Sunday, November 15, 2009

Emporium Windows - Part One

Deck the Mall!
A waaay younger me in New York, 1988

I'm playing the Ghost of Christmas Past this week and taking you with me to revisit another holiday season that happened twenty-one years ago. (Ready? Touch my robe!)

We've traveled backward in time to this exact week in November, 1988. I was a skinny kid working with a few other creative "kids" from Disneyland's Entertainment division on Christmas windows for New York's famous Bloomingdales department store in Manhattan.

Every year beginning at Thanksgiving, the store-front windows at Bloomie's (as women with designer sunglasses and gigantic handbags call it) are as much a part of the New York tradition as slush in the winter. In 1988 the retailer had asked Disneyland for assistance in coming up with something unique.

For the first time in history, several of Disneyland's original Main Street Emporium window displays, featuring hand-made scenes from Disney animated films, went on a road trip.

Click to Enlarge.

Each set of miniature figures and scenery was carefully cleaned and restored (some were decades old even back then) and shipped to the East Coast for a month-long engagement along Lexington Avenue.

We installed the displays in full view of people passing by in the street outside, attracting crowds of lookie-loos, as you can imagine. It was a lot of fun!

Bambi scene made in the early 1970s

(Say, how much are those doggies in the window, anyway?)

This scene with Peter Pan and the kids flying off to Neverland was actually kind of a headache for us, I remember. The monofilament that suspended the animated figures would get wound up in the mechanisms (located above the arch) and sometimes break. If the characters didn't end up dangling by their ankles over the London cityscape, then they had dropped completely onto the buildings below. We were constantly rescuing them.

Peter Pan figures from the late 60s.

Robin Hood and the gang
from the animated film's initial release, 1973.
I really liked that Allan-a-Dale figure.

And lastly, here's a scene the public never saw...
The backside of the displays! The windows at Bloomingdales were a lot bigger than those of Disneyland's Emporium, so custom prosceniums were built to narrow the openings down to the edges of the miniature sets.

There were a few more scenes, as well, including one with Captain Hook and the Crocodile, but I wasn't able to photograph everything. Maybe some New Yorkers out there have more pictures??


Daveland said...

Kevin - The windows at the Emporium have always been a favorite stopping place for me. Had no idea they made it to Bloomie's in New York (we actually had a Bloomie's near my house when I was in High School...back in the day when I was transitioning from Izod to Polo - ha!). Excellent post!

Dan Alexander said...

Awww, look at you!!

The windows on Main Street were always something I had to see. When I was little, I can remember seeing scenes for "The Fox and the Hound" on Main Street at Walt Disney World. Many years later, the displays could be seen in windows at the Judge's Tent at Mickey's Starland (now Toontown Fair).

Reindeer alert: I got back from a weeklong trip to Orlando yesterday, and the "goofy" version of the Christmas Parade Reindeer is included on some character "group shot" merchandise there (I bought a pricey tin container of peppermint chocolate with the image). I'm guessing Disneyland probably has the same merchandise.

pixiegirltink said...

Holy Cow! The Main St. windows have always been one of my favorite attractions. What a treat to get to set up the displays in NY. Great pictures. Thanks for sharing Kevin!

btw, that Snow White looks like the same one I pointed to when my Mom asked me what souvenir I'd like to buy after a day at the park. :)


Vintage Disneyland Tickets said...

Wow Kevin, Holiday vintage goodness! and any post with the word "prosceniums" in it is tops in my book!

So does (or did) Disney save all the stuff from the Main Street window displays over the years? That must be some collection!

Were you old enough to get a work permit in 1988????


jedblau said...

I LOVED the displays as a kid...and still do. Thanks for the trip in the time machine.

heylownine said...

I really love that you have all of these great photos of the experiences. Another great look back.

Ahh, 1998. Sweeping the grounds at Magic Mountain and getting ready to learn that working in a theme park meant not getting any holidays off. :)

Chris Merritt said...

Love these - I still think an article on the history of the Main Street WIndows are in order. John Gritz & Co. does them these days - do you have any names of the folks who did them in the 70s & 80s?

Eric Scales said...

These days? Chris, the Main St. Windows at DL haven't been updated since they took a bunch of old figures and created "montage" windows for the 50th! The figures were from several different years so the range of character accuracy is pretty broad, but the sets are pretty pathetic, mostly various platforms just meant to fit everything in- no real storytelling since everythings a mish mash. Prior to that though, the most recent figures and scenes were really nicely done though. How I wish we were getting Princess and the Frog windows.

Chris Merritt said...

Eric - Really? That's too bad - I thought Gritz and Waguespack were still doing them...

Chiana_Chat said...

Say that's a good lookin' Snow White doll there.


