Everyone jokes about how almost every Disney attraction built nowadays have you exit through a gift shop.
Love them or hate them, Disney merchandise pulls in a substantial amount of profit for the Disney Parks.
I was a cast member at Walt Disney World. Some of the larger stores on property could pull in $300,000 a day. During the holiday season, it could get up to $600,000 a day.
However, even with the insane amount of money Disney makes from gift shops, they are also a way to gauge the popularity of a character, movie, or franchise for possible attractions, lands, and experiences.
For example, Frozen came out in November of 2013 and by December the demand for merchandise was so high that everything was selling out.
Guests would get livid that we were sold out of the princess dresses for “Anna and Elsa.” One of my managers was asked if there was anywhere they could buy a dress and he replied, “eBay!”
The summer of 2014, Hollywood Studios had the celebration “Frozen Summer Fun” with Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post where it took an hour just to get into the store.
Two years later in 2016, Frozen Ever After opened at Epcot. Now, we are getting a Frozen land in Tokyo Disney Sea, Disneyland Hong Kong, and Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Paris Resort.
A lot of factors play into what IPs make it into the parks
From box office numbers to longevity of movie or franchise hype. However, being popular at the movie theaters and in a theme park are two different things.
If you go into any larger Disney gift shop, you will find merchandise for Toy Story, Star Wars, and Disney Princesses. What are the major lands and attractions opening up? Toy Story Land; Star Wars Galaxy Edge; a Beauty and the Beast area at Tokyo Disneyland; and Tangled Land at Tokyo Disney Sea.
These IPs are “sellable” and easy to create worlds out of them
How much Up and Lion King merchandise is being sold versus Toy Story, Star Wars, and the Disney Princesses? It also makes you wonder if Stitch’s Great Escape hung on for so long because of how much Stitch merchandise is still sold.
With Bob Chapek, the Chairman of Parks, Experiences and Consumer Products, this model of merchandise sales influencing decisions on what IPs come into the park is “
On the “Disney Dish Podcast,” Entertainment Writer Jim Hill explained recently that the possibility of a Wreck-It Ralph attraction depends on how much merchandise, in the Disney Parks featuring Penelope and the reimagined Disney Princesses that will be featured in Wreck-It Ralph: Ralph Breaks the Internet. It was also reported that Coco Remember Me Exhibit at Epcot Mexico Pavilion is gauging how much interest this movie still has and if they will replace the Grand Fiesta Tour with Coco.
Finally, a manager of “MouseGears” in Epcot pointed out a major shift of Disney Princess dresses to individual countries in the World Showcase. Could that be foretelling of future entertainment offerings or even attractions in Epcot? Time will tell.
So next time you’re in the “Emporium” on Main Street, look around and see what is being sold and what isn’t. , might be Disney teasing what future experiences and attractions are on their way.
By Andrew Justvig, a former Disney Parks cast member