Big Top Souvenirsby Jeff Kober, contributing writer
There are two major retail experiences in the new Fantasyland. Bonjour! Village Gifts offers a shopping experience on par with shopping at some of the boutique shops at Epcot. Big Top Souvenirs does retail at a grand scale and in a very fun way.
Housed in the previous tent that was Cornelius Coot's County Bounty, there isn't much of a difference between the old and new. Most prevalent is the signage, and a newer entry into the store. The old entry exists, but it currently is being reinforced as more of an exit. Circuses are usually seen as being overnight fare as much as a county fair. But this has a much greater sense of permanence to it.
Step inside and you see that center ring to Big Top Souvenirs is Big Top Treats. It clearly attracts your attention.
A candy kitchen is nothing new to Disney. But this is probably one of the larger ones I've seen.
The case offers an attractive display of candy treats, though there is nothing too different in terms of choices from what you get on Main Street, U.S.A. or in the smaller shop in Frontierland. Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
In addition to a register and counter, there is a large area for employees to spread out and create candies and chocolates throughout the day.
Grab a cake pop and then enjoy the rest of the store. There is quite a variety of proppage and a variety of detail. Many of the shelf areas and even the registers are themed to different circus wagons.
Look up and you see all of the fixtures appropriate to a circus.
Then look down and see the detail continue in the carpet displays. Here there are three sections to the carpet. In the center is a tarp surrounded by a circus ring. Afterward comes a grass type display.
Beyond the "wow" of seeing such a detailed carpet, my next thought was that the off-white canvas is going to look really dirty in a short amount of time. That said, most canvas is kind of dirty in a circus setting. Perhaps this will go along well with the wear of the carpet.
My only disappointment in all of the theming is the lack of Disney characters. In the promotional signage and marketing there was a real emphasis in Humphrey the Bear being part of Storybook Circus. There was also depictions of the Three Little Pigs being on a high wire. There's a static Dumbo circling around in the tent next door. I don't understand why the Three Pigs couldn't be in the air. It doesn't have to be an animatronic, it can be like a Disney Store prop. But it would help round out the theming, and give you more reasons to look around.
Of course this is a store, and it's about retail product. A big emphasis is placed on monogramming hats and other clothing. That seems a little bit of an overkill for this corner of the park. But perhaps it will take some of the heavy lifting off of the Chapeau doing the same work in Town Square.
What is really interesting is the amount of product themed to this corner of Fantasyland. Of course there is the usual Dumbo plush.
But I also thought it interesting that in passing through the largest Walmart closest to Walt Disney World I found the same plush in abundance there on the racks. You would probably get a better deal at Walmart, but you won't find many of the other unique retail product that can be found here at Big Top Souvenirs. There were several different shirts celebrating Dumbo the Flying Elephant.
But there were also shirts that celebrated Casey Jr. and the Great Goofini.
What else? There were a couple of little touches. The nicest of these was a clever popcorn seller, hawking not popcorn—but pins for trade.
There were also small games going on with the children. It's a nice way to pass the time while waiting for the parade, but it looked really cheap in this setting, which has so much quality and thematic details to it.
I thought about the Halloween Carnival at the Big Thunder Ranch Jamboree at Disneyland in California. They had some children's games, but it was really thought out in terms of theming. Walt Disney World would benefit in carving just a tad more space to doing a few things like this—and it might be a reason to really bring in people to play—or at least play while the parents shopped.
Speaking of the park out West, having just been there recently, I wondered if Big Top Souvenirs and Big Top Treats was at all related to Big Top Toys at Disney California Adventure Park. That's a "nice" store, but I'm glad we have Big Top Souvenirs out here in Walt Disney World.
Certainly, this is the year for Big Top kinds of things. And retail wise Big Top Souvenirs is perhaps the most impressive of all. It won't be at the top of your list of things to do in the New Fantasyland, but it may be a great place to take a break from the heat and enjoy a treat while doing some shopping. Moreover, it really rounds out the experience of the new Storybook Circus.