The D23 Sneak Preview of the New Times Square Disney Store

by Chris Barry, contributing writer
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If you’ve read my columns at all over the last few years you know that I have a large collection or accumulation (as it’s been called) of Disney stuff in my home. From your responses it seems like many of you do as well. So where do we, as Disney fans, venture to get all of this stuff? There are many answers to that question. Walt Disney World or Disneyland are probably the most preferred answers, I’m sure.

What’s the next best thing to shopping the Emporium or MouseGear? I guess that would have to be The Disney Store. Whenever I’ve needed a quick Disney “fix” I could conveniently head out shopping and end up in my local Disney Store at the mall. The music, the big video screens, the mountain of Disney plush characters, and the original “big figs” strewn throughout the store could certainly put you in the mood for magic.

However, in the last few years of Disney Store shopping, I’d have to say that it’s been slim pickings for us adult Disney fans; a wall of Princess items, a wall of Cars toys, another wall of Toy Story items, and display or two of the latest theatrical release merchandise. If you looked hard enough, you might find a few T-shirts, some mugs, and every once in a while find something unique like the Oswald collectibles or some Muppet stuff. Gone were the animation cels, the watches, the Disney Classics Collections, and most other things of interest to adults.

This wasn’t the case, however, with the 5th Avenue World of Disney. Run by Disney Parks and Resorts, the NYC World of Disney was just what I was looking for to tide me over until my next trip to Orlando. It was a fairly immersive place with unique merchandise, collectibles, character meet and greets, and enough Disney magic to whet my appetite. So it was with a heavy sigh that I heard the news that the store was closing at the end of 2009.

Once Disney reacquired their stores from The Children’s Place, I let out a much bigger sigh of relief when I learned that they were taking over the massive Times Square Virgin MegaStore and building a brand new Disney Store. With that happy news I ventured into the city this past Sunday for the special D23 Sneak Preview of the new Disney Store in Times Square.

The cold morning certainly didn’t keep the D23 members away. Indeed, we all waited patiently outside the massive store entrance on Broadway and were greeted by a very bright and welcoming sign.


The Times Square Disney Store sign. Photo by Samantha Barry.

As we were all let in, the downstairs portion of the store was available for shopping. Disney Store President Jim Fielding was present for this D23 member’s only event, and told us that the 1st floor of the store contains about 80% exclusive-to-this-store merchandise. Much of it was NYC merchandise like the Statue of Liberty Vinylmation, which found its way home with me.

Speaking of Vinylmation, many of the D23 members hurried over to this display for the 9-inch graffiti style figure created just for this event. It differs slightly from the “Taxi” Vinylmation that will be sold exclusively at this location. The store's castmembers couldn't bring these out fast enough.


The NYC exclusive Vinylmation display. Photo by Chris Barry.

Many were also clamoring for the special stretched canvases that were created just for this event like this Belle…


The limited-edition Belle canvas. Photo by Chris Barry.

…this Ariel…


The limited-edition Ariel canvas. Photo by Chris Barry.

...and the Snow White, which also made it home with me. These were extremely limited editions. The Ariel had a run of 100 and had an added bonus—more on that later. Each of the other princesses: Cinderella, Belle, Snow White, and Tiana were all limited to only 10 each.

As you enter the store you spot the vintage Mickey flanked by twinkling versions of New York City landmarks like The Empire State and Chrysler buildings.


Classic Mickey and classic buildings. Photo by Chris Barry.

The walls are covered with simple sketch-like versions of all your favorite characters.


Snow White, Dopey and Jiminy on the 1st floor walls. Photo by Samantha Barry.

Many of the characters appear in silhouette.


Cinderella flanked by a certain duck and a certain real boy. Photo by Chris Barry.

There’s a fairly large, working carousel type of display in the center of the floor featuring plush animals and NYC themed clothing.


The "carousel" on the 1st floor. Photo by Samantha Barry.

After about 30 minutes of shopping and photo taking we followed the long escalator to the top floor alongside silhouettes of Dumbo, Peter, Wendy, John, and Michael from Peter Pan, the Lion King’s Zazu and an electronic pixie dusted Tinker Bell.


The cast of Peter Pan leading you up to the 2nd floor. Photo By Samantha Barry.


Dumbo and Timothy leading you to the 2nd floor. Photo by Samantha Barry.

