The Changing Face of Downtown Disney – Part Two

A few weeks ago, I wrote about some of the changes coming to Downtown Disney at the Disneyland Resort. At the time, these involved some stores closing to make way for new opportunities like the Star Wars VR experience expected to open in the coming months, as well as the planned opening of Splitsville restaurant and bowling alley.

While these were anticipated additions to the entertainment options in Downtown Disney (as Splitsville was announced as a venue for live performing acts as well), a major announcement from Disney this past week about Resort expansion will be changing the future of this area and removing other entertainment locations permanently.

The Walt Disney Company has revealed that a new luxury hotel will be built on the current west end of Downtown Disney just past the monorail station and in front of the Disneyland Hotel. Construction will begin by next spring. As a result, everything in between will be removed, including the AMC Theater, The ESPN Zone, The Rainforest Café and the Earl of Sandwich restaurants. It potentially also would lead to the closure of the Disney Vacation Club storefront along with the second Downtown Disney Starbucks location. It is, however, unclear if the current location of the Disney Pin Traders store just past the monorail stop will remain.

While much outrage was aimed at the potential loss of the wonderful Earl of Sandwich quick service location (count me in as one more voice desperately hoping they will be relocated elsewhere on property! The Earl serves great food at a great price point and would be sorely missed!), I want to focus for today on the impending removal of four entertainment locations. Continue reading

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The Changing Face of Downtown Disney

While not a complete cosmetic and thematic overhaul in the vein of Disney Springs in Orlando, in the coming weeks, Downtown Disney in Anaheim is going to be getting quite a makeover!

Half a dozen stores will be closing, while two new entertainment venues will be opening up.

And it’s all supposed to happen in time for the holidays!

Build-A-Bear Workshop, Chapel Hats and Ridemakerz will all be gone soon.

Originally all of the following stores were scheduled to close by September 24th:

Build-A-Bear Workshop

Chapel Hats

Ridemakerz

Vault 28

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Anna & Elsa’s Boutique

Build-A-Bear, you’ll be missed!

However, I’ve heard that Build-A-Bear may now stay open until or through the holidays. I’m glad as this terrific store features some unique location-specific Disney builds and accessories that are only available here. Personally, I wish this store could stay as I think it provides some great merchandise as souvenirs of a Disney visit, but that’s “progress” for ya! Continue reading

One Hour at D23 Expo 2017 – Part Two: Everything Else on the Expo Floor

Last week I explained that I unexpectedly wound up being able to spend one hour of one day visiting the D23 Expo 2017. While there I saw several terrific costume displays, but I also saw other wonderful random things at various booths. So today I’m going to share with you some of the other sights from my brief exploration of the Expo floor that day.

For example – a picture of Dory and Nemo created entirely out of Jelly Bellys at the candymakers’ booth!

This picture of Dory and Nemo made from Jelly Bellys was still a work in progress when I visited their booth!

I also watched folks interact with this 10 foot tall Spider-Man at the Sphero booth!

There was some beautiful artwork to be found at the Walt Disney Family Museum booth as they promoted their current exhibit featuring the tremendously talented Disney artist Eyvind Earle. Continue reading

Harveys Alice in Wonderland Collection Release

Part of the line waiting outside the store for the release.

Part of the line waiting outside the store for the release.

For the past few years, high-end purse (and other bags/accessories) retailer Harveys has brought their whimsical and beautiful merchandise to Disney Parks.

The signature look that distinguishes a Harveys bag is that they are made from seatbelt material providing a sturdy and interesting geometric striped style to their products.

I’ve been a fan of their colorful and fun bags ever since Disney first started carrying their products, however, I’ve never owned one – mostly because if I’m going to spend money on anything, it’s likely to be Alice in Wonderland-themed and until last week, the company had only made one Wonderland-themed bag – a tote-style featuring the Disneyland attraction poster on it. Since I don’t carry anything in this bag style, while I appreciated the look of it, I had no plans to buy it.

And then Harveys announced they’d be making a few new limited-release lines of Wonderland-themed bags, with an in-store sale of the items at their Santa Ana, CA location just prior to an online release the next day.

Again, I might have written this off as another group of bags that I wouldn’t carry… until I saw that one of the bags in the two collections (one themed blue and white striped for Alice and one themed pink striped for Cheshire Cat) was a Cheshire Cat backpack! And I had to go try to get one.

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Cheshire Cat backpack!

Continue reading

What Disney Parks Merchandise Do You Collect?

