Over the past 14 months, Disney Store has reinvented itself, opening new “Imagination Park” locations in malls worldwide offering a more inviting environment in which guests of all ages can not only shop, but also be entertained and immersed in the world of Disney. Beyond a the merchandise, these new stores, designed and operated by The Walt Disney Company, have been created with the idea of entertaining those who shop there. And yesterday, roughly 30 minutes from Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, the newest Imagination Park location has opened at the Florida Mall.
Since the first new Disney Store opened in June 2010 at Montebello, Calif., guests have praised the interactivity and decor of the Imagination Park concept. Each morning at these stores begins with a special opening ceremony allowing young guests to help “unlock” the magic at the store for the day. Character meet-and-greets and other special activities are regularly scheduled inside.
In fact, a public grand opening ceremony at the Florida Mall is scheduled for this Saturday, Aug. 27, at 10 a.m., followed by meet-and-greets with Buzz, Woody, and Jesse from 12-4pm in the Center Court near Saks Fifth Avenue. (Disney Store recommends you bring your camera!)
Taking a look inside, guests follow a pixie dust-sprinkled pathway, guiding them through the different themed areas.
Boys and girls are equally welcomed into the store immediately upon entrance, with Disney Princess merchandise to the left (including an elaborate walk-through mirror-lined castle of sorts for trying out Princess outfits) and a Cars-themed Ridemakerz experience to the right.
The new Disney Store designer Princess dolls are on display, with availability trickling out over the next few weeks.
A usual variety of Mickey Mouse and other Disney character merchandise, mostly apparel and plushes, are scattered throughout the store.
There’s an entire wall devoted to Disney’s newest major acquisition, Marvel, featuring Spider-Man, Captain America, and many other characters.
Guests have a chance to buy into one of Disney’s latest crazes, Vinylmation, with plenty available for purchase near the checkout area.
The center of the store features a large video display and play area, where kids of all ages can choose music videos and movie clips while engaging in a variety of activities like coloring. The display is controlled by nearby touch screens, featuring popular Disney artists and film options.
The path that leads guests in also takes them back out of the store. And while I saw many leaving with bags of newly-bought merchandise in hand, I left without making a purchase.
While there are plenty of items for children to be found in Imagination Park Disney Stores like this one, there isn’t much for adults. A few collectibles and T-shirts aside, the merchandise is firmly targeted at a younger audience. It’s a complaint many adult Disney fans have had throughout the multiple variations of the mall Disney Stores over the years. A visit to a Disney theme park offers a seemingly endless supply of adult-oriented merchandise, but these Disney Stores almost exclusively for kids. As a result, it does, however, offer parents a great place to shop for a child and for Orlando locals, a way to buy some of the newest Disney merchandise without having to step foot on Walt Disney World property. The Florida Mall is often crowded, attracting many tourists, but not nearly as much as the stores at Walt Disney World, so shopping at the new Disney Store may prove to be a less trouble-free experience.
Back in June 2010, we spoke with Disney Store general manager Paul Gainer at the grand opening for the newly redesigned Montebello, California location about working with Apple’s retail team to develop the new store concept as well as a few specifics about what’s new inside the style of store, the details of which still apply to this newest location:
The new Disney Store at the Florida Mall won’t remain the closest location of its kind to Walt Disney World forever. Plans call for another similar store to be built at the Mall at Millenia in the coming months. But both locations are sure to thrive in the city that is home to millions of Disney fans.
More photos inside the new Disney Store at the Florida Mall: