At D23 Expo in 2009, Disney Store President Jim Fielding regaled an eager audience with his tale of the Disney Store. From its humble beginnings to the next chapter in the Disney retail experience. Dubbed ‘Imagination Park,’ Fielding briefly touched upon what he defined as being ‘the best thirty minutes of a child’s day.’
Today, Disney Store turned to the first page of the new chapter as they unveiled ‘Imagination Park’ to the world via its Montebello, CA location, just outside Los Angeles and it’s every bit of wow that one had come to expect from the hype. Eventually all the Disney Stores are expected to adopt the new look and philosophy of Imagination Park, but — for now — 20 locations are expected to receive the update this year, including new stores in New York’s Times Square and San Francisco’s Union Square, amongst others.
With a new store design comes a new costume for Disney Store cast members and Imagination Park is no exception. The new Disney Store cast member costume is a gingham blue checkerboard shirt with khakis. Cast member name badges have also been modified, this time to include the individual cast member’s favorite Disney character.
We had already known about the castle which features a special mirror: when children hold special Disney Princess merchandise with an embedded RFID chip in the packaging, they are instantly greeted by Ariel, Aurora, Cinderella, Snow White or Tiana who appears in the mirror right before their very eyes — as if by magic.
But if you’re thinking Imagination Park is neglecting the boys, think again! Because right here in Imagination Park is a small RIDEMAKERZ station. The very same custom-R/C car store that has already set up shop at Downtown Disney at both the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts has found a home in Imagination Park. But what sets this particular RIDEMAKERZ apart is that it offers vehicles and accessories based on Disney/Pixar’s CARS, which are exclusive to the Montebello store.
Virtually everything Fielding has talked about in Imagination Park can be found here. A large custom screen housed inside a gazebo allows children to pick and choose the multimedia presented to them and provides other exciting opportunities to take advantage of the new technology.
Another Imagination Park element talked about is the ability to add a little scent to the air, such as pine trees if A Christmas Carol was playing in the store. Although it’s not quite there yet, the ability to scent the air is there and it does just that about every 20 minutes or so with the single scent currently available. And what’s a park without trees? Or more precisely, what’s an Imagination Park without magical trees? These treescan interact with guests and provide special experiences you’ll have to see to believe such as creating displays of virtual fireworks to celebrate special occasions.
One thing that’s missing that had been discussed is something called ‘mobile checkout’ — the ability for Cast Members on the floor to check out guests on the spot without having to wait on line at registers. Although it’s not available at the present time, we hear it may not be far behind.
And the magic doesn’t stop at just the experiences, we also encountered some additional surprises in way of inventory. For example, while they’re not even available in the parks as of yet, the Montebello Disney Store is selling Toy Story and Have a Laugh Vinylmations.
The Disney Store at the Shops at Montebello opened today as part of a soft opening with a grand opening planned for June 29. Today, the first 500 guests received a special gift (Mickey ears) while on June 29, there will be a formal grand opening of the store with Disney execs and characters appearing throughout the day in addition to the other festivities.
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All photos by Kelly Noble for Stitch Kingdom. All rights reserved.