This week, I touched on a few recent popular collectibles in the Disney Parks, including Pin Trading, Vinylmations, and MagicBands. But there are so many more collectible items out there that it’s great to see what appeals to different people!

I love the trading aspect of pins (and vinyls). But others enjoy finding keepsakes to represent special vacations, anniversaries, and more. (Pins are great for this too!)

Some options include refrigerator magnets or postcards – items many people have collected for decades.

I have a personal “no breakables” rule (which really translates into a desire for “no dustables” if I can help it!). But others love collecting anything from Olszewski miniature scale models and PokitPals to snow globes to Precious Moments dolls representing Disney characters or park attractions.

In the past few years, Disney has started carrying Christmas ornaments year-round in appealing styles such as princess shoes or characters at park attractions. Some locations in the Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts will even personalize your ornament with a name or year on it.

A recent instantly popular collectible was the introduction of park-specific Starbucks mugs with the newest addition to be found at the just-opened Starbucks location in Walt Disney World Resort’s Animal Kingdom. Continue reading

MagicBands – Practical and Collectible!

So I’ll admit to not being totally sold on the MagicBand idea when it was first introduced at the Walt Disney World Resort approximately two years ago.

Before I get into the specifics of why, let me first do a quick rundown of what they are for those who may not have been to the Resort recently.  (For now these are exclusive to Walt Disney World but may get introduced to other Disney Resorts globally in the future.)

Disney had the idea to provide a single wearable alternative for folks who were prone to losing their paperwork or room key or maybe didn’t want to carry anything with them from hotel room to pool when they wanted to go swimming.

This wearable option could open a hotel room door, scan you into the parks, add pictures to your PhotoPass account, pay for your dinner or that souvenir you just had to have.

In conjunction with this item, a plastic-type wristband eventually called the MagicBand (because with Disney you knew they had to get the word “magic” in there, right?), the company developed software that the scannable RFID chip inside the Band would work with.

The app they developed was called “My Disney Experience” – with it, you could link your hotel reservations, park tickets, dining reservations and arrange for a key component: the upgraded “FastPass+”!

FastPass+ was the new electronic version of the legacy paper FastPasses one could get for various attractions throughout the Resort. Instead of running from location to location to get your FastPasses, you could book three per day right on your phone or computer! (This later morphed into the current ability to book successive FastPass+ reservations at kiosks in the parks once you’ve used your first three for the day.)

It was a very “green” idea. By eliminating traditional tickets and FastPasses, a lot of trees could be saved and Disney as a company is big on conservation.

And best of all, the MagicBands were free with your Resort reservation – and sent to you in advance of your trip in a special box!

But that wasn’t all… Continue reading

Disney Trading Flashback – Vinylmation Trading in the Parks

Until recently, the Disney Parks promoted another kind of trading activity besides pin trading: Vinylmations.

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These little painted vinyl figures (originally mostly shaped like Mickey Mouse although later introduced in different configurations), took off as a collectible when introduced in the parks in 2008.

Figures were soon being released monthly or even more frequently. They followed the pattern of pins in representing all kinds of Disney characters, films and attractions. However, they also branched out into random themes such as Circus, Wrestlers or High School. These non-Disney themed Vinylmations were instantly less popular and wound up filling the trade boxes at the parks as people tried to get rid of them in favor of more appealing or recognizable figures.

While Vinylmations (or “vinyls” for short) were traded in the parks, there were generally three ways of trading with Cast Members for them:

  • Clear box trades – generally consisting of a small transparent plastic box with anywhere from three to six figures inside that you could trade 1:1 (These boxes for a time were also found in some Disney mall stores to promote Vinylmation collecting.)
  • Blind box trades – generally consisting of a black plastic box numbered 1-15 where you would pick a number and then trade for the mystery figure inside
  • Hip packs – some Cast Members in stores that sold Vinylmations would occasionally wear a hip pack with around three figures on it that you could trade 1:1.

Guests would also congregate at locations both in the parks and in Downtown Disney to trade with each other. But unlike pin trading which could be confined to smaller areas, vinyls by their very size took up a lot more room to display for trade. Like pin traders with too many pin bags, it is suspected that the visual blight of “spreading out wares” caused Disney to discourage guests trading vinyls in such a fashion – and that this slowing down of guest-to-guest trading contributed to its downfall in popularity.

And over time, the locations of vinyl trading in the Resorts dwindled and finally disappeared altogether. Continue reading