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Disney Stores Relaunched … Brought to You By Your Friendly Apple Store Designers!

The Walt Disney Co. opened the first of its 300 planned revamped Disney Stores this week at The Shops at Montebello complex in Montebello, California. As first announced in October of last year, Disney planned to overhaul its retail chain with the help of Steve Jobs and his team behind the Apple store. The company sought to turn their stores into interactive community playgrounds, even considering re-branding the Disney Store as “Imagination Park.”

What did Steve do? According to the NYT, he provided Disney execs with “access to proprietary information” about the Apple stores’ development and operation and an up-close tour of Apple’s research operation in Cupertino, California? Andy Mooney, chairman of Disney Consumer Products, said: “Dream bigger — that was Steve’s message.”

So how was that reflected in the newly opened 4,800-plus square foot Montebello store?

  • The Pixar RIDEMAKERZ area, which allows people to assemble and accessorize their favorite Cars character (why they chose Cars, though–the sole Pixar movie I didn’t like–is beyond me).
  • An interactive Disney Princess Castle with a “magic mirror,” in which a Disney princess can be summoned to tell children wearing crowns or holding wands stories.
  • Employees will carry miniature receipt printers for mobile checkout.
  • In the vein of Apple’s lecture spaces–the chain will offer a communal “theater” pre-loaded with classic and new Disney entertainment, previews, music videos, and more.
  • Touchscreen kiosks are also placed around the store which allow customers to browse Disney Store news and products, as well as a 3-D view of the entire store, and share them online via Twitter, Facebook, or the ancient mode of e-mail.

Due to mounting costs and the exit of key executives, Disney licensed most of its stores to other companies in 2004, though they later repurchased about 220 locations in 2008, closing the other hundred locations in the process. So this is an ambitious move on Disney’s part to remain relevant. The Apple mark is evident, with their new emphasis on interactivity and mobility.

20 more stores are expected to launch this year, including in Chicago, Dallas, Tampa, San Diego, San Francisco, and a two-story Time Square location scheduled for November. This development is much welcomed: Identical rows of products sitting still on shelves just doesn’t cut it in the 21st century!

(h/t Bleeding Cool; title image via Business Wire)

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