FIRST CAME THE CASTLE, then came the magic for The Walt Disney Co.’s entry into China and first standalone flagship Disney Store. The day after topping the Enchanted Storybook Castle at Shanghai Disney Resort, which is set to open this spring, Disney opened its largest store in the world in Shanghai. The immersive shopping experience encompasses nearly 54, 000 sq. ft., including an outdoor plaza featuring Disney-themed landscaping.
Unique in size and location, the store also was anomalously built from the ground up rather than Disney’s typical reuse of an existing structure. Arguably, this gave designers plenty more room to play—and plenty more work to do.
“When we’re doing an in-line store, a shell is provided for us. In this case, we were working with a blank piece of land. It’s challenging, but it’s a wonderful opportunity for designers to tell a larger story, ” says Bart Tucker, design director for Gensler Los Angeles, which worked in coordination with the Gensler Shanghai team to bring the project to fruition.
Disney’s in-house design team and idX focused on the store’s interior, while Gensler brought Disney magic to life from the ground up for the 40 million tourists who visit the Lujiazui district every year. The goal: To create a modern interpretation of a Disney store between ordinary office buildings and a not-so-ordinary tourist corridor.
The store doesn’t look like other buildings in the area. “We were able to put something whimsical and colorful and warm in an area that’s mostly glass and steel, ” Tucker says. “We are happy with how the store fits into its neighborhood. It engages the urban fabric of Shanghai.”
On the inside, it engages more than just the business side in all of us—it appeals to our inner child. And there is sure to be a section for everyone as the store incorporates everything from Disney princesses to the spectacular Marvel area, along with traditional characters like Goofy, Pluto, and Chip and Dale.
“We wanted to create an urban Disney experience where, as soon as you come into the property, you are immersed in Disney—not just a store, but a Disney environment, ” Tucker says. That intent drove the design of the property, particularly design elements emphasizing Disney’s storytelling magic.
The experience begins at the entrance. The portal is an important design element in all Disney stores, but Gensler supersized a wood portal to suggest something much bigger than a doorway, Tucker says. The exterior aluminum material falls around the glass doorway like theater curtains, reminiscent of a stage set.
“The way we’ve layered the elements tells a theatrical story about how you are going to engage with the store itself, ” Tucker says.
Just in case the magic couldn’t be felt, visitors are sprinkled with literal magic in the form of pixie dust in the plaza. A lighting effect on the building and in the plaza not only visually brings Disney magic into the project, but also leads visitors into the plaza and into the store.
At night, the pixie dust lighting effect trails up to the roof, where visitors who happen to be looking down on Disney from the Pearle Tower can see another unique design element. The face of the beloved Mickey Mouse illuminates at night atop the flagship store, with LEDs that interplay with the illuminated foliage of the plaza and exterior of the store.
Equally as important as the magical design elements, the store had to complement the city of Shanghai’s reputation as a family, business, cultural, entertainment, and tourist destination, says Paul Gainer, EVP with Disney Retail. The store is tailor-made for Shanghai to be a singular shopping and entertainment destination for visitors and locals alike.
The store has several features unique to Shanghai, according to Jon Endicott, VP of store design and construction for Disney Store:
- A Disney Magic Kingdom Castle, 19 ft. high at the heart of the store, featuring an hourly musical and projection show
- A Marvel area complete with hand-sculpted statues of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, and an 8-ft.-tall Hulk
- The Mickey Mouse-shaped roof sculpted with more than 8, 000 LED lights visible from key tourism vantage points
- Sculptures of hot-air balloons featuring Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Goofy, Daisy, Donald, Pluto, and Chip and Dale
- A box office/checkout area capturing the spirit of the store’s Eastern and Western heritage with a Disney castle and an animated silhouette of the Shanghai skyline featuring firework projections
Custom fixtures for the themed areas were provided by idX Corp. For this high-profile project, idX provided engineering, fixture manufacturing, sourcing, and logistics management for idX products and some customer-owned items. idX managed the installation of these products, which included floor fixtures, perimeter fixtures, cashwraps, and shelving.
idX worked with both the U.S. and Japanese divisions of Disney to develop hybrid fixtures consistent with Disney’s global design package, but revised to suit Asian merchandising methods. A “boots on the ground” mentality in overseeing the importation of large, custom thematic elements helped move them through customs and onto the site, says Scott Norvell, EVP of operations for idX Corp.
As unique as it is, the store is consistent with other Disney stores, meeting Disney standards for the brand and the experience.
“Whether you’re at a Disney Store in Los Angeles, Times Square, Paris, or Shanghai, we want the experience to be the same, ” says Endicott. “Our mission is to create magical moments for guests of all ages, and we believe that experience begins the minute you step foot into one of our stores.”
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