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Disney World turns 40, churns souvenirs

Orlando Sentinel

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March 10, 2011

Walt Disney World turns 40 later this year. What are you going to get?

Oh, but not as a gift to Disney. I mean, what do you get the theme park that has everything? The question is what 40th-anniversary souvenir would you want to purchase?

The goods started rolling out near the end of 2010 and new phases will continue this year, leading up to Oct. 1, the anniversary of the Magic Kingdom opening. Steven Miller, merchandise communications manager, walked and talked me through the merchandise options recently at the World of Disney store atDowntown Disney.

The first items introduced were based on a collage of Disney World memorabilia and photos from the past four decades. This look is incorporated into initial offerings such as frames, journals and photo books.

There's much to absorb in the collage, which is designed to spur memories and fits into the company's "Let the Memories Begin"marketing campaign. Included are the many looks of Mickey Mouse, of course, and other characters such as Tinker Bell, Buzz Lightyear, Figment and the Orange Bird. Other incorporated images are park maps, ticket books, ear hats, an Epcot coin from 2000 ("Celebrate the future, hand in hand" it reads), vintage photos and posters for Haunted Mansion and "it's a small world."

"This pattern has been extremely popular," Miller says. "So much so that we're looking at how do we continue a pattern like that even beyond," this celebration.

The next wave of merchandise was a color-coordinated line of apparel, including the basic T-shirt. Designers worked a specific palette throughout the line with the idea of being retro but also wearable in the 21st century.

"They knew they wanted something that would be kind of a nod to the '70s, but not with the glorious '70s colors of greens and yellows," Miller says. So look for deep red, goldenrod and charcoal gray to dominate the shelves. I noted that these hues are really just rich, modernized versions of Mickey's traditional red, yellow and black.

Along with updating the colors, the style of clothing had to be adapted to today's tastes.

"You have to think about 'What are people going to wear,'" Miller says. "It has to fit the season and the trends that are out in the marketplace."

New and now on Disney's shelves are a variety of bags, a tracksuit (paging Sue Sylvester of "Glee") and ringer T's.

"It gives a nod back to the '70s, back to our heritage, but still keeps it very current and fresh," Miller says.

A running thread through the 40th anniversary is a revamped logo from the early days. A block D surrounding a globe with mouse ears was the original symbol of Disney World. It has been used on flags, crests, postcards and more throughout the years. Now a "4" has been inserted into the graphic and with the round globe forms a "40."

"It's an iconic thing that it just made sense to add the four to the world," Miller says.

The newest phase of anniversary merchandise is based on another collage, this time taking 18 attraction posters and arranging them to form Cinderella Castle. The posters have been around a long time and can still be seen under the train station when approaching Main Street. This look is found in ornaments, picture frames and apparel.

This summer, expect art pieces from Shag as well as former cast members Kevin Kidney and Jody Daily, who produced work forDisneyland's 55th anniversary. And in September, Disney Pins traders will gather for a "Florida Project" themed event.

Although there's an emphasis on 40th anniversary gear, there are plenty of options that include a "2011" design for guests eager to mark the year of their visits. And not having dates on the anniversary merchandise made it easier to sell in 2010 — and will make it easier to see in 2012. We know Disney likes these parties to last.


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