It's a large world after all for Hasbro toys.
The brand new Once Upon A Toy store, a collaboration between Walt Disney Co. and the Hasbro Toy Co. on the grounds of Disney World in Florida, is a 16,000-square-foot cross-generational effort aimed at big kids as well as little ones.
It's also the first co-branding effort for Disney, which is used to building stores in the Downtown Disney Marketplace devoted to its pantheon of icons: Mickey and Minnie, Donald and Goofy, Snow White and the Lion King. But Hasbro brings a pantheon of its own: Monopoly, Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs, Play-Doh, Scrabble and Mr. Potato Head. The toys themselves know no generational boundaries. Grandparents and their grandchildren both have emotional connections to Potato Head.
The new facility in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., was conceived and designed by Walt Disney Imagineering, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Co. Tony Mancini, senior vp, global retail store development, designed the store from a kid's point of view, combining the magic of Disney with the fun of Hasbro products. "The store represents an environment of unbridled play," says Mancini, "with everything available for a kid to be able to see, touch and interact with. Every room has a sense of play, movement and interactivity."
Five uniquely themed rooms make up the interior space, each with a specific kinetic display adding to the spirit of play. The "Family Game" room features a moving overhead conveyor with various toys hanging from the calipers. In the "Pre-School" room, a puzzle-like mural - Disney characters playing with Hasbro toys - lines the walls. The puzzle is designed so that pieces appear to be falling out of the ceiling on top of the guests.
The "My Disney Boy" room offers a variety of toys based on theme park attractions. A large play table in the center of the room presents all the assembled moving toys so shoppers can see how they work, while an oversized version of the Walt Disney World train chugs overhead on a suspended track.
The "Disney Bear" room integrates The Game of Life spinner into the ceiling, which is on a timing system so that it intermittently spins, lights up and makes the familiar "clicking" noise. And finally, the "My Disney Girl" room presents Tinker Bell, Wendy and Peter Pan flying around the room on an armature.
According to Mancini, the store's overall architectural intent was taken from an arts and crafts movement, with particular attention given to the wood material finishes, the joinery and the assembly of pieces. "We approached the fixturing from a flexibility perspective so our merchants can showcase their products, and so we could reinforce the co-branding between Disney and Hasbro."
Mickey is everywhere, as usual. The three circles that make up his head and ears show up in the fixturing details, the floor patterns, the visual embellishments, even the product.
Within the fixtures, the design team used solid woods and solid core materials. At the top of the fixturing, a hidden Mickey appears using frosted plexi and resin, and nuts and bolts. For smaller items, fixtures in the shape of Mickey's head and ears are used. "We developed a fixturing line that integrates the feeling of pixie dust into the material finishes," says Mancini. "All of the rich jeweled-tone reds, blues and greens have this pixie dust overlay texture to them."
A merchandise presentation of vitrines was also created to feature the essence of toy packaging. "We've taken all the product that normally would be in a box and put them in these cases at the child's level, strategically placed based on the demographic of the room," says Mancini. "This was developed as a new experience of not wondering what's inside, but actually being able to see what's in the box."
With an eye to the demographics, Mancini also specified fixtures with Corian kickguards, to withstand the wear and tear of children's shoes and strollers'wheels.
The flooring replicates the design team's interpretation of a game board, where shoppers (Disney calls them "guests") function as the game pieces. Terrazzo was used throughout the center core of the store, while different branding messages were integrated into the rooms. In one of the rooms, Mickey's glove appears, while different Scrabble tiles spell out "Mickey" in another. The "My Disney Girl" room features deep, rich hues of blues and purples. "All the flooring features embedded mother of pearl and mirror to get a reflective quality," says Mancini. "In the rest of the store we used carpet squares that are easily replaceable should they become soiled or stained."
With ceilings extending anywhere from 20 to 35 feet, designers had the challenge of lighting the product on the floor. "We created chandeliers out of Tinkertoy pieces and parts, and manufactured them in scale for the building," explains Mancini. "By floating these chandeliers, we were able to integrate all our downlighting into the store, and push it down to where the product is." In addition, metal halide, sodium halide and incandescent lights are used, while theatrical lighting with gels warms up the space and enhances the theming.
