SNEAK PEEK: Imagination Flourishes at Disney Store in Times Square, Re-Opening May 27

He almost (?) wasn’t kidding, when one follower on Twitter proclaimed me virtually homeless when I first announced the full closure of the Disney Store in New York City’s Times Square in the wake of a remodel just six months after the store first opened. So naturally when I was offered the opportunity to peek inside the store a day before it’s set to re-open to the public, I leaped at the chance.

One of a handful of media invited to tour the new changes, not only did I get a first hand look at what’s new at the store, but also received a preview of exciting new lines of merchandise and Disney Store-sponsored events to come.

Many of the changes are — shall we just say — not subtle. Guests who would often complain that the store had a crowded feel from the moment they stepped inside may be relieved to notice that much of the merchandise displays placed front and center are now gone, opening up the space just a bit. The second major alteration to the store’s layout is the first floor has now adopted the ‘Imagination Park’ model. While it’s here that you’ll still find the New York City-exclusive merchandise, Disney Couture, Bloc28, Vinylmation and the like, the floor now sports a pixie trail and trees have taken root. No longer is the first floor a virtual separate store from the second level, but the two are now tightly integrated. Sketches of characters along the wall borders have been replaced with the iconic ‘Imagination Park’ scenes which feature Disney toons frolicking amongst buildings and scenery specific to each of the store’s locations. Pinocchio watches kites (and Dumbo) fly by the carousel in Central Park while Duchess from The Aristocats takes her kittens for a stroll in the park. And, perhaps making her Imagination Park debut, there’s Rapunzel swinging away next to Bambi and Snow White.

Many of the other changes on the first floor would otherwise be non-extraordinary, mostly of the typical inventory placement cycle variety, but for the fact that guest services, a.k.a. the registers, have been moved from below the escalator to the rear of the floor. It’s also quite worth noting that the wall behind the cast members behind the registers now features the ‘Imagination Park’ key, the oversized prop used to physically and symbolically unlock your imagination each morning as part of the store’s opening ceremony. I was told featuring the key is part of the 2011 design subset of the ‘Imagination Park’ model and will not only be a key element moving forward, but will retroactively be added to all prior remodeled stores.

The last major change to the first floor actually finds itself sandwiched in the middle of both floors — the escalator. Realizing what a long, non-eventful ride it is to the second floor, Disney Store has re-imagined the journey, once again replacing character sketches with the ‘Imagination Park’ concept. At random intervals, magical moments occur in which Disney characters and film-inspired moments join guests for the ride. Music specific to the projected images plays in sync as well, as evidenced by the following samples we were shown which feature the floating lanterns from Tangled, Tinker Bell, a bouncing Tigger (my personal favorite) and Winnie the Pooh:

For the record, the second floor of the store remains unchanged. As unchanged as an ‘Imagination Park’ style Disney Store can be that is. And here is where we get into some of the new elements being added to the ‘Imagination Park’ stores as of Friday.

Those guests who have already experienced the ‘Imagination Park’ Disney Store concept are no doubt familiar with the magic mirror in which the wave of select Disney Princess merchandise will instantly transform an ordinary mirror into a visit with Cinderella, Ariel or Tiana. After much anticipation, guests will now have the option to visit with Rapunzel. There will be five different encounters with Rapunzel, one of which is shown here (apologies for video being sideways):

A new magical moment is also being introduced tomorrow: the Buzz Lightyear Flyover in which Buzz Lightyear falls with style around the store’s borders:

Beginning Tuesday, May 31, all Disney Stores that carry Disney Vinylmation (except the outlets) will begin trading, as is already offered at the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resorts. Trading will be open, meaning three figures will be placed in a lucite casing and placed at the various registers and guests will be allowed to trade one of their own Vinylmation figures for one on display.

We were also given the lowdown on Disney Store’s in-store events for June. In honor of Disney/Pixar’s Cars 2 (June 24, 2011), each Saturday will play host to an event themed to Lightning McQueen’s tour around the world, focusing on a different country each week. Free passports will be offered to get stamped week to week. More information on the Cars 2 in-store events can be found here.

The tour of the newly remodeled store was pixie dusted with news of new merchandise and endeavours by Disney Store as well. Following hotly on the heels of the new Kidada for Disney collection (whose display has been relocated and expanded to the first floor — and yes, the limited edition vinylmation is still available), Disney Store is launching its new line of fragrances on Friday, beginning with (naturally) ‘Imagination.’ The collection consists of a scented candle (with which we were all gifted), room spray, hand wash and hand and body lotion. So what does ‘imagination’ smell like you ask? According to Disney Store, it smells like ‘an enchanted forest of sequoia trees, cool moss and green leaves.’ We were told that the next scent to be introduced will be ‘Magic,’ followed by ‘Imagination Winter,’ but we wouldn’t be surprised to some day find others such as ‘Pixie Dust,’ ‘Fantasy’ and ‘Wonder.’ Guests to each ‘Imagination Park’ style store will be greeted with the scent of the season as well as have the opportunity to sample each scent prior to purchase.

Another new item going on sale tomorrow worth noting is the highly anticipated POP! Vinyl collection by Funko. You can read more about them and see images of the entire first series here.

Below, please enjoy our gallery of images from today’s tour where you can click on any of the thumbnails to view a larger version.

Disney Store Times Square will re-open to the public at 10 am on Friday, May 27. The first 500 guests will receive a free gift and the celebration continues from 11 am through 1 pm with games and additional giveaways.

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