The very first Emporium Windows were done for the Christmas 1968 season featuring "The One and Only Genuine Original Family Band"...these were 13 windows comprised of painted plywood sets. The next time small stuffed dolls were used for the "Whinnie The Pooh and the Blustery Day". Later the puppets and simple animation began to be used. Eric Gatley of Disneyland decorating used to oversee this combined effort of people from decorating, staff shop, and the sign shop. In the mid 1970's all the figures and set production was moved to Walt Disney World's Display Department where the windows scenes were created in duplicate (one set for each park)The overal plans & development were created at the Disney Studio's Marketing department by Bob Davis, Jim Dieli and Gene Camelot. (Gene Camelot worked at the Studios on thge film Sleeping Beauty and helped develop the 1970's redo of the Sleeping Beauty Castle Walk Thru)
For a short time the Disneyanna Shops at Disneyland and WDW sold some original figures was the window displays, and the WDW Display Depart for a short time created duplicates for sale at the same shops in the early to mid 80's.Disney continued I beleive doing them until the late 80's??

-Mike Cozart

Chris Merritt said...

Wow! Great information Mike! Sounds like you should write the article.

Eric Scales said...

I know this isn't a discussion board but it's kind of on topic and I hope maybe Kevin can shed some light on this. Does anyone remember the large diorama's for Mickey's Christmas Carol? I remember they were on display at the Cerritos Mall (in CA and for all I know at other malls as well), several Christmas' in a row I believe (probably initially to promote the film and then maybe a year or two afterwards). These were not Emporium window size, they were really big, with a footprint of at least 8'x8' I would guess. I don't remember for sure but there were probably 4-8 different ones, each a scene from Mickey's Christmas Carol. I remember being fascinated by them- this was several years before the DInsey store and Disneyland was nearby but only a once a year experience for me. Anyone remember these?

Jimmy said...

You look like a baby.


Eric: There was a Emporium window display for Mickey's Christmas Carol. After the Scrooge McDuck and Jacob Marley scene was relocated to Mickey's Christmas Challet in Fantasyland.


Eric Scales said...

Yes, but the ones I'm thinking of were much larger, independent of the Emporium windows.

Brian B said...

The figures remind me of the figures used in the View Master reels and the View Master reels with figures in them are my favorite!

Thanks for a great post.

Centaurette said...

Another fantastic--not to mention weepily nostalgic--post, Kevin! The Emporium windows were a must-stop both on the way in AND out of the park, all the better to enjoy the changes night lighting brought.

It was funny to occasionally see a repurposed figure: I recall clearly that Princess Tiger Lily in the rowboat from "Peter Pan" later became kidnapped, nose-in-the-air Penny for "The Rescuers."

Brian B--in an amazingly coincidental sidenote, for a while in the 1970s, there actually WERE some of those beautiful little sculptures from the View-Master reels on display in Disneyland's Main Street windows! This was not in the Emporium complex, but across the street in the front windows of the Main Street Camera Shop (the entry to which is now the "Chester Drawers" annex to Disney Clothiers).

At that time, GAF held the concession for film at Disneyland, and they also owned/distributed View-Master products (who else had a View-Master Disney "Klomp It" game???). I remember bring thrilled to see the sculpt of Cinderella in the southern window of that was the figure where she is standing in her new ballgown for the first time. I tried to see as much of its structure as I could, and very nearly flattened my face against the window glass trying to do so. The big shock was finding out that it had not been painted all the way around! The tell-tale beige-y color I recall from what I was able to see now tells me that the figure--or at least the back of the full skirt--was made of Sculpy.

John Rozum said...

Holy smokes! This is a mind blower for me. At that time, I worked in mid-town Manhattan and had to walk by Bloomingdales every day (and boy did I hate that once the Christmas crowds started overflowing the sidewalks).

You have just restored my sanity. I not only remember this particular series of window displays, but remember seeing you setting up there. I guess that makes me one of the lookie-loos. I later thought I'd misremembered this detail because other window displays were done behind papered windows, and friends told me this was always how it was done.

I never got to see all of the windows, such as Robin Hood, because the crowds around them quickly became too dense, and I'm a bit claustrophobic in crowds.

Wild to make that connection now.

norman said...

Bergdorf Goodman has a wonderful display up now, featuring models from Fantastic Mr Fox. They are incredibly detailed and well worth a visit.

What was it like during your stay in NY Kevin? Tell us about your fancy digs and the nightclubs then...

Unknown said...

LOVE The Peter Pan display!! Nice back story as well.

The people that admire these types of displays usually don't think about the hard work and sometimes tedious planning it takes to make them look so cool!

Great post!

Peppermint Snowdrift said...

Hi, Kevin,

1988 is my favorite year from the past (from the years of the past that I remember, anyway), and I love old advertisements, old store window displays, etc. I sometimes wish that I'd gone into advertising (I use dolls for photos, but dolls are just a step away from advertising mannequins....on a smaller SCALE, of course....LOL!), because I think that it's FUN to create new campaign ideas, etc.

Old advertising displays fascinate me, because they're sometimes cute, sometimes elegant, and sometimes beckoningly spooky, too.

Are you STILL in the window business? I think that it'd be a lot of fun to dress windows, restore displays, etc. I think that my FAVORITE pictures here are those of the "Bambi" display.

Well, have an awesome day. :)

Peppermint Snowdrift

Peppermint Snowdrift said...

Hi, Mike,

Cool info., but do you mean that they sold actual copies of the window figures, and / or some of the originals? Wow! I had no idea....

Peppermint Snowdrift