The second floor is the granddaddy of the new Disney Store design. While speaking with Disney Store President Jim Fielding, I told him I had already been at the new store at the Roosevelt Field Mall on Long Island. He referred to this location as, “The Roosevelt Field Store on steroids!” He was right. The design elements are very much the same, just on a grander scale suitable for Times Square: the “Crossroads of the World.” If you haven’t been to a new style Disney Store they are broken up into what Mr. Fielding referred to as “neighborhoods.” Here in New York City there is a Toy Story neighborhood, a Phineas and Ferb neighborhood, and among others a Marvel neighborhood, which is a first for any of the Disney Stores.

You are guided through the store by a pixie dusted marble pathway that takes you past these plexi-glass trees that are constantly bathed in different projections.


The very cool projection trees. Photo by Chris Barry.

We were treated to a delicious continental breakfast.


One of the tasty breakfast stations. Photo by Chris Barry.

A gazebo–like structure that features the Disney Store Theater anchors the store. Guests can choose which videos they want to see on the giant screen and then sit and watch inside the gazebo. It was from here that Jim Fielding addressed us all. He told us with much exuberance how much “We all love D23.” Jim’s an animated man who seems very passionate about his job and about Disney. To me he seems like just the guy that a Disney fan would want running the Disney Stores worldwide. He spoke about the interior of what is now the largest Disney Store in North America; how they removed the former Virgin Megastore’s mezzanine and most of the 4th floor to give the store the high ceilings and more grandeur that it deserves. He joked about how the Disney Store in Paris is the most profitable, but since the New York store started soft openings, they’ve been calling Paris each day to make sure they were beating them. Indeed, the store has been constantly busy since opening last week. They have had to increase the store closing time from 12 midnight to 1 AM just to accommodate the crowds.


Jim Fielding addresses us from the Disney Store Theater. Photo by Chris Barry.

My favorite moments of Fielding's discussion were his honest comments about how it was a rough few years at Disney Store and that now that they had bought the stores back from The Children's Place, it was time to announce that the Disney Store was back. What better way to announce you're back than by opening a grand store in New York's Time Square. It was refreshing to hear him address what many of us Disney fans have known and griped about for some time now; that the Disney Store experience has certainly been lacking that extra magic that we've come to expect.

After answering some questions from the crowd, Mr. Fielding introduced the morning's special guest, The Little Mermaid herself, Jodi Benson. Ms. Benson made some gracious comments and acknowledged how happy she and her family were to have a Disney Store back in New York City. She was then presented with her own copy of the Ariel canvas specially created for this event. She supposedly had not seen it prior to the unveiling and graciously sat for pictures and signed the copies purchased earlier by the very happy D23 members in attendance. That's a great collectible that I'm sure they will all cherish.


Jodi Benson signs a collectible Ariel canvas. Photo by Chris Barry.

As my daughter and I lingered around and took some photos, Jodi Benson finished signing her autographs and then retreated to the princess neighborhood inside the towering castle at the rear of the store.


The huge castle contains the Princess neighborhood. Photo by Chris Barry.


The massive chandelier inside the equally massive castle. Photo by Chris Barry.

Beneath the enormous chandelier, flanked by plenty of princess merchandise are two "magic mirrors." When you grab one of the Disney Princess's wands and wave it over the crystals on top of the frame, the mirror transforms into a video monitor and your chosen princess appears and talks to you.


One of the magic mirrors inside the castle. Photo by Chris Barry.

It was great to watch the Disney photographer pose Ms. Benson in front of the mirror while Ariel appeared and spoke to her. She also took several photos with the new singing Ariel doll that features her voice.


Jodi Benson and the singing Ariel doll. Photo By Samantha Barry.

When you look high up on the walls in the Roosevelt Field Store, you see silhouettes of Disney characters and icons like Cinderella's Castle. What I really appreciated about the Times Square store were its nods to its location, like Woody here mimicking the nearby Statue of Liberty…


Woody and Lady Liberty. Photo by Chris Barry.

...and Ned Brainard's "Flubber Mobile" from The Absent Minded Professor flying between this familiar set of buildings from Central Park West.


Disney and New York City icons co-exist on the walls. Photo by Chris Barry.

All in all, a good time was had by all the D23 members in attendance. If you find yourself in the Big Apple, make sure you see it. To paraphrase Disney Store President Jim Fielding, "There's a new Disney Store in town," so go check it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed.


Mickey and Minnie bid you farewell. Photo by Samantha Barry.

