Tampa’s New Imagination Park Disney Store Reveals Magic For Every Guest

Tampa’s International Plaza and Bay Street mall became the first southern Imagination Park Disney Store to open today, designed with input from Apple’s Steve Jobs. The soft-opening already had a small crowd of people lining up by 9:00am and an hour later, the queue wrapped around the play area in front of the store. The first 250 guests received Disney Store ear hats as we waited. {click to enlarge photos}

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

With no promotion, around 250 guests lined up to see the Disney Store's soft opening at Tampa's International Plaza

Store managers spoke about the Key to Unlock Imagination ceremony, which will happen each and every day. A young guest will be chosen to use the Disney Store key to open the lock and the store each morning.

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

Mouse ears listen intently to the opening announcement in Tampa's International Plaza mall

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

A cast member holds the key to unlock imagination

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

The key to unlock imagination ceremony will take place daily with a lucky child turning the key

By the front entrance, look for the Be Our Guest Board, a constantly changing display which features the store’s daily, weekly and monthly events and any sales, enticing guests to enter as they pass by the store’s windows. Messages also appear telling passers-by to look for The Disney Store on facebook and twitter.

Inside the store, the interactive and magical displays are a bit overwhelming at first glance. Much like visiting the parks at Walt Disney World, you feel like each time you walk inside the new Disney Store, you will discover something new.

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

Magical trees show different projections and interactive display - even changing with the seasons

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

Other tree images include Tink, fireworks and more!

The first thing you notice are the magical trees, which we were told will change their general appearance with the seasons. The vice president speaking to the crowd joked that she wasn’t sure how that was going to play out in Florida, but she’s sure it would still be special. The trees change with various projections from classic and modern Disney movies, special visits from Tinker Bell and other flying Disney characters. If a guest lets a cast member know it’s their birthday, fireworks will appear on the trees in celebration. We were told each projection shown in the trees has a hidden Mickey in it somewhere and that those Mickeys can actually change too. In addition, Tink and her friends Dumbo, Wall-E and more appear on the walls around the store from time to time, so be sure to keep an eye out.

Another of the store’s most anticipated interactive displays is the princess castle with magic mirror inside. When a child walks up to the mirror with any of the special princess merchandise (wands, costumes, etc.) the princess that matches the item will appear in the mirror and speak to the child. Each princess (Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White, or Tiana) has five separate phrases so a child may hear something different each time.

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

Guests enter the castle to experience the magic mirror

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

As tiny guests wave a princess' wand or costume in front of the mirror, that princess appears and speaks to the child - in this case, Ariel

Opposite the castle is a miniature RideMakerz station themed to the DisneyPixar film Cars, where kids can create their own custom toy car. Options and accessories abound, so the combinations for a unique creation are endless.

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

A mini RideMakerz section within the store allows guests to create their own custom car toys

Even the floor sparkles with pixie dust, a feature which my stroller-bound son loved. He was leaning down to get a closer look on our way to the Walt Disney Store Theatre play area. Under a lighted gazebo, a huge display screen shows clips from Disney movies. The touch-screen is kid-height so they can choose which clips they want to see. Today the table was set up with various coloring sheets and crayons but the area will also have animation lessons, trivia and other special events. Touch-screen displays near the checkout also show the store’s calendar of events as you scroll through the months on the screen as well as allowing you to sign up for the store email list.

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

Huge display screen shows clips from Disney movies - kids can select which clips they want to see as they color

The new store features large Phineas and Ferb, Nightmare Before Christmas, Toy Story and Princess merchandise. A large two-sided Vinylmation area spotlights the Have a Laugh, Toy Story 3, Nightmare Before Christmas and 9″ vinyls among others. I saw some great Disney mugs today and of course the usual must-have impulse items by the check out. The Cars play cell phone I picked up saved me in line as my son got restless.

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

2-sided Vinylmation display

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised by the magic on display today. The Disney Store had sadly long become a place of “nah, nothing much here” for my family but I cannot wait to bring them back to the new Imagination Park now. I could spend hours in there just watching and looking around – but the merchandise has also been amped up and I’m sure store sales will reflect that. You can’t help but want to bring home some ofthat magic as you enjoy the imagination all around you.

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

The store is filled with famous or cute Disney sayings on display

The Tampa Bay Disney Store is the one of the first few Imagination Park re-furbs, with the Times Square location opening later this Fall. Eventually, all Disney Stores will receive this treatment as well as a few new locations. The official grand-opening will take place on Saturday, October 9th – with Toy Story 3 characters in attendance, giveaways and more! I was told that 1500 guests are anticipated to show up for the opening, so you may have to line up early to get inside. Today 100 guests at a time were allowed in the store and as guests left, more were allowed to enter. For those visiting Walt Disney World – it’s only a short hour-drive away! 😉

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

The word is out in the rest of International Plaza to seek out the magic

Disney Store Imagination Park Tampa

Adventure awaits!

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About Suzannah Otis

Boston girl living and blogging in Walt Disney World's backyard. Wife, Mom of 3, coffee addict, lover of travel and adventure.