Inside the new prototype Disney Store in Century City, CA

Members of The Disney Blog staff happened to be in Century City Mall this week and they took the opportunity to check out one of the new prototype stores for The Disney Store. Although there are still a few of the original Disney Stores around, most had been converted to a fairy tale forest motif a few years ago. But even those stores will soon be converted to the new look.

The store is about as far away from the original vision of the Disney Store as you can imagine. No longer an extension of the warm family friendly character driven Disney brand with its design, it is stark, focused on technology and interactive features. Even the facade reminds me of an Apple technology store more than something where you would expect magical memories to be made.

Disney does have a plan. It may even make sense, but it is it worth throwing away nearly everything your brand stands for?

“No one creates experiences like Disney and our pilot stores will be testing grounds for interactive features that will differentiate the Disney shopping experience in the changing retail landscape,” said Jimmy Pitaro, Chairman of Disney Consumer Products and Interactive.

Disney stores around the world will also be incorporating more product for guests of all ages, beyond their traditionally child-centric assortment. The new prototype stores and site were designed with dynamic layouts that allow flexibility in featuring the different worlds of Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel as new content comes to market. The look and feel of both shopping destinations is light and contemporary, allowing product and content to shine. In store, digital elements such as giant LED screens were incorporated for custom-designed guest experiences that reflect Disney’s storytelling tradition.

“We are a storytelling company and our vision was to create a retail space that reflected our heritage,” said Gainer. “Our stores are destinations and gathering places for fans of our iconic brands, and are often their closest physical Disney touch point so creating an authentic brand experience is key.”

Cast Members and Characters engage with guests in a variety of interactive experiences such as opening the store each day with a special Welcome Celebration, learning and play activities in the stores’ Play Room as well as personalized celebrations for any guest. The most spectacular experiences take place each afternoon when guests gather to watch the parade stream ‘LIVE from Disney Parks’ and every evening before store closing when a specially created digital fireworks display is shown on the giant storefront screen.

The new Disney store prototypes are now open in Century City, CA., Northridge, CA. and Miami, FL in the US as well as in Nagoya, Japan and Shanghai, China. A store in Munich, Germany is also planned to open (if it hasn’t already).

I will be honest, the cold stern design of the new store is almost completely devoid of the magic that made earlier generations of the Disney Store so unique. Technology is a means to deliver the magic, but it is not the Disney brand itself.

What this means, however, is that the merchandise now has to stand on its own. Disney Consumer Products will have to make sure every piece of merchandise is brilliant and capable of communicating the magic that is the Disney brand on its own.

I believe this is a good thing, if they can pull it off.

What do you think about the new look for the Disney Stores?

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14 thoughts on “Inside the new prototype Disney Store in Century City, CA

  1. Pingback: Disney Store and shopDisney.com kick off holiday shopping season with deals | The Disney Blog

  2. Matt

    From the photos, does not seem representative of the Disney brand, at all. You go to Disney for escapism (whether it be tactile or digital) and story-driven experiences. Why would I want to go to this new space? Why would I want to bring my kids?

    I personally think the current fairytale forest theme is perfect – invites you in and encourages you to stay. It incorporates just the right amount of technology (the “digital” trees, interactive magic mirror, wall projections over city-specific murals, choose your own tv/film clips viewing area, occasional storewide sing-alongs, spinning interactive plush displays, and other more tactile interactive experiences) with a colorful and immersive Disney environment (a path leading through the forest). It’s pretty perfect how it stands right now, as long as all of the original interactive/digital elements are up and working correctly.

    The current stores are a destination space. The new concepts look really, really bland and devoid of the experiential Disney “magic” – not a place that I would search out to find and linger in.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth

    From the picture, it looks like any cheap retail store out there right now with some Disney merchandise thrown in it. There is nothing special about it that would make me or my family want to visit it. We used to love visiting the Disney store as somewhere to feel the Disney magic in between our trips to the parks. The current store layout is nice for a Disney Store and should be left alone. The stores seem to have less and less of what my family looks for from Disney and the new store design is definitely going to make us not want to visit the store anymore. It does not look or feel magical at all which is what the Disney brand is all about. We don’t want it to look like the Apple Store with white walls and fixtures. We want it to look like a Disney store with the characters and environments that make Disney, Disney (which used to be so unique). Very disappointed…

