A Guide to Disney Shopping Onlineby Gregg Jacobs, contributing writer
I am currently a bit stressed out. As I'm sure many of you Disney die-hards can relate to, I'm in the middle of a long gap between Disney trips, and I just don't like it. I went this past winter, but now we're doing work on our house and then (gasp!) are taking a long trip in June that doesn't involve the mouse—so it likely won't be until late summer or early fall that we go back. Aside from my growing need to see all the new stuff opening this spring and beyond (like the opening of Pandora, Happily Ever After fireworks, and the opening of Star Wars land) at Walt Disney World and to eat a Mickey-shaped pretzel, this also presents the issue of how do I get my Disney shopping fix?
In the old days, if you wanted Disney Parks merchandise, you basically had to visit the Disney Parks. There was a merchandise hotline (which you can still call, at (877) 560-6477), where you could call and order something you either forgot to buy or realized you couldn't live without. But for the most part, you really had to be there. In a way, it's sad that exclusivity is gone, but if you do face a gap between visits and need that fix or need to buy a gift, etc., Disney has made it a whole lot easier.
It turns out that in present day, there's this great new invention called the Internet. You can actually go to your computer or phone, push a few buttons and have that Donald Duck mug miraculously show up on your doorstep a few days later.
The Disney Parks has really stepped up its game in recent years in making merchandise available online. There are also a lot of independent sites and applications out there where you can find some great items. So let's take a look and see what we can find.
We start by looking to Disney, itself. I wrote an article last year about the Shop Disney Parks smartphone app, and it has only continued to get better. If you aren't familiar with the app, I urge you go back and have a read. In a nutshell, the free app allows you to purchase products that are sold in Walt Disney World. The app lets you see which stores carry the merchandise you seek, as well as whether the shops have them in stock at that particlular time. This allows you to either physically go to the store to shop for the item, or simply make the purchase via the app. If you are shopping online, you can have the items shipped to you. If you're at WDW, you could optionally have your merchandise sent to the park front gate or your resort hotel.
The app has continued to improve. I've noticed a larger variety of items available through the app, and they seem to pop up faster. For example, 45th anniversary gear showed up on the app as soon as it hit the WDW stores. Variety-wise, I searched for smartphone cases and got over 100 results, including some that are attraction-specific. The searches have gotten easier and better, so you get fewer false hits in your search results. My big criticism earlier was that the in-app menus were unintuitive and things were a bit hard to find. They seemed to have addressed those weaknesses, so for a Disney Parks shopper, the app is a must-have.
Beyond the Shop Disney Parks app, there is, of course, the Disney Store Online. As far as a visit to the store, itself, I stick to my guns that the merchandise skews to the little ones and doesn't have much for adults or collectors. The website, however, does have a pretty decent Parks selection. Disney Parks is one of the selections on the main menu and will take you to a wide variety of goods, including clothing, housewares, collectibles, and what they call "collections," which are groupings of merchandise related to a certain character or movie. Again, the selection here has gotten much better over the years.
The Disney Store site also continually has great limited edition goods or items available only for a limited time. To me, these are the hidden jewel of the Disney Store. They are often very unique items—usually clothing—that they make available for only three or four days, and then they go away. Check back often to see what they have. Or to make your life easier, sign up for their email list. I'm not a big fan of getting on email lists, because when you do, the spam volume seems to explode—but you should do it here. You will get email tipping you off about any limited merchandise they may be offering ,and they also send some great coupons.
While the Disney Store online falls into second place behind the app for theme park merchandise, it's definitely worth a look.
The next obvious stop on our tour is the Internet's largest flea market, eBay. I just did a search on "Disney collectibles" and got 104,454 results, so selection size isn't an issue. Disney items on eBay tend to fall into one of these categories:
- "New" items that were originally sold in the theme parks.
- "Vintage" (old) items.
- One-of-a-kind items that were made by the seller.
