I had the opportunity (OK, so I tricked my husband into taking me to the city for our anniversary) to visit the store on October 10th. We explored this first World of Disney not at a Disney resort top to bottom to give you a first-hand report.
The World of Disney replaces the former 5th Avenue flagship Disney Store. What’s the difference? For starters, World of Disney is operated by Disney Parks and Resorts, not the same company as the Disney Stores, or Disneystore.com or the Disney catalog. This means that you can now buy some of the Walt Disney World/Disneyland park-only merchandise in NYC. Everything from autograph books to photo albums to clothing with the WDW logo. Even Pal Mickey was available! Being part of the Theme Parks division also allows NYC WoD to host character meet & greets and to put on their Cinderella’s Princess Court event for girls.
The store exterior is pretty basic NYC (i.e. concrete and glass), with the addition of Mickey, Minnie and Pluto over the door. The 5th Avenue windows were dedicated to the upcoming release of The Incredibles, with a flat-screen TV that was probably supposed to be showing clips of the movie (not working). The windows down 55th St. were showing princess costumes and advertising the Cinderella event.
Inside, the decor is whimsical and funky, bright and bold, a bit more edgy than the Downtown Disney versions. Yet there are touches of nostalgia and elegance. Snow White gets the royal treatment here, with larger-than-life Snow & Prince fiberglass portraits flanking the elevator, and columns near the escalators detailed like those in the dwarves’ cottage. The store encompasses 3 floors, plus restrooms and guest services on a lower level.
Starting on the ground floor, beginning at the door and going counter-clockwise, the first section of merchandise was from The Incredibles, including clothing, toys, and plush. This area reached to the central cash registers and escalators. To the right was the NYC WoD adult clothing and accessories. Here were NYC logo handbags & minibags, a section of glassware, prints, note cards, and chocolate bars with NY-related Disney designs. Women could get several styles of shirts, from basic logo designs to retro. Men’s offerings were more subdued, with sweatshirts, fleece, and sweaters. There were also some Muppet T-shirts. On the right wall is the Snow White elevator. Beyond that was a section of pins, both NYC WoD and Walt Disney World (they were completely sold out of any NYC WoD logo or Grand Opening pins). Also there was the merchandise themed to NYC WoD featuring Mickey, Minnie, Donald & Goofy. There were plush, magnets, pens, key rings, and t-shirts with Mickey as a policeman, Donald as a firefighter, Goofy as a taxi driver, and Minnie as the Statue of Liberty, all with the NYC WoD logo. The characters are classic pie-eyed and very cute. The plush were especially detailed, with the larger size ones having lights. The t-shirts were packaged in the shrink-wrapped Mickey shape, which was neat, but the quality seemed low.
The next section covered most of the back of the store: princesses and children. The princess merchandise ran from costumes to clothing to home accessories, for little girls and grown up princesses alike. There was a make-your-own-crown station, a bead/charm station, more pins and jewelry (though I saw very few watches). Small sections of baby and toddler clothing rounded out the offerings.
There is a bank of cash registers here as well, backing up the escalators.
Continuing around the store, we found products from the Disney Pets line, some kitchen goods, and then Goofy’s Candy Company. There were both pre-packaged and mix-your-own snack selections, including the brands found at WDW shops (Chip & Dale, Goofy, and Mickey’s candies, plus the Harry London finer chocolates). There also was one of those candy-tube filling devices and a life-size candy-themed Goofy figure for posing with. Goofy stands just inside the main entrance, so we’ve gone full circle.
On the second floor, there was a selection of Disney collectibles, toys and novelties, many of which featured the Walt Disney World logo. Snowglobes, bobbleheads, big figures, candles and photo frames were at the top of the escalator. Past that you enter the main room, which is a riot of gift shop merchandise. Didn’t want to lug that WDW monorail set home from vacation? They’ve got it, and all the accessories. Ran out of memo pads? Got ’em. Want to surprise the kids with autograph books and Pal Mickey before you leave? You can get them here. Plush, scrapbooking and craft kits, toys, and some videos & cd’s are here as well. If you don’t look out the windows at the NYC streets, you could imagine you were in your favorite resort gift shop, or the even the Main Street Emporium.
There also is a Build Your Own Mr. Potato Head® center, with exclusive pieces. For $18.00, you can fill a box with as many pieces as you can cram in and still close the box. I got 29 pieces in mine (without a body, since I have several of those already). The exclusive NYC pieces include a fireman’s and policeman’s hat, Statue of Liberty crown and torch, NYC WoD cap and shopping bag, a pretzel, slice of pizza with Mickey pepperoni, a subway map, and Mickey sunglasses reflecting the Empire State Building.