Designers utilized a new checkout approach, creating a queue line reminiscent of those found in the theme park. These lines can be adjusted either in a parallel or serpentine format. The cashwraps themselves feature a scanning and bagging format, where employees (Disney calls them "cast members") scan the purchases and drop them into a bag. "One of the most advanced technological improvements was the application of a touchscreen computer at which customers can arrange to have packages delivered to their hotels as well as to their homes," Mancini explains.
In one of the rooms, a plasma screen DVD player features a program with which guests can scan the bar code off a CD, igniting pre-selected music tracks to listen to. There is also an interactive DVD game screen. In the "Family Game" room, a large Mr. Potato Head construction station is stocked full of potato heads and an array of pieces to adorn the toy. Shoppers can fill a box up with as many pieces as they can fit inside for one price. Many of the pieces, such as Mickey Mouse ears, can be found only at this property.
Large Mr. Potato Heads holding touchscreens provide another option for interactivity. "This was our first integrated design that took technology, product and fixturing and assembled it in a way that guests can create their own Mr. Potato Head electronically through a touchscreen format," says Mancini. "Then they can print the created image, walk around the fixture and manually match the pieces they've designated."
Since Hasbro is less of a household name than any of its individual products, the design team wanted to make sure consumers made the connection. Iconography was integrated, starting with the exterior. At one entrance, a larger-than-life Genie (from Disney's "Aladdin") pops out of a chimney to a 39-foot-tall Tinkertoy windmill nearby. At the main entrance, Buzz LightYear (from Disney's "Toy Story") and Hasbro's Mr. Potato Head, Play-Doh, Tonka Toy trucks, Tinkertoys and Lincoln Logs welcome guests. The Once Upon A Toy signage is created from building blocks and Scrabble pieces. And the third entrance integrates Monopoly cards branded for Walt Disney World - one card is flying out of a window, while another appears to have landed in front of the building. "At each entranceway, we embedded the start of the 'game' into the concrete," Mancini explains. "You have 'play,' 'start,' and 'go,' so the game begins as you approach the façade of the building."
Along the store's northern edge, display windows were created to celebrate the different experiences at the Walt Disney World Resort, using various Hasbro toys. One window, called "Ski Florida," celebrates the Blizzard Beach water park experience, with snowflakes in the shape of Disney characters, puzzle pieces for trees, and Tinkertoy and Lincoln Log pieces for the ski lift. Other windows include a Lite-Brite portrait of Disney princesses and a miniature version of Cinderella's Castle built with Scrabble tiles.
Of all the tiles in the Scrabble box, though, the three that most represent this new store are F4 U1 and N1.
Client Design Team: Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI), Lake Buena Vista, Fla. - Tony Mancini, senior vp, global retail store development, WDI; Johnnie Rush, vp, retail design & store planning, WDI; Stephen Silvestri, senior show producer, WDI; Mike Montague, senior design manager, WDI; Todd Taylor, manager, store planning, WDI; Brad Gentle, store planning manager, WDI; Tony D'Orazio, manager merchandise presentation-creative, Walt Disney World Resorts (WDWR); Reina Pincus, manager merchandise presentation-operations, WDWR; Mary Burns, general manager merchandise operations, Downtown Disney
Design: Elkus-Manfredi, Boston - David Manfredi, president
Architect-of-Record: MRI, Orlando
Outside Design Consultants: Illuminart, Ypsilanti, Mich. (lighting); WDI Global Retail Store Development, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (floor fixtures)
Suppliers: SEVEN CONTINENTS, Toronto, Westco, New York (fixturing); C&A Floorcoverings, Dalton, Ga. (carpeting); Steward-Mellon Co., Tampa, Fla. (terrazzo flooring); WDI Graphic Design, Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (graphics); Times Square Lighting, Stony Point, N.Y. (lighting); Don Bell Signs, Port Orange, Fla. (signage)
Photography: RMA Architectural Photography, Tustin, Calif.