The upcoming makeover of Disney’s high street Disney Stores at the hand of Steve Jobs has the news feeds buzzing. Disney’s going high tech?
As the The New York Times notes, the stores are getting a “floor to ceiling reboot” with the intention of getting people keen to walk into them, and lingering longer while in there. It’s all with the hope of pushing revenues up. Sounds a bit like an Apple Store, with tempting entrances, bright light, sleek design, rows of shiny gadgets on display and lots of hands-on? No surprise, then, that Steve Jobs was asked to help during the development of the reboot, and though he didn’t have direct control, he pushed for Disney to “dream bigger.” Jobs provided access to internal Apple documents on how its crazily-successful Apple Stores operate, made Disney build a fully-stocked prototype store to test out its ideas, and added “Pixar-esque winks and nods.”
Soon, when you enter a Disney Store–possibly under the new name of Imagination Park–you’ll see employees with mobile sales equipment walking around, video, sound and scent-ejecting interactive tree-like structures and interactive kiosks for parents to browse while their kids roam the store. There may even be a new flagship store in Times Square (though we don’t yet know if it’ll be inside a giant glass cube like Apple’s 5th Ave. store). It all sounds much more promising than a boring refurbishment, but with a bold move like this, there’s scope for big mistakes too. Here are three things we really don’t want to see, and one we definitely do:
Genius, nay Disneyus Bars
Entering a Disney Store is already a rattling experience for parents, partly due to the audio-visual assault of all those garish colors, video screens and screaming kids excited to the point of vomiting over their Princess Jasmine dress-up outfit. What a visit to the stores doesn’t need is an overload of Disney geekness.
Who wants to listen to conversations like this: “Hello. I’ve got a question: Why doesn’t Aladin just fly away and escape on the magic carpet?” or “We did Quasimodo in class, and he died. Why is your film wrong?” or “Why doesn’t my Tinkerbell doll fly?” The ensuing debates would quickly get tiresome, and be far less rewarding than getting an Apple Genius to reboot your MacBook.
Anything too EPCOT-esque
Trending towards a high-tech Disney Store makeover may have tempted Disney’s folks to look at their own vision of the future, EPCOT. This absolutely must not happen.
Because…well…EPCOT kinda sucks, doesn’t it? It’s strangely dated, like how all those 1950’s b-movies now look with their visions of the “dazzling future in 1991.” Imagine a Disney Store “Carousel of Progress”? Ew. Sponsorship of special-theme sections would need to be managed very carefully by Disney in a store context–EPCOT’s choice of Exxon and Nestlé must’ve been regretted later. And around-the-world style segments in a Disney Store would just be an epic fail, thanks to their faux-realism, when the Disney Stores are actually sited around the World. As Eddie Izzard puts it even the famous Disney castle ran into trouble in Europe, because we’ve got real castles over here.
The mini theater-like spaces Apple runs in some of its stores sometimes play host to some darn useful classes on how to use Apple gear, and occasionally act as venues for some tech-motivated entertainment. Disney should just leave this concept alone. Because, as parents, we really don’t want Disney teaching our kids crap while we’re out on a family shopping trip.
It’s one thing to learn how to get the most out of Garage Band from an Apple-using music professional, and maybe that would translate into a young gamer giving a Disney seminar on how to get past the tricky bits in level three of Up on the PlayStation. But it’s a different thing to let Disney spout some of its weirdly unreal pseudo-moralistic nonsense into our kids ears in an educational-ish setting. That’s best done at home, where explaining exactly why it’s okay that Simba’s dad died is less traumatic.
A Proper Coffee Bar
Something that’s often disappointing when you walk into an Apple Store is that there’s nowhere to grab a coffee–there’s something about the feel of the shop that makes one want to sit and peruse with a cuppa joe. But in a Disney Store? Perfect. Imagine it–sitting there having a soothing drink, after telling little Joe Junior to go have fun with all the cuddly toys. You get to put your feet up, your kids get to roam a little freely, under the stewardship of roaming kid-friendly Disney employees.
It’d work financially too–after that kind of chilled-out shopping experience, you may even be tempted to succumb to Joe Jr.’s desperate please to buy the giant Sully, or the wind-up Wall-E that he so desperately wants.