The decor on the second floor is dominated by the elevator – here it is the evil queen as a hag and you enter under her huge nose. The main room is open to the third floor, allowing for tall displays and windows. There are large bronze-tone figures of Goofy, Donald, and Pete playing sports high on the 5th Avenue wall. The tops of the displays feature posable artists’ figures playing with merchandise. Opposite the elevator is a large video screen, which was difficult to see in the afternoon light. A staircase winds up to the third floor, or you can take the escalator or elevator.
This third floor is where the most of the advertised features of the NYC WoD store are located: Cinderella’s Princess Court, Magical Meetings, the Friendship Room, and the Multi-Media Zone. This is also where I started wondering what happened to truth in advertising. Reading the store’s website or mailer, it sounds like these are several large spaces. In reality, three of them are the same room, which isn’t very large, and the fourth is hard-pressed to provide the ‘hours of interactive fun’ the website claims.
Cinderella’s Princess Court is an $80 ($75 if booked online) event for girls aged 5 – 10. For one hour, up to thirty little princesses get to make their own crowns, hear stories and songs, play games and activities all hosted by Lady Seraphina, and then participate in the ‘induction ceremony’ where Cinderella appears to makes them part of her court. Parents get a beeper to know when to return to share in the induction ceremony in the Friendship Room (only one adult is allowed in per girl due to fire laws). Each Princess will receive a Disney “Build A Crown” with 4 colored jewels and an exclusive Cinderella centerpiece, a pair of lace gloves, a special “Thank You” card with Princess stickers, $10 in Disney Dollars, and a photo of the Princess with Cinderella.
It would seem like 5-to-10 year old girls is a very narrow market, but given the success of American Girl Place, which is just 6 blocks away and caters to the same demographic, they may do well. I noticed many girls with American Girl Place pins and shopping bags wandering the World of Disney store with their mothers in tow.
The Friendship Room, when Cinderella’s Princess Court is not in session, is also where you can meet select Disney characters. Very select. As in 2 characters: Lilo & Stitch are there until November 18th, 4 times a day (3 on Sunday). Photos are available, of course, at a premium price ($15.95 for a single 5×6″, $49.95 for a package). After that, Santa Goofy will be visiting with Chip & Dale until January 3rd.
The Multi-media Zone is a fairly small nook by the staircase. It has one round display of Disney books (sorry, not Lou’s), three CD listening stations (one wasn’t working, and they are right on the edge of the balcony, so I had difficulty hearing the speaker overhead playing my selection over the noise coming up from the second floor), 4 video game stations – two Game Boy Advance, two Play Station-type, and a few DVD/Video preview stations where you could scan the barcode on a video and watch a clip. Not exactly ‘hours’ of entertainment here. There was some sort of mirrored display rack (more books? cels?) on the way into the Multi-Media Zone, but it was empty.
Filling in the remaining space on the balcony were some computers that were available for vacation planning or ordering from Disneystore.com (even though they are not related companies, as mentioned before). Most of them were not working properly. There were no cast members stationed to assist with them either, though there were 4 or more at the cash registers with nothing to do.
All told we spent about 2 hours in the store, the first exploring and taking photos, the second actually shopping. A couple of other things were discovered while shopping, not particularly good.
First, there were very few cast members on the floor to assist guests. I encountered two, total, and both were tidying the pin and charm displays. They answered questions, but one of them didn’t stop what she was doing to even look at us. The other was more helpful, but not well informed about merchandise in her department.
Second, as we started looking for specific merchandise, we discovered some very strange product placement. In the Princess section, lying on a shelf we found a single Tinkerbell Door Bell Pillow (plush thing that hangs on a door knob, push a button and it rings) that we had seen on the internet but been unable to find for my daughter while we were at WDW. It didn’t work. And it was the only one in the store. The cast members weren’t even sure how it got there. Hmm. The other item I wanted was a pair of Mickey sunglasses to replace a pair that broke. My sharp-eyed husband found them – on the bottom two feet of a column display that faced the cash registers. I don’t know too many toddlers who would be buying adult sunglasses, but that is where they were displayed, below post cards. Finally, as I was paying for my purchases, I spotted a knot (literally) of men’s ties on the counter behind the cash registers. They had exactly 6 ties, and that was where they were supposed to be displayed (neatly, I would assume). These experiences gave me the feeling of outlet store rather than new store.
All told, I spent about $180 dollars in two hours, and got my Disney fix an hour away from home. I’m sure I’ll be back, but for the shopping, not the experience.
The NYC World of Disney is located at 711 5th Avenue (5th and 55th Street), Manhattan. Hours are Monday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Phone is 212-702-0702. Cinderella’s Princess Court Reservations may be made at 212-702-0704 or online at www.WorldofDisney.com.