    Reply
  4. Denise Hutchins

    I would be happy to have ANY Disney Store at all. When the recession hit, they closed down the only Disney Store in my area for 100s of miles (Boise, ID). Admittedly, I always felt out of place there because it was tailored extremely for little, little kids (I was a single 20-something back then and they didn’t carry anything I wanted or could use except for plushies). I would especially welcome the new store design since they seem to be trying to cater to a wider audience, including grown women who still feel the magic :) The economy has recovered well and new businesses and franchises are popping up all the time so it’s the perfect opportunity for Disney to make a comeback in this area!

    Reply
  5. Patrick Snyder

    I’m not wow’d by this at all. I worked at a Disney Store in Canton, Ohio from 1992-95. That was an awesome experience – constant guest flow – synergy from all divisions of Disney – character visits frequently that filled the mall. Unique product that was unavailable anywhere else and adult apparel and collectibles. The store in Canton no longer is there, the nearest store is west of Cleveland (about an hour away).

    When I visit stores now there is very little unique to the stores, the product is mostly geared towards children, very little product for adults. The technology in the stores will be quickly outdated or broken and goes unrepaired. (Do I really want to put on VR gear that has been worn by 100’s of other people? YUCK!) Disappointing

    Reply
  6. Tracey Rodell

    Disney is forgetting what made it Disney. It’s not just here, it’s the parks as well as they push the new projects at the expense of the classics.
    Disney used to be about bringing the whole family together for a special event, even if it was just a movie or a trip to The Disney Store for a birthday. Now there is nothing very special about the movies since they release several a year and the Disney stores are only for people with toddlers. I take my teen daughter to Hot Topic for Disney items now.
    Disney sold it’s magic to the masses and it lost much of its appeal in the process.

    Reply
  7. Jeff

    I had to check myself, because I thought it might be April 1st.
    Replacing those fun Disney stores with that generic, white space could only be an April Fool’s prank.
    But it’s November.
    Wow.

    Reply
  8. David Hollingsworth

    Product will sell itself? Any Castmembers on the floor or just waiting at the box office? With the right programming on the computers, the guest wouldn’t need a castmember for those warm wonderful magical Disney family moments. How sterile and cold ……

    Reply
  9. Sharon

    This saddens me to see this change so drastically. My grandsons can’t wait and run into the Disney store and also the only way I can talk them into going to the mall in the first place!!
    What’s wrong with Disney?? Are they not making enough money??

    Reply
  10. Jeff

    I worked at the first Disney Store on the East Coast in Bridgewater, NJ less than a year after opening. There was magic to the store. Animated figures, animated windows, and a general unique theme to each store. Then they got big and there seemed to be one design. Then the galleries opened and they were Wonderful as an extension of the regular store. Then collectibles and adults stuff didn’t fit the direction Disney Consumer Products wanted to go so off went anything “adult” or “collectible”. Recently we have seen collectibles and adult products back in the stores. Hopefully more of these items will be in the stores as if you don’t have kids, you really don’t fit in right now. This new design will get a bad rating from those who frequent them and mark my word, a new design will follow. It’s the Disney way.

    Reply
  11. Joy Appleman

    Sterile, cold, boring and lacking in the ‘fun’ Disney merchandise for all ages. Really miss the older style Disney stores that I never missed a visit in when I went to the mall. Now, I pass on by – don’t have any ‘littles’ to buy for and there’s no longer any ‘Disney’ fun stuff for adults – like kitchen ware, etc. Just close them down Disney – will not even appeal to families with children.

    Reply
  12. David Gunder

    I think the new design SUCKS! What are they thinking? First Disney owned their own stores. Then they sold them to Children’s Place who nearly bankrupted the franchise. Disney reaquired the stores and used 90% of the space to kids. Slowly some adult things reappeared and it looked as if they were on the right path. Now this stupidity comes along. We are lucky to have two stores here near Mesa Az. One is an outlet/clearance store. They carry items from the parks so it is good. The regular store still overloads to kids. The new design will make it feel you need to wear breath masks; it looks too sterile. I hope they realize how stupid it looks and dump the design fast.

    Reply

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