Sunday, July 25, 2010

They're Bringing Magic Back...

I can remember being a teenager and going to the Disney Store. Beautifully decorated and appointed, with Disney theming right down to the display cases. Our store even had a travel desk where we could get all the latest news and information form the parks, or maybe even book our next trip. The Disney Store of my youth was a special, magical place that I could escape into for just a bit to reclaim my calm, to feel like I was at home between vacations. With mountains of plush, collectible art, home decor, clothes, and toys walking into the Disney Store always brought some new magic into my life. But after a number of executive departures in early part of the decade something went wrong, and the magic started to fade. It was like they had dared to say they don’t believe in fairies. Then Disney did the unthinkable, and converted it’s stores to licensed operation.

Like many consumers and Disneyfiles, the lackluster mass marketed Disney Stores as owned by The Children’s Place left me cold. From 2004 - 2008 the quality and variety of merchandise in the stores was less and less. At last we were left with a nondescript toy store without any magic. The store in Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg, IL might have well been Walmart, with it’s stark white walls and hastily built shelving. Many in the fan community were excited to hear in 2008 that The Walt Disney Company would be repurchasing the Disney Store chain. However, when they suddenly closed nearly 100 stores across the country by the end of the summer (including mine in Rockford, IL) the Disney faithful who frequented them only saw more doom and gloom.

These fallow times saddened me to the point that I stopped going to the Disney Store unless I had a specific item that I wanted to purchase. When I did, it was in and out, because the items on the shelf didn’t draw me, the cast members didn’t welcome me, and there was no reason at all to linger. Because I save for my vacation on Disney Gift Cards (only because the Disney Store stopped selling Disney Dollars) I’ve been in and out of the Schaumburg Store numerous times since fall 2008 and it’s never felt like home as it did once before.

Recently I’ve been following the Disney Store tweets on Twitter, as well as those of Disney Store President Jim Fielding. As an Apple fan I was intrigued by the announcement in November of 2009 that there would be a gigantic “re-launch” of the Disney Store, with help from Steve Jobs and looking to the future of interactive displays, as well as looking back at the root of all things Disney. Could it be possible? Would they be able to bring the magic back to this sinking ship of depression? Wether I believed or not (and I had my doubts) the re-launch was coming and all Disney fans could do was wait. On June 29th, 2010 the brand new Disney Store Imagination Park in Montebello, California opened with great success. The new clips and pictures posting to the internet by fans showed an exciting new concept with creativity and magic around every corner. Not only was the store ripe with entertainment for kids, but the merchandise intrigued the adults as well. The long forgotten Disney shoppers that had grown up were delighted again with merchandise for them as well. It’s an exciting new time, and as Imagination Parks begin to open around the world I look forward to the one closest to me in Chicago.

I hadn’t been to the Schaumburg Store since the relaunch in California and wasn’t expecting to see any difference in this small venue. As I walked in to add money to my gift cards, I noticed a change, something just a little different. There was a hint of magic in the air. Merchandise was available to delight the youngest shopper, but there were adult options as well. A purse, a coffee mug, water bottles, and desk supplies. Where had this come from!? Not only did I see displays from the latest movies, but Mickey and Minnie were back. Not only was there a wall of Princesses, but each had a Prince standing next to her. My heart beat a little faster... Vinyalmation? Pins? Something Collectible? Where was a Cast member for me to talk to!? Like an answer from above I turned around to see that smiling face. I asked about the things I desired, and some weren’t available… but the displays had been delivered and were waiting n the back!!! It actually brought tears to my eyes, and I fought to not start sobbing. I was so excited and joyful, like Tinker Bell being brought back to life, could it be that Jim Fielding was really going to deliver the magic?

The cast member and I chatted about plans for her store to be converted into an Imagination Park, though there was no date, I was assured that this was just the beginning. I learned that the Imagination Park being built in Chicago would be an additional store, and the Michigan Avenue location would remain. O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay! My hope has been restored and I look forward with great anticipation to visiting the new State Street store that is scheduled to open sometime in October. You can be assured I’ll do everything I can to be at the opening.

My deepest thanks to Jim Fielding and Steve Jobs in their endeavors with turning the stores around. Now just keep moving forward, and don’t let us down. It shouldn’t just be the “best 30 minutes of a child's day” it should be magic for the adults as well. We grew up in that 80’s Disney generation, you need to keep us coming home.

For all my readers, if you haven’t been into the Disney Store lately, and you live far from the magic of the Parks, it might be worth a visit. Though the change over will occur slowly, it is happening slowly, and quietly the magic is returning...

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  1. I can't wait for the updated stores. I miss the old school Disney Store.

  2. I've certainly noticed a revamp in the stores at Disneyland and California Adventure. The variety of items has totally improved (hence my fav find of the century- the purse! Which I am about half way to my comment quota on before I go buy one to giveaway on my site...)

    8:o) <----can you guess what that is?

  3. I worked in a Disney Store 15 years ago. I loved it. I would have worked for free!

    Then all went downhill. You would go into a store and hear....Aretha Franklin!

    I don't live anywhere near a store now, but I am happy about the possiblities!