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It was a cold grey November morning in New York City.
Photo by Nancy Stadler
And even though people were feeling somewhat discombobulated from the first morning of Daylight Savings Time (Not to mention the fact that the ING New York City Marathon was being held that same day. Which meant that streets were soon to be closed all over the city), D23 members from all over the country still made their way to Times Square. Eager to be among the very first to experience the Company's brand-new flagship Disney Store.
Given that the tickets for this particular Official Disney Fan Club event supposedly sold out in less than 3 hours ... Well, that may explain why people began lining up to get into the store at 6 a.m. And once the doors opened at 7:30, D23 members surged in the store ...
... blowing right those stylized NYC displays that you'll find on the first floor ...
... just so they could then get their hands on those limited edition Vinylmation figures that are only going to be sold at the Times Square store.
Seriously. As soon as Disney Store cast members would place these highly collectible figures on the shelf, D23 members would snatch them up. These folks were also pretty aggressive when it came to buying up the adult trend items that were also on display in the store.
In fact, these members of the Official Disney Fan Club were so determined to make the most of that 20% off discount card that D23 had given them (which was only good for purchases that were on the day of this sneak preview event) ...
... that they sometimes missed some of the wittier touches that the Disney Store designers had deliberately placed in the Times Square flagship store. Take - for example - those numbers that you see on the wooden box which is standing on end next to that old-fashioned projector.
"119" references to the Times Square Disney Store's official grand opening. Which is being held on Tuesday, November 9th.
To be honest, there are witty touches like this throughout the Times Square Disney Store. Like the silhouettes of Peter, Michael, John and Wendy from "Peter Pan." Not to mention Zazu from "The Lion King," the house from "Up" as well as the title character from "Dumbo." All of these flying Disney characters suggesting that you ascend to the second floor ...
... where the real retail magic begins.
As he welcomed D23 members yesterday morning, Jim Fielding- the president of Disney Stores Worldwide - talked about what a huge challenge it had been for the Company to get the Times Square store up out of the ground. How it had taken a solid year of negotiation to finally sign a lease on the old Virgin Megastore. More to the point, he stated that The Walt Disney Company wanted to show that they were serious about being back in the Disney Store business. They wanted to make a statement with the Times Square location.
Jim Fielding, president of Disney Stores Worldwide.Photo by Nancy Stadler
Which is why the designers of this Disney Store flagship actually tore out the fourth floor of the old Virgin Megastore. So that they'd have the room necessary to build a 20-foot-tall interactive Disney Princess Castle ...
... complete with talking magic mirrors as well as a beautiful chandelier.
And who better to help inaugurate this new fairytale-themed retail environment than Miss Jodi Benson, the voice of Disney's Little Mermaid ...
Jodi Benson waits to make her grand entrance.Photo by Nancy Stadler
... who happily signed copies of a special limited-edition stretched canvas of her Disney Princess that had been created for Times Square Disney Store's grand opening.
Jodi Benson signs copies of the Grand Opening Little Mermaid stretched canvas.Photo by Nancy Stadler
And given that most of the D23 members immediately lined up to get Jodi's autograph on their limited-edition stretched canvas ... Well, that's when I decided to check out the Times Square store's many neighborhoods. Including the Marvel section ...
According to what Fielding told me, the Times Square Disney Store is the first in the chain to have a dedicated Marvel section. But it won't be the last. As the Mouse moves forward with its plans to open 30 - 40 of these newly designed Disney Stores (eventually topping out at 225 stores in North America), each will feature a Marvel section, along with more flexible areas that will support the Studio's latest releases. Like "TRON Legacy" ...
... and "Tangled."
As well as on-going Disney Channel & Disney XD series like "Phineas & Ferb."
But - to be honest - what impressed me about the Times Square Disney Store wasn't so much its magical forest of ever-changing plexi-glass trees ...
... But - rather - those little touches that only a Disney die-hard would get. Like the silhouette of Professor Ned Brainard's Flubber-powered Model-T weaving its way through the city's skyscrapers.
All too soon, an announcement came over the store's PA that it was almost time for D23's sneak preview event to end.
So there was just enough time to get a few more photographs ...
Jim Fielding and Jodi Benson with the new singing LittleMermaid Disney Princess doll. Photo by Nancy Stadler
... and make a few more purchases ...
... before the general public then had to be let in so that this store could continue with its soft opening phase. More importantly, so that the 250 cast members who now work at the Times Square Disney Store could then get used to dealing with the crowds that come surging into this shop (Which has really proven to be something of a challenge. Given that -- in the three days that the Times Square Disney Store has been in soft opening mode -- they actually had to extend the store's operating hours on all three days from midnight to 1a.m. to accommodate the tourists, families and NYC locals that have come out, eager to check out this new addition to Times Square).
Now what was kind of cute was that - at the very moment that the Times Square Disney Store officially opened to the public - a young boy (whose family Jim Fielding had personally chosen through his DisneyStorePrez Twitter feed) was handed this ginormous key ...
... so that he could then unlock the imagination of this brand-new establishment. And to commemorate his part in this magical ceremony (which concluded with faux fireworks lighting up the store's ceiling), this boy was then presented with a miniature version of the enormous key he had just wielded.
As D23 members headed back downstairs, they then passed under this giant image of Mickey & Minnie which said ...
... "Thanks for sharing the Magic with us!"
Which was rather appropriate. Given this event was a pretty magical way to get introduced to the Disney Store's new flagship.
FYI: As I mentioned earlier in this article, the Times Square Disney Store will be having its Grand Opening on Tuesday, November 9th. And provided that the rain & the snow that's lashing the East Coast right now lifts by Tuesday morning ... Well, I'm told that the Mouse has something really special in the works for the official opening of its new flagship store. Which is why JHM is headed back down to NYC on Tuesday to cover that event. So look for that story on Wednesday or thereabouts, okay?
November 11 is not a Tuesday. Is the store opening on Tuesday 11/9 or Thursday 11/11?
It all looks amazing except for the Marvel section. Completely kills the Disney feeling in my opinion. Marvel is yet ugly intrusion into the Disney legacy. Sad. How I wish a person with taste and an artistic instinct would take over the Disney company. Accountants have been running it and ruining it for too many years.
But the good news is that the rest of the store is truly enchanting.
Great coverage with one correction. The event was not sold out in 3 hours, but in one minute! I know because I was one of the lucky ones to get tickets in that first minute (that's me in the third picture from the top on the right wearing my Disney Store shirt from the opening of the original store in 1996). The store is truly a must visit when you come to New York. Thanks for the coverage Jim.
I do NOT like the intrusion of Marvel Comics into my magical, Disney world. Spiderman does not belong alongside of Cinderella. However, the rest of the store was amazing.
Why are Spiderman and Wolverine "ugly intrusions" but Mr. Incredible is okay?
Mr. Incredible is part of the Disney family. Yes, he is a Pixar character but Pixar's stories and characters are based on the same Disney traditions that we all know and love. Spiderman and Wolverine are not. Marvel is a completely different universe that doesn't fit in with the Disney family. Disney may own it, but that does not make it Disney.