by: guide4wdw – Collin
“Departed Disney” – A Look Back at One of Disney’s Most Creative Merchandise Locations!
Disney is a place where so many little details unfold before your very eyes. However, sometimes in order to experience those details you not only have to take a look around you, but also take a look back at what “once was.” Fortunately for us, Disney World is always changing and progressing as the world around it (and us) develops. As true as that may be, by putting some things into perspective, it can truly allow you to appreciate what you’re experiencing in a completely different way. In my humble opinion, an appreciation of the Disney parks stems from not only the attractions, the food (oh how I love the food!), or even the shows, but often times the backstory and the history of this place many of us call “home.”
History is one of those things that never truly goes away, but is always something that we can learn from. Unfortunately what I’m talking to you about today is not something that you can directly experience in the parks, but rather something that takes you on a journey back to a simpler time and place both in the parks themselves, but also through story. With that, today’s look at an element of “Departed Disney” brings us to the Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe.
I know what you’re thinking, “I’ve been to that shop! How could it be departed?” Well today we look back not at the Christmas Shop you can experience today but rather the three storefronts that made up what the Christmas shop once was!
Starting off, as mentioned, the Christmas Shop was formerly not a Christmas Shop at all, but rather 3 “independent” experiences. In the early days of Walt Disney World (1970’s) the store essentially featured 3 experiences within the larger area that encompassed the entire Christmas Shop of today. As with anything classically Disney at the time, these retail establishments were more for entertainment and theming value rather that vast sales of elaborately decorated merchandise. Unfortunately, that is also the rumored reasoning for their unfortunate demise and replacement.
At the time, the area featured Mlle. Lafayette’s Parfumerie, the Silversmith’s shop, and Olde World Antiques. The antique store is quite possibly the one aspect of Walt Disney World that I truly wish was still there today (if I had to pick just one).
Olde World Antiques
Simply put, this was every collectors dream while at the same time an aspect that could put every guest right into the story the area wished to and still portrays today. The store itself was chalked full of elaborate antiques and unique items from classic books to one off displays hand picked by Disney’s exclusive antique hunter Otto Rabbi. Otto was picked by the Disney company in order to create an antiques atmosphere that was as real and authentic as it possibly could be.
At that time, Jack Olsen was the head of merchandising and a key component in the merchandise locations of the parks (Not to mention an outstanding soldier who fought for our country in World War II and earned not only one but two purple hearts along the way!). Jack had a certain regard for the authenticity of every merchandise location. He supposedly didn’t like things being out of place in the park because it took away from the illusion and story the lands intended to portray. He and Walt were story people and these retail locations allowed them to develop a story in real life. Budget wasn’t a problem and the retail locations were treated more like attractions that revenue generators as a result. No expense was too great to make a vision and story develop for the guests each day. Sadly, when new management took over the merchandising and a new era was brought in, the budget for this experience was rumored to be not quite feasible to upkeep (rumored – roughly $100,000 in sales each year, but at the same time spending over $1,000,000 to fill the shelves).
Olsen was all about the experience rather that the cost of creating that experience. If it didn’t tell the story the location intended to portray, it didn’t matter how much revenue it could generate. In the eyes of early Walt Disney World guests, it must have made all the difference. When you talk to guests today that have been going sense the beginning, you always here the most wonderful stories of not only Olde World Antiques, but the Penny Arcade, The Hallmark Card Shop, and certainly the Magic Shop where guests could purchase things that were truly unique to the experience they had the opportunity to witness first hand. They remember these places because of the memories attached to them, and the stories Olsen and his team so expertly portrayed. It was certainly a different time, but a wonderful experience for all who partook.
The Silversmith’s Shop
As we move on to the second section of the store, it’s hard to overlook the Silversmith’s shop. Today, very few images arise from that particular section of the store, but the story element the location portrayed is something that certainly still helps develop Liberty Square today. As many of you may know, the Liberty Tree sits right next door to today’s Christmas Shop. While that was still true back in the day, the silversmith played a unique roll in telling the story of the tree. If you look up in the tree today, you’ll find a distinct set of lanterns flickering in the night sky. Those lanterns have a story of their own that develops from the story of Johnny Tremain. While I won’t ruin the details for you, which stem from the classic Disney film, Tremain was said to be the proprietor of this particular store. The tie to the story of the land was certainly there, but things change and stories continue on in new and different ways.
Mlle. Lafayette’s Parfumerie
As we wrap up, this brings us to the last section of this three part experience, the Parfumerie. The establishment was simple and quaint, but featured a rather broad array of colorful jars and one of a kind scents. As an added bonus, guests could create there own perfume from a combination of different scents to develop a personalized creation. For many, this was a highlight of their vacation and helped to truly develop that authentic feel that we’ve all come to expect and appreciate in various ways for many years. As an added perk, each guests particular scent creation was recorded by the parfumerie so that guests friends, family members, or even the guest themselves could return to the store and recreate their favorite one of a kind creation.
Per the usual, everything at Walt Disney World is changing and those changes can often leave elements of the experience we’ve come to love and appreciate only in our memories. Each of these experiences have obviously been replaced for a multitude of reasons, but it’s great to see that many aspects of the current storefront still feature some of the vision of days of Disney’s past. Of course, the store no longer sells the same items or even similar items for that matter, but the feeling of tradition still embodies that location and hopefully will for years to come. Today, the Christmas shop still fills that niche as a one of kind and immersive experience that allows guests to create something unique or to purchase a souvenir that could be a part of their families Christmas for years to come. It holds that special place as something that people can attach to memories that make them smile wherever they are.
For me, that has always been a goal of this site as well. Hopefully each post allows you to recognize a new aspect of Disney to appreciate, but at the same time creates something that you can use to develop memories with family in the years to come. I’ve said it before, be we often times go to Disney the first time for the attractions, but continue going back for the experience’s and memories we create with those we care the most about. Each of these merchandise locations created a story, but a story has no audience without those who listen. Walt said it best, it takes people to make a dream a reality, and I certainly believe that the guests are a huge portion of that wonderful reality!
Thanks for being here with us and have a wonderful rest of your day! If you want to add to our story, be sure to give us a shout! Honestly, I wasn’t there and didn’t get to experience this first hand so any details you can share are vastly appreciated!
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