Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What's in Store for You at the New Disney Stores!

Last week, out of the blue, I got an email asking if I would like to come and tour right before the Disney Store's grand opening at Southcenter Mall and cover it on my blog. Hello! You had me at "Disney!"
So for a week now, I have used the threat of missing the "Mickey Mouse-Store Party" as a motivational tool to get her to go to bed on time. "Ohh... if you don't get to bed on time, we might be too tired and miss the party next week! So sad!" PLUS there would be free swag! Win-win!
The only "down-side" was that our pre-opening tour started at 9am. We normally sleep until 9am, so getting up, ready, and there by nine was hard.
To top it all off, I had no idea where the new store was located, and it wasn't yet on the helpful map at the entrance. An employee who was standing outside his store pointed me the right way. It's in the West half of the mall, in one of the short aisles, by an Auntie Anne's Pretzels (kind of between Macy's and the Food Court.)

But we made it! [Just barely!] And I arrived to find a mass of humanity queued into a line filling the courtyard and stretching down the hall. Ughhhhh... As I was asking one of the employees if I'm supposed to get in line, a lady (apparently the one who emailed me) asks if I'm me and waves me in! So long, peons! Mama's in the Big Time now!
Not *quite* as large a crowd as for the iPhone 4. But pretty close.
Some clearly important corporate guy is there and he's just starting the tour as we wheel in (I had her in the umbrella stroller since we can move faster than if she's walking, plus it gives an easily-exhausted pregnant Mama something for support while waddling around.)
And I immediately see how totally outclassed I am by the other invitees. I was dressed in full-on "whatever" regalia, including stained maternity pants that I have to keep hitching up and scraggy old sweater covered in random hairs. Plus my usual plain old ponytail. I felt so out of my element. But the one time I tried to look even the tiniest bit professional (Bloggy Boot Camp,) it turned out my toenails were too hideously long for my sassy open-toe sandals, and my brand-new khaki pants refused to stay zipped. So this time I just went as my normal "slob mom" and hoped for the best! Sadly, my "best" apparently did not include awesome recording devices, video camera, or even a simple notepad for taking notes. I probably would have forgotten my camera too, if it didn't live in my pants pocket!
At least The Princess came prepared! She had initially decided to wear her Belle dress, but had a last-minute change-of-mind and said she wanted to wear her Hello Kitty nightie (that she had slept in.) I counter-offered with a Cinderella dress still packed away, or her Jasmine costume that was in her dress-up bin (really it's a "genie" costume I got on clearance from The Children's Place last year after Halloween for somewhere between $.99 and $3.99. I love their clearance. Plus I had a 20% off coupon!) She chose Jasmine.

The tour started off with him talking about how this store is using the "Imagination Park Design" layout. When Disney was designing these stores, they got down to child-levels to make sure there were things to capture the imagination. Most of the key products are at their eye-level, unlike traditional stores that cater their subliminal advertising towards adults. They even got wheeled around and a slightly reclined angle, like kids in strollers would be, to make sure there were things to gran their attention too! There is a glittery "Pixie Dust Trail" path to follow through the store, and merchandise is grouped by "brand." Cars is all grouped together, Snow White stuff is together, etc. And they have the "boys" stuff (Cars, their new Marvel license, Lion King, Nightmare Before Christmas, etc) grouped on one half of the store, and the "girl" stuff (ahem, Princesses) grouped together on the other side. 
My favorite feature of the new Disney stores is their interactive displays. Once the first blurb of his speech was done, he showed us to a mini castle with a kid-sized door, leading to a "magic mirror." You can grab a wand from any of the Princess displays, wave it in front of the mirror, and the middle one becomes a screen with animation of that Princess. And they even got all the "official" voice actresses to do the voices! (Obviously they have a new Snow White and Aurora, but they got Jody Benson, for example, to do Ariel and Belle again. Although I hear she's a treat to work with and has always come through for voices for those characters for anything Disney cranks out. You'll notice that in extra features on the DVD, or talking toys or whatever, that it's her and not some impostor!)
After the initial shock of a mirror coming alive (all three girls in our group flinched and jumped in shock,) it was a big hit. Z stayed and made some very helpful employee do all the Princess wands with her while I stayed with my group after they moved on.

There is also a big display of stuffed animals, with a tunnel running through the bottom. It has buttons on knobs, and if someone pushes the buttons, it makes wacky cartoon sounds play inside the tunnel. If the large cog knobs are turned, the merry-go-round of plushies at the top rotates too! Super fun!

While the mirror was the highlight of the visit for Z, they were very proud of their huge 10'-across screen with an interactive menu (called the "Imagination Station") where you can put your requests in the queue for clips, music videos, trailers, etc to be played on the big screen. My favorite part was that they can program in your child(ren)'s name(s) to celebrate just about anything. First visit to a Disney Store? Hooray! Your name in lights up on the big screen! Good report card? Potty trained? Birthday? Anything you can think of, and the employees can put up a notice (and cut into the queue) and a big fanfare with sound and lights appears in the TV area, along with your special message on the screen! In front of the screen are little tables and chairs always stocked with crayons and coloring pages, and throughout the day they'll do additional activities, like storytime, how to draw character X sessions, trivia, and more. Always with something to take home.
You can see a bit of the screen behind Z
While my group moved on, the girls got to pick out their own swag. Character masks, bookmarks and stickers!
Guess which mask she chose?
We were ushered back out into the hall for the big key ceremony. The entrance was blocked with  a large lock attached to two velvet ropes. After a speech from the District Manager and Store Manager, three little kiddos came out and helped turn the magic key, which unlocked the velvet ropes so we could all go back in. Hooray!

In my swag bag I got a plush Mickey, a lined journal, and a 20% off coupon!
I asked Z what she would like. Super fancy Princess dress? (There were some really amazing ones.) Doll? Army of plushies? No.
A squishable Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb. For $7.50. Really, kid? REALLY? No sparkly dresses? No $20 shoes? Nope. Perry "gitchigumi." [Her word for those wibbly rubber spiky Koosh-like things.]
I am never getting off this easy at a Disney Store ever again, so I stopped arguing with her. I saved my coupon for a future more-financially-damaging visit.

And a little secret for those of you who love Disney Stores and are still with me here: Each store with this new design has a custom-designed mural with local landmarks incorporated into the design. He pointed out Mount Rainier (with silhouettes of Brother Bear in front,) and a building that used to be the Tukwila Library which is now a museum or something, with Belle and the Beast in front. And keep your eyes peeled. Occasionally, extra graphics are flashed onto the walls at various spots at various times to keep the atmosphere constantly changing!

For anyone local who's interested, on Saturday September 10th, they'll be doing another Opening Ceremony at 10am, and Minnie and Pluto will be there too! (From 12-4 in Center Court of the mall, near Macy's.) And someone told me that the first 500 guests will get a Mickey tote! (Might be just like the one I got. Not sure.)

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like it was a lot of fun! I love the tower of stuffies - my boys both have a big thing for stuffies, and we have about that many! It would make an ice (albeit a bit large...) bedroom display...


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