The mouse is back.
After a yearlong absence from Manhattan, Mickey is in the house, residing in the world’s largest Disney Store in Times Square. Opening on Tuesday, the two-level flagship, at 1540 Broadway, between 45th and 46th Streets, is more than 20,000 square feet.
Even the exterior is pumped up with a 2,000-square-foot digital billboard towering six stories. The letter “D” alone weighs more than 400 pounds.
The flagship is the 20th Disney store to launch with the new design this year. “We’re opening 30 new stores next year, and the expansion gets more aggressive after that,” said Molly Adams, vice president of Disney Store North America, a unit of Disney Consumer Products.
In five to seven years, Disney plans to convert its 350 stores worldwide to the new prototype, including 200 units in North America, 100 in Europe and 50 in Japan. “We’re upgrading the real estate portfolio with upscale centers,” Adams said. “We identified 100 top markets. We have existing stores in some of those markets that we’ll remodel. Others are new markets.”
Disney’s first Manhattan store bowed in 1987, and at one time there were more than 600 units selling licensed apparel, stuffed animals and costumes. The stores, operated by Disney’s theme-park division, were losing money. In 2004, the retail locations were sold to The Children’s Place. The Walt Disney Co. reacquired the stores from The Children’s Place in 2008.
A World of Disney unit on 42nd Street and Seventh Avenue closed in 2000, and the company’s crown jewel, on Fifth Avenue at 55th Street, was shuttered in 2009.
The new flagship was two years in the making. “We built a full-size prototype in a Glendale, Calif., warehouse,” Adams said. “It’s all about creating entertainment experiences outside the theme parks.”
The store is divided into neighborhoods that represent a Disney franchise, from “Cars” to “Toy Story” to princesses. A sparkling path that would look like the Yellow Brick Road if it weren’t cobalt blue, is called the “Pixie Dust Trail” and leads to the attractions.
There are lots of interactive bells and whistles. A “Cars” display has an area where kids can build their own “Ridemakerz” car, choosing the chassis, body, wheels, trim, sounds, treads, bumpers, spoilers, tailpipes and paint jobs. The vehicles are assembled at a station with a kid-friendly drill hanging from a pulley.
The Disney theater, a new element, is housed in a gazebo. There’s a table for crafts and story time. Kids choose their own entertainment and music from a video jukebox — two iPhone-like monitors mounted on the wall. There are film clips, music videos and movie trailers. The Marvel area has a tower with a seven-foot circular screen that uses 360-degree technology to play scenes of superheroes. Thirteen-foot Lucite trees found throughout the store have content projected onto them, such as falling leaves.
The two-story princess castle is the pièce de résistance, featuring child-height magic mirrors that conjure up the face of Cinderella, among others, with a wave of a truly magic wand that uses chip-activated technology to deliver a message. There are twirling mannequins and dancing girls inside the castle, which has a gigantic chandelier.
The company decided to have a soft opening on Thursday and work out any kinks over the weekend.
There’s a nod to New York on the first floor, with wood models of landmarks like the Statue of Liberty and Chrysler Building, and a stylized skyline on the walls of the second.