Comments

  1. By bellefan

    I went to the Times Square store this past Wednesday and was actually pretty disappointed by it. While the design and interior of the store was amazing, the merchandise is pretty run of the mill Disney Store items. There were no collectibles and barely any adult clothing. They could have done so much with this store but it seemed like the same dolls, costumes and plush they have in every store. If you want Disney/NY merchandise its the place to go but as a frequent visitor to the parks, it didn't fulfill my shopping appetite. I think they definitely catered it to tourists, and not to the hard core Disney fans.

  2. By cbarry

    I think it's awfully hard to compare any Disney Store experience to shopping in the parks. The sheer volume of choices is pretty imcomparable.

    I would partially agree with you.I still think they could add more on the upstairs floor for us adult fans. It seems like the "standard" Disney Store selection still leaves us out. The merchandise upstairs is pretty much the same as you can get in your local mall. However, I liked the NYC merchandise, the Trend D clothing, the Broadway merchandise, the Vinylmations, those yummy Disney chocolate bars and other things on the 1st floor that the mall versions just don't have.

  3. By tinkaparis

    Very well written article Chris.
    I too was in attendance that morning with my sister at the D23 event. You explained the morning very well and what was available to us. I just couldn't help leaving the event...a little underwhelmed. As my sister and I strolled out of the store, we decided to go lounge at the Marriott to debrief our experience.
    Being D23 members that live in Connecticut, this was our first event. Looking back, we probably had unrealistic expectations of how grand this was going to be. It was nice that the president of the Disney Store Company was there and yes it was nice that they had mini bagels the size of my pinky...but I was just expecting something more. After all this time I have been so envious of the D23 events both at Disneyland and at Walt Disney World, maybe I shouldn't have been. It was wonderful to see Jodi Benson spend so much time interacting with guests and castmembers that morning so I guess if you like to collect items that this would've been worth while. It just seemed flat.
    About the store. I hate to say it. We both prefer the 5th avenue set up and overall feeling. I did enjoy the projection technology that seems to be all over the store but the large elements that are in the store such as the castle and the merry go round just looked cheap to me. I enjoyed the grand staircase in the 5th avenue location that would take you up to other areas of the store and almost give you that Disney feeling of being able to get lost in the magic of that store. It had a special discovery feeling to it that just does not exist in this new location. I am not going to harp on the merchandise because it is brought up all the time how it there is barely any adult merchandise and they don't seem to want to change that. I did ask however where the art gallery was in this new concept. No one could answer why it didn't come back. What a shame. Especially in a New York City location, I think it could draw many buyers.

    All in all, I still ended up spending a lot of money on Christmas gifts for my young nieces and nephews but that was it. I don't think it was worth getting up at 4 am to check in at 7:30. There is still no comparison between shopping at Disney World and at the Disney store. I guess that it is really evident to me now that the 5th avenue store was operated by the Parks division of the company and now this Times Square location is operated by the Disney store. Don't get me wrong, I still love the Disney store, but it does not fulfill a Disney fix for me.

    Thanks for the great article!!!

  4. By cbarry

    I would certainly agree that the 5th avenue store was much more grand and very...classic. It fit perfectly on 5th avenue. I loved the staircase as well, especially the Muppet mobile that hung from the ceiling. I can remember walking past that mobile in the Jim Henson Productions headquarters on 67th street when I worked there. It was always so great to see it on 5th ave.

    I can reminisce all day about the old World of Disney, but the fact is...it's gone, and it's not coming back. I like the design of the new store. I think it fits in well with it's surroundings, much like the 5th avenue store fit in with it's surroundings. I'm going to give the Times Square store a chance and see what they have in store for us. I'm hoping they may surprise all of us.

    Thanks for the kind words and for reading.

    Chris

  5. By pmhacker

    I went to the times square Disney store yesterday and was underwhelmed. Basically the same old stuff sold at all the Disney stores. Also, the store is smaller than 5th avenue store, and not nearly as nice. The huge LED billboard is just awful. Oh well, I've never been a big fan of Disney retail anyway. Even at the parks there are only a few good stores.

  6. By cbarry

    OK, I see I'm the only one standing up for this store, but let's keep an open mind on things. Most importantly the fact that...

    ...it's NOT the 5th Avenue store.

    Times Square is not 5th Avenue in any way shape or form. The whole style of the 5th Avenue Store would not make sense in Times Square and vice versa, thus the giant neon sign. Having worked directly in Times Square during my time at VH1 and having an office window on the third floor looking out onto Broadway I can tell you that the Disney Store fits perfectly where it is, neon sign and all.

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