About 40 children, wearing mouse ears and big smiles, waited Thursday morning for a countdown to the magic moment when the Disney Store at Roosevelt Field Mall officially reopened. After a three-month, high-tech makeover, the Garden City location is the first newly designed store to open on the East Coast.
With a life-size Buzz Lightyear looking on, the children, ages 6 to 9, from the Variety Boys & Girls Club of Queens, streamed into the store along the Pixie Dust Trail, under glimmering trees, past a sign saying "Make way for princesses."
They found plenty of familiar favorites - Tinker Bell dolls and Phineas and Ferb plush toys. But the new design is all about interactivity, allowing children to customize their experiences, said Molly Adams, vice president/general manager of Disney Store, North America.
The 4,500-square-foot Roosevelt Field store is one of 20 newly designed locations opening this year in North America and Europe, with a Times Square store set to launch in November. Another 35 are planned for next year, said Adams.
Among the new features:
A magic mirror that, at the wave of a chip-enhanced crown or wand, shows animated clips of princesses, like Belle from "Beauty and the Beast."
Children can also design and build cars based on the Disney/Pixar film "Cars."
Even the trees are programmed to alter color, image and theme.
The store's 50 employees, known as cast members, got two weeks of intensive training in the wizardry behind this interactivity, summoned not by spells but by iPads and iTouches. Rickie Santer, a member of the events team, used his hand-held device to whip up an "imagination explosion," a video clip asking children to help rid the store of evil villains by clapping their hands to call up some heroes.
"When I was a little girl, I loved Cinderella," said Peña, who turns 9 Friday. "I wanted to be a princess."
Other children waited outside for their turn to enter. April Schachtel, 29, of South Hempstead, brought daughter Ava, 13 months, to check out that magic mirror. The line for it was too long Tuesday when they came for the store's soft launch. Still, said Schachtel, Ava, a big Mickey Mouse fan, "had a lot of fun."