For new items, a bit of caveat emptor, let the buyer beware (insert Brady Bunch episode - anyone in my age range gets this one - if you're a millennial, Google Greg Brady Caveat Emptor). There are many Orlando/Anaheim residents who frequent the parks, buy merchandise, and resell it on eBay or elsewhere online for a profit. There's nothing wrong with that, and for items that are sold out or limited and no longer available, they're actually providing a service. That said, the purpose of this article is to show you how easily many of these items can be obtained online, from Disney, itself, or otherwise, so before you hit the "buy it now" button, make sure you have investigated all possible purchasing avenues and that you're getting the best deal.
People on eBay will sell anything from clothing to baby items to collectibles. You can find almost anything Disney-related, and because they don't only sell new items, eBay arguably has the best selection of Disney items anywhere, including at Disney Parks. Again, the best use of eBay is to obtain items that are no longer available, either because it was limited or they simply don't' sell it anymore. You can expect to pay an upcharge for these, but if it's something you really want or need to complete a collection, it's the best way.
Sometimes eBay can be a cheaper alternative, even on new stuff. There was a Vinylmation figure I wanted that was $12 at the park. I checked on eBay, and someone had it for only $7, including free shipping. There are bargains to be had.
For vintage items and collectibles, eBay simply can't be beat. In the old days of the 1990s and earlier, if you wanted something for your collection, you had to wander flea markets and collectibles shows and hope you found what you wanted. Now, you type in a search, and it's a pretty good bet someone is selling what you want to buy. If what you need isn't available right away, you can save your search and eBay will send you an alert if something pops up on the site. It takes a little bit of the sport out of collecting, but makes it so much easier.
Disney fans also love making their own tributes to the house of mouse. You'll find a lot of one of a kind items that artists often made themselves. There are prints, paintings, pottery, furniture. Again, just about anything you can imagine. These are often lovingly made by true fans and can be a great additional to your own collection or decor.
That brings us to our next site. For vintage, new and other one-of-a kind Disney items, I highly recommend visiting Etsy. A very simple search on "Disney" produced thousands of items that range from resales of current Disney products to creations from local artists. For example, you can find Disney-inspired art prints that are inexpensive and unique. Etsy is filled with these kind of items.
If you're really into collectibles of the one-of-a-kind variety, especially animation art, a great place to visit is the Van Eaton Galleries. At one point, the animation art business was on fire, but as the collectibles market in general has cooled, it has become possible to buy a real piece of Disney history without spending an arm and a leg. If you have an arm or leg to spare and want a genuine production cel from Cinderella, they have one available for a whopping $17,000 (one day it will be mine!)—but there are plenty of great pieces available that are more reasonable.
For fans of Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Van Eaton offered a great production cell of Fishing Bear for only $350. For a little more history on animation artwork and what's still available from Disney, please see this article I wrote last year.
Finally, no Internet tour of Disney shopping would be complete without a visit the monsters of the internet, Amazon, Target, and Walmart. The exclusivity of Disney products went away a long time ago and the Mouse teamed up with big box retailers to get its goods out to the world. While they tend to be more of the mass-produced variety, you can again find a great selection at these sites and often for much less money than you'd pay at the parks. As a money-saving tip, go buy T-shirts, ponchos, and other items from these stores, online or in person, and pay a fraction of what you'd pay in Orlando.
So readers, that's a quick tour of my favorite sites on the web for buying Disney Parks merchandise. Again, there's nothing like the real thing (I'm going to book that resort reservation for September as soon as possible), but if you find yourself in a Disney drought, there are many ways to bring a little piece of the magic home.
Shopping tip of the month
For this month's shopping tip, I'm going to try to make your life easier and put all the links I've incorporated throughout the article in one place to hopefully act as a one-stop go to guide for Disney online shopping:
- Shop Disney Parks App
- Disney Store Online
- Van Eaton Galleries (Animation Art and Park Memorabilia)
For those who prefer to go old school, there is Walt Disney World Merchandise Guest Services/Mail Order at (877) 560-6477
Thanks as always for reading. Your comments and questions are welcome.