Merchandise Based on Park Attractionsby Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
Welcome to the Wonderful World of Walt Disney World Shopping!
Hello Mouseplanet Readers—my name is Gregg Jacobs, and my goal is to take you through the Wonderful World of Color ….er, I mean the wonderful world of Walt Disney World merchandise and shopping. Walt Disney World covers more than 40 square miles. It has four theme parks, two water parks, and an expansive shopping and entertainment district (and hotels, mini golf courses, real golf courses… you get the idea). When visiting this massive and magical place, the average visitor wants to take at least a little bit (or possibly a lot) of that magic home with them. Let's explore how shopping can be a great part of your visit to Orlando and look at ways to make it easier and more fun.
I thought a good place to start would be a fun new trend in Walt Disney World Shopping. Once upon a time, people came from all over the world to Disney parks to do their holiday shopping, because you could find things there you couldn't find anywhere else. Then over time, things changed. You saw a lot more generic merchandise featuring only the general Disney park logo (often not even distinguishing between Walt Disney World and Disneyland), every shop seemed to carry the same thing, and they carried many items you could find at your local Target. Disney has taken a lot of criticism for this in recent years, so I'm happy to report that trend has begun to reverse, and especially with great new shops like Memento Mori in the Magic Kingdom, which carries innovative items specific to the Haunted Mansion, it's once again a very exciting time for shoppers and collectors.
Memento Mori occupies the space of the former Yankee Trader, a little past the pet cemetery as you leave the Haunted Mansion. The shop is filled with every ghoulish item you could want, ranging from simple key chains that are yours for a mere $7.95 to a $90.00 sign that replicates the one at the ride entrance.
My personal favorites are the bookends featuring the ghost writers from the mansion library (see below), as well as artwork featuring the characters from the stretching room. You can also have the chance to put yourself in the place of Master Gracey, the Mansion host, and have your own photo taken, turning you into the 1,000th happy haunt.
Aside from the great swag you can take home with you to remember your experience, what's so great about Memento Mori is that it's what every Disney shop should be: an extension of the attraction's or area's atmosphere, if not even the story. Shop cast members are in the same garb you see at the mansion, and you're surrounded by set pieces that continue the vibe as you leave the ride. It's a little-known fact that Disney's Imagineers often put the same care and effort into developing the resort's shops that they do into planning the attractions and shows. It's wonderful to see that on display here.
If the Haunted Mansion isn't your cup of tea (scared. are we?), that's only one great example of what's available these days. If you're a big fan of Disney park classic attractions like "it's a small world," Jungle Cruise, or Pirates of the Caribbean, you're in luck. There are plenty of great souvenirs featuring all of these. I'm a big fan of home décor items, and one of the things I've seen lately is a great line of plates, mugs, tumblers, and other kitchen items themed to the attractions, often in a set. While these are available in spots all over the World, the best place I've found is none other than the granddaddy of all Walt Disney World shops, the Emporium on Main Street USA in the Magic Kingdom. Though they came down for the holidays, there's usually a big display of them near the Town Square entrance to the shop. In another great nod to Disney, you'll also find these in seemingly odd places where the theming makes sense. I found a great Jungle Cruise mug at BouTiki at the South Seas themed Polynesian Village Resort. You just need to keep your eyes open for these great finds.
Another set of Disney parks favorites are those classic attractions posters you see as you pass under the train station into the Magic Kingdom. At any of the Art of Disney stores (the middle of Main Street at the Magic Kingdom, across from Spaceship Earth at Epcot, or at Disney Springs—and I encourage even casual collectors to visit all of these), you can get representations of these posters, ranging from expensive giclees that run hundreds of dollars to simple inexpensive prints. The picture below is from a set of 12 prints (12" x 18") that I stumbled upon at Buena Vista Gifts at the Contemporary Resort. The total cost—a whopping $19.95 (cheap frames courtesy of Michael's Arts & Crafts). Again, always keep your eyes open for that great find. The days where every Walt Disney World shop carried the same four sweatshirts and mugs are coming to an end.
While it's great to come home with that Mickey Mouse sweatshirt or Walt Disney World baseball cap (and believe me, I have plenty of both:-), it's great that Disney is starting to get back to basics and give its fans more of a chance to bring home something a little more special, and to have fun while tracking those items down. There's still a long way to go, but I think what we've seen lately is very encouraging.
I'd love to hear your comments and opinions on this or any related topic. Please also feel free to ask any specific questions on where to find something or to give ideas for future columns. Thanks for reading!