Disney requires no introduction, though its Times Square flagship store may. The successor to the former World of Disney on 5th Avenue is a spectacle on Broadway, mixing Disney park immersion with New York density.
Disney’s heritage of themed environments is unparalleled and this store is a worthy installment in their collection. The extremely tall spaces are well-used, with towering displays providing an exciting context to a fairly mundane collection of gifts.
These trees are everywhere across the two floors of the store and offer a nice pop of motion and detail. Tree patterns are projected on each one, complemented by surprising and subtle animations. Sadly, the store is too bright for the effects to make an impact to a guest that is not otherwise paying attention.
Disney has made exceptional use of their escalators, theming them to recall the paper lanterns from Tangled. There are physical lanterns dangling overhead with more painted on the walls. Look carefully and you might spot another projection or three on these walls, as various Disney characters float around.
This is also the best place to hear the store’s soundtrack, a tasteful mix of well-known Disney songs (the Frozen soundtrack has been enjoying heavy rotation) and lush, lesser-known instrumental tracks that I can only describe as “Disney music.”
The upper level differs from the ground floor in its less-conventional layout. Upstairs there are a number of landmarks and destinations that encourage wandering, all joined together by this glittery path.
This castle is the grand set piece of the second floor, serving as a “weenie” on the deepest wall. Much like the castles at many Disney parks, this installation draws guests deeper into the store. It’s a popular photo op but it also encloses the stores formidable princess collection.
Disney has imagined, licensed, and acquired a great number of universes over its long life of entertainment, and they don’t always mesh. A number of walls are dedicated to isolated displays which feature wide ranges of products not found elsewhere in the store. As the store is so close to Broadway, there is also a set of shelves promoting the Disney musicals currently on stage.
Being the only Disney store in New York City means an opportunity to mark a destination within a destination. Lots of classic characters are employed in designs for tourist-friendly souvenirs.
The ceilings throughout the store are remarkably high. The top portion of every wall on both floors is dedicated to this clever, subtle design, featuring famous figures from the Disney canon in silhouette against a purple sky. Here again there are lots of surprise projections, skillfully animated and matching the art style.
The displays tend to be grouped around certain themes, the free-standing shelving units tend to feature smaller collections for newly-popular properties, while larger sections are organized by product category and lay claim to a wider assortment of classic characters.
Every surface not dedicated to a particular theme is packed full of plush. Stuffed dolls have been a staple of Disney retail for decades and this store is positively littered with them. At least they’re cute.
After leaving the Disney store, look back! The store’s facade is made of numerous tiles screens which pulse and animated in sync, complimenting the enormous screen looming above them. Even among the unceasing bustle of Times Square, Disney’s artful detail is something worth watching.