplane- themed store in Condor Flats, is totally sold out of its model kits. A line of Toy Story 2 merchandise has been added to the assortment at Engine-Ears Toys due to customer demand. It makes sense to me: Buzz Lightyear is prominently featured in the DCA advertisements, so it's natural for guests to assume he has a larger role in the park than just as spokesman.
On the toy side of the store, you find all of the DCA attraction toys, and a wall of train-theme books and toys for younger kids. Engine-Ears Toys has the requisite "wall o' plush" found in the newest Disneyland Resort stores, including the Engineer Mickey dolls. If you want to dress your child like Mickey, the striped overalls and engineer's hat are both available.
Actually, an entire wall is devoted to train-logo apparel for kids and adults. In addition to the overalls, there's a matching dress for girls and a playsuit for toddlers. A collection of T-shirts and sweatshirts are available for babies through grown-ups, and there are hats for everyone.
Photos of Walt Disney near register area (above and below)
When you exit the store, be sure to look up above the main door. Three photos of Walt Disney, with his beloved trains, have been enlarged and hung above the doorway. It's touching to see these images, from a side of Walt many people don't know existed.
Oh, and if you're a "Hidden Mickey" fan, be sure to take a close look for the two I spotted in the store. I'll give you a hint: they are not in the clouds, so don't waste your time. An eye-level search of the store should prove fruitful.
Next Week - Back to Disneyland!
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.
Visit our other shopping service, MouseMemories.com.
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