BY SARAH TEREZ-ROSENBLUM
I’m old enough to remember when the Lucite columns of floating Barbie shoes at FAO Schwartz were shockingly innovative. Now, with the old warhorse bankrupt and shuttered, we’re on to Toy Store 2.0; the first redesigned Disney Store in the Midwest, opening today in the Loop at the Block 37 Shops on North State Street. Seemingly a theme park-meets-iPhone application, if The Disney Store were a teenager, it would play soccer, do gymnastics, sing in choir and take gourmet-cooking classes – and that’s only on Tuesdays.
“Baby,” its mother would say, “You can’t be everything to everyone. You just gotta be yourself.”
“But mommy,” blond, dimpled Disney Store would confide, “I don’t know who that is anymore!” And… Scene.
According to the press release, the store boasts an “in-store application” allowing guests to customize their shopping experience. By way of an interactive touch screen kiosk, shoppers may experience a 3-D view of all Disney Store and DisneyStore.com products as well as browse news through video clips and social media feeds. So, in other words, while standing in the store, itself a three-dimensional experience, one can ignore the surrounding aisles of toys and games and instead have a virtual experience. Someone haul up that annoying kid robot from “A.I.” from the bottom of the ocean; this sounds like his kind of store!
Also at Disney’s latest outpost, a “Pixie Dust Trail” which leads guests through a forest of trees, programmed to change color, and past a Disney skyline. A jukebox-style theater where kids can choose from classic Disney content, music videos and previews of new releases is on the premises as well. In addition, the press release touts “an exciting new Disney Princess castle with magic mirror for girls,” a line which immediately polarizes the voices in my head. On the one hand, anything princess related sends me into paroxysms of pink-ballerina-rhinestone-jewelry-box-braid-my-hair-tiara-unicorn-rainbow glee. On the other, hello, sexism! It’s 2010, Disney drones! All you gotta do is glance out the window to see heterosexual men draped in Baby Bjorns, trouser-wearing women and Johnny Weir pirouetting to “Poker Face.” Or maybe that’s just what I see.
Not that I begrudge kids the opportunity to indulge, but must they be boxed into gender roles? Must they be encouraged to tweet while they’re walking? Isn’t it enough to hope and pray and wait for Christmas morning, to tear downstairs only to unwrap an educational wooden truck from Sweden when what they really wanted was Magic Moves Barbie? That’s how we did it in my day.
The Disney Store, located at 1 W. Randolph, opened on today at 10 a.m. The first 250 guests receive a free pair of Mickey Mouse ears.
Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts twice a week.