Today’s post is brought to you by fellow Disney fan and friend, Jennifer Meyering. Jennifer may be found with other Walt Disney World planning experts at their fan site – Disney Dream Depot. Each week they put on a web chat on Disney topics and share their advice with readers and viewers alike. She was recently chosen by Jim Fielding, the Disney Store President and favorite among Disney twitter fans, to experience a special backstage tour of the brand new Times Square Disney Store before its official grand opening. I asked Jen to share her family’s experience here with us – be sure to watch the accompanying slide show with pictures from the event! Enjoy!
I recently had one of the most amazing experiences I could have ever imagined– a Behind-the-Scenes look of the new Times Square Disney Store! I was able to have this wonderful experience courtesy of the Disney Store President (Jim Fielding) and a contest he had on Twitter. I won entrance into the very limited space D23 event at the new Disney store on November 7.
The event was a pre-opening behind-the-scenes look of the new store that included a continental breakfast, remarks by Jim Fielding, and the chance to meet Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid. It was everything, and more, that you would expect.
We arrived at the store about 7:20 in the morning. Check-in started at 7:30- luckily we were able to wait in the small lobby of the store, and not outside. Promptly at 7:30, they opened the doors, checked our names off of a list, and gave us wristbands. We were then able to explore the lower floor of the 2-story store. We later learned that 70-80% of the merchandise on the first floor is exclusive to this store. We made a bee-line for the special vinyls- we got the Statue of Liberty 3” vinyl, one 9” Taxi vinyl, and one 9”graffiti vinyl.
What stands out the most about the shopping experience was how helpful the Cast Members were- it was like having a personal shopper in the Disney Store. They were getting merchandise for you, escorting places, carrying bags… Really- could it get any better than that??? We also picked up one of the limited edition prints of Ariel that were created just for this event.
At 8:00 we were allowed to go upstairs into the “Imagination Park” section of the store. My first thought upon going upstairs was simply “Wow”. There was a ton of merchandise, but the store had a nice wide-open feel. All above were cute murals of various Disney scenes and characters- there was one scene with Peter Pan, Tinkerbell, and the Darling children flying above a London skyline that featured Mary Poppins. There was another section of wall that featured Winnie the Pooh floating above a scene from Alice in Wonderland.
There were different sections of merchandise- a whole wall for Tangled, an entire alcove devoted to Marvel Superheroes, and sections for Toy Story, Cars (complete with RideMakerz experience), and even Phineas and Ferb.
As we walked around the upstairs, I just went around with my mouth open. We grabbed a little bit of breakfast, and grabbed a spot to listen to Jim Fielding say a few words. I have followed Jim on Twitter for a while (and if you are a Disney fan and not following him at @disneystoreprez- shame on you!!!) and he is an absolute genuine, down-to-earth person.
He spoke about the history of the store and what the expectations of the store are. He also surprised me when he noticed me standing there and called me out as the winner of his Twitter contest. And even more surprising, he did this unprompted and without having met me in person yet- he really does value his Twitter experience.
After Jim spoke, we were introduced to Jodi Benson. At this point, my husband just glazed over and became focused on meeting her. His favorite princess has always been Ariel (I think it’s because of the sea-shells), and he was so excited to get a chance to meet her and have his picture taken with her. She also signed our print that we bought.
After this, we continued to walk around the store and just marvel at everything that was there. One focal point of the second floor of the store is Imagination Theater. This is a small theater section where they have a video screen that plays Disney videos and clips.
What makes this different than other Disney stores is that it’s interactive- using a touch screen, you can select what you want to see. Well, every day, they pick a child to “Unlock Imagination” in the morning. One of the Cast Members that we met was Suzanne, the general manager. She asked Matthew if he wanted to be the child who “Unlocked Imagination”. Matthew jumped on this chance and was beyond excited to be able to do this. The employees made a big deal of walking the huge key out to him and then making an announcement for everyone to come and watch. After Matthew unlocked Imagination, he was able to go in and pick what he wanted to see on the screen (the “Squirrel in my Pants” music video) and then got his own, smaller, replica key.
This was such an unbelievable experience for us all. We were in the store about 2 hours, and barely scratched the surface. The Cast Members are some of the best we have ever met and really represent some of Disney’s best. But I think the whole experience can best be summed up by Matthew’s words as we were leaving- “This was too amazing to be real.”
Many thanks to Jennifer for sharing her wonderful experience with us! Also great thanks to the amazing Jim Fielding for his generosity on and off twitter, and for creating such wonderful memories for the Meyerings and countless other families that will share in the Disney Store magic.