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D23 Expo Showed Us Where All The Magical Merchandise Began

Disneyland is now celebrating its 60th birthday, but from day one fans have been enamored with the merchandise. Nowhere is this more visible than D23 Expo where people line up for hours, even overnight, to secure as much Disney-exclusive merchandise as they can get a hold of. From pin trading to Tsum Tsums, the fervor for new Disney merch grows ever stronger.

At last weekend’s D23 Expo, the “60 Years of Disney Parks Merchandise” panel gave fans an opportunity to look back on the beginnings of Disney products and see how they have evolved over six decades. It gave a behind-the-scenes look at how merchandise develops from concept to reality.

David Caranci, manager of creative development at Walt Disney Imagineering, hosted the panel that included Scott Giersch, Director of merchandise at Disney Parks & Resorts, Vice President of Product Design Lisa Baldzicki, and Creative Manager Cody Reynolds. The panel talked of how growing up with Disney is in your blood, a part of your culture and memories.

It all started with a mouse…in this case, mouse ears! Mickey Mouse ears were the beginning of Disney merchandising and a rite of passage for kids of all ages. The first Mickey ears were made in 1955 (the year the park opened), and cost a mere 29 cents. Disney sold an unbelievable 2 million hats that year. Classic storytelling is a key part of Disney souvenirs and why souvenirs are so important to making Disney memories.

That first piece of Mickey merchandising is what spawned a gargantuan series of brands now sold around the world. The panelists revealed sketches and design concepts for clothing lines featured at Twenty Eight & Main, a men’s collection that is built on Disney nostalgia, Disney Boutique for young adult females, and the upscale brand Kingdom Couture.

A new Disney Princesses logo was revealed as well, updating merchandise for park favorites Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.

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When it comes to parks and resorts merchandise, regional affinities are taken into account as well as distinct products that work for each location. Hong Kong Disneyland features exclusive Alice Chan art for the 10th anniversary, for example, whereas Shanghai Disney Resort art features cute couples and focuses on friendship and love.

The panel also talked about how the Fab Five (Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald and Daisy) easily translate into different locations and experiences and are well known everywhere around the world.

Disney merchandise reaches beyond parks and resorts into the Disney Cruise Line and even music with the release of We Love Disney, a compilation album featuring Gwen Stefani, Rascal Flatts, Fall Out Boy, Ne-Yo, Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Jason Derulo, Kacey Musgraves, Tori Kelly, and more, who show their Disney Side through their favorite Disney songs.

The D23 Expo is the ideal place to showcase the growth of Disney products to its most appreciative fans. Disney is moving into their 60th year with gusto and with the announcements of Disney parks expanions, even more fantastic Disney merchandise will be coming down the line in the next few years.

What’s your most treasured piece of Disney merchandise? Let us know in the comments and check out the gallery below for all the photos from the 60 Years of Disney Parks Merchandise panel.

Images: All photos Jenn Fujikawa


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