The making of Epcot’s holiday merchandise displays

Epcot shoppers always have an international selection of merchandise, but now its points of purchase are presented with holiday flair, lavender among the greenery, peppermint-striped faceplates and Donald Duck in a golden Candlelight Processional gown.

The look of the store windows and displays are the responsibility of the visual merchandise team. Two of its leaders previewed this season’s looks backstage before the bulk of the installations were in place.

Walt Disney World’s window displays might appear to pop in overnight, but the team works about six months in advance, said Evan Harkrider, senior visual merchandiser for Epcot.

Then they move fast.

“It’s a very limited time frame to do the install. We want to make sure that it’s as show-ready as possible before it leaves the [backstage] building,” Harkrider said. “That way, all the kinks and the thoughts have been thought through. Then we can kind of just finesse within the window or inside the interior.”

A new space to tackle this year was the Creations Shop, the flagship store that opened at Epcot in fall 2021.

“We’re using the colors, the patterns and different textures and the character elements to tell the story of this program and collection in a modern and fresh way,” Harkrider said. “This collection is called the Mickey Vintage so it really leans into that ‘50s, ‘60s style with the vintage light bulbs, the pie-eye Mickey and this color palette.”

These Creation Shop displays, including one in an exterior window, feature geometric designs, including cones as trees, circular signage, large ornaments and script type. In some spots, the mannequins have red and white, diagonally striped, glittery (but otherwise featureless) faces.

“We wanted to be really artistic and creative,” Harkrider said. “That’s where we kind of look to the mannequins to not only showcase our product assortment, but how do we add in that special layer that makes us different from everybody else?”

Each Disney World theme park has its own display team, as do its resorts and water parks, Disney Cruise Line and Orlando International Airport. Disney merchandise and its collections are repeated in the locations, said Don Schultz, manager for Epcot presentation.

“Each property will have their own interpretation of it but carry that same message,” Schultz said.

There are 36 display windows at Epcot, primarily in World Showcase, where they reflect the heritage of their respective countries. An elaborate window is presented near the entrance of the Biergarten Restaurant in the Germany pavilion restaurant.

“You can kind of see where we pulled some of the inspiration of the culture of Germany, with the different dirndls and the cuckoo clock, and then added this type of modern layer with the greenery. Then the colors of the ornaments are all in the brass and metallic colors,” Harkrider said.

At its center is a woman figure previously seen in a Disney hotel display.

“As we were looking to develop new windows and new presentations this year, one of the people on that team offered her up to us,” Harkrider said. “We gladly brought her over and gave her a new and second life.”

In the France pavilion, the team added leaves of lavender — in a Christmas tree, in between bicycle spokes — in a store window with a lavender-colored Minnie Mouse dress.

“We do two types of windows, where we go all out and do a whole transformation … or we’ll use and reuse existing things that we’ve purchased and just layer it in,” Harkrider said. “The takedown process for us is also really timely, because when one festival is over, then the next one starts.”

Epcot visitors also may spot new oversized macaron decorations in France that will stay in place past the holidays.

Another fresh window offering features Goofy, Donald Duck and his three nephews decked out in choir robes not unlike those worn by performers in Candlelight Processional, a longtime holiday production at Disney. The characters are also holding faux candles in the display at World Traveler, a store at Epcot’s International Gateway.

“Guests love seeing the characters in the windows,” Harkrider said. “This is really exciting because it’s very special to our park, and we haven’t done it before.”

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