All over the Big Apple, you'll see signs like this:
PHOTO BY JEFF LANGE
Which herald the recent re-opening of the Disney Store on 5th Avenue & 55th Street. That three-story, 24,000 square foot facility that was once the flagship of the entire Disney retail chain.
Well, Mickey may have recently sold off 313 of its North American Disney Stores to the corporation that runs "The Children's Place" retail chain. But the 5th Avenue Store, Mickey hung onto. With the idea that the Walt Disney Company would then re-invent this store as a "World of Disney." You know, one of those ultra-designed Disney super-stores that you find only at the Walt Disney World & Disneyland resorts?
Anyway ... The Mouse actually closed the 5th Avenue Disney Store back on May 13th of this year. With the company pledging to spend the next six months "re-inventing" this retail establishment in order to give it a bold new look.
Well, as I mentioned in yesterday's Muppet article, Jeff Lange and I made a special trip down to New York City this past Sunday just to check out the new "World of Disney" store. And -- to be honest -- Disney's new version of its 5th Avenue store seems to have an awful lot in common with the old version of the 5th Avenue store.
Take -- for example -- the store's entrance.
Those of you who have visited Disney's 5th Avenue facility in the past will no doubt recognize its old brass & copper marquee (Which features statues of Mickey, Minnie & Pluto capering on top of it). The only real change that was made here was the addition of those burnished letters spelling out "World of Disney" just above the store's entrance.
And -- once you enter the "World of Disney" -- that strong feeling of deja vu continues. As you notice that much of the detailing & ornamentation from the store's previous incarnation remains in place. Like this enormous "Snow White" tribute (Please note the apple as well as the upper half of the old peddler woman's face) that decorates the second floor entrance to the store's elevator.
Seeing that so little of the store's physical & decorative layout had seemed to have changed, it was then that I began to grouse. Until Jeff Lange (who is ever the optimist) began to point out all the stuff that had been changed from the previous version of the 5th Avenue Disney Store. Like -- for example -- the clothes.
"Do you realize how long it's been since you could actually buy clothes for adults at a Disney Store, Jim?" Jeff explained. "Not to mention clothes that are exclusive to that particular location." And -- sure enough -- NYC's "World of Disney" did feature display after display of t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets & hats that feature several different types of Disney-in-New-York-based logos.
In addition to its signature lines of clothes, NYC's "World of Disney" also featured a wide variety of souvenir items. Glasses, notebooks, baseballs, pillows, plush. And all of this stuff was also stamped with one or more of that Disney-in-NYC logo.
PHOTO BY JEFF LANGE
Jeff then went on point out some of the non-New-York-based aspects of the "World of Disney" store to me. Like the first floor's new food-themed area. Where discerning NYC shoppers can pick up such edible products like Mickaroni and/or make their own fruit-flavored pixie sticks at the Goofy-themed candy making station.
And -- for all you pet lovers out there -- NYC's "World of Disney" is selling a wide variety of Disney-themed products for your dog & your cat. Me personally, I was kind of surprised to see that the store was selling canine Halloween costumes. Which would actually allow you to dress up your dog as Mickey, Woody, Buzz Lightyear and Goofy. But -- given the number of people who were queuing up to get their picture taken with Cruella De Vil (You know? That statue that used to be located up on the store's third floor?) -- it was clear that there were a lot of dog owners in the "World of Disney" last Sunday afternoon.
Sure, NYC's "World of Disney" had some of the same sort of merchandise that you'd find at every other Disney Store around the country this week. I mean, witness the huge pile of "Incredibles" toys that you'd spy just as you walked in the front door of the 5th Avenue store.
Yeah, you'd expect to see something like that, wouldn't you? But -- then again -- how many Disney Stores also feature displays of the maquettes that Pixar's animators used while they worked on "The Incredibles"?
The new New York store also has something in common with the Anaheim & Orlando versions of the "World of Disney" stores. In that you can purchase theme park exclusive merchandise here. Like the miniature WDW monorail set (Which -- provided that you're willing to shell an additional $25 - $40 per building -- can come equipped with small scale versions of the Contemporary Resort Hotel, the Polynesian, the Grand Flo as well as Spaceship Earth) as well as the ever-popular Disney train sets.
You'll also find another popular exclusive item from Disneyland & Walt Disney World's "World of Disney" store available for purchase at the 5th Avenue store: the Disney-ifyed Mr. Potato Head.
Just as you can do at the Anaheim & Orlando stores, NYC's "World of Disney" invites you to root around in the bins, selecting only the pieces that you want for your very own personal Mr. Potato Head. And -- to make sure that you can turn this toy into a truly memorable souvenir of your trip to the 5th Avenue store -- Disney had Hasbro create several new pieces for Mr. Potato Head that are only available at this store. Like a shopping bag & baseball that are emblazoned with the "World of Disney" logo. Not to mention a subway map that actually shows where the new NYC store is located in the city.
"What's the deal with Jim's pained expression in this photograph? Maybe it's because Mr. Hill just noticed that his head & Mr. Potato Head's body are the exact same shape."PHOTO BY JEFF LANGE.
Of course, if you'd like to get a truly memorable souvenir of the time that you spent shopping at NYC's new "World of Disney" store, maybe you'd better head up to the "Friendship Room" on the third floor of the building?
Here, you & your child can have a pricey ($80 a pop!) but semi-private encounter with one of Disney's princesses in Cinderella's Princess Court. This 60-minute long interactive show makes use of music, storytelling & game-playing in order to teach the Principles involved in being a Princess. (I.E. Grace, Honesty, Intelligence & Thoughtfulness.) It concludes with a coronation ceremony, where Cinderella herself crowns your child (Using the crown that your daughter built herself as part of the festivities).
I know that some of you folks out there may be put off by "Cinderella's Princess Court" 's $80 pricetag. But cast members working at NYC's "World of Disney" store assured me that this new program is proving to be a real hit with the public. That parents are already calling to book the room months in advance as a special birthday treat for their children.
Even so, I couldn't help but feel a little blue as I looked in on the coronation ceremony at the Friendship Room. Why for? Well ... Because I remember when the third floor of the 5th Avenue Disney Store had one of the finest displays of animation art in the country. But all that stuff is gone now. Ripped out to make room for "Cinderella's Princess Court" as well as some computer workstations which now allow you to research & then book your very own Disney vacation.
Maybe it's not really fair to bitch & moan about all the great stuff that used to be on display on the 5th Avenue Disney Store. But -- given that NYC's "World of Disney" has hung onto so many of the decorative features that the flagship store its own distinctive identity -- it's often hard NOT to remember what used to be here. Particularly if you visited the 5th Avenue flagship in its previous incarnation.
But -- that said -- there is still a lot to like about NYC's "World of Disney" store. A New York store that may not actually be as new as Disney's PR staff would like us to believe. But -- even so -- still is worth a look-see if you're a Disneyana fan.
For further information on NYC's "World of Disney" store (I.E. Location, hours of operations, how to book a "Cinderella's Princess Court" for your child), we suggest that you follow this link .