The Disney Store has gone through many changes between its creation in 1987, to their sale to Hoop retail, owners of The Children's Place stores, in 2004, to Disney's buyback in 2008, to the 2009 announcement that the stores would be completely rebranded.
Lucky for me, I live in an area that has one of the few Disney stores with the "Magical New Store Design," in the Chandler Fashion Center.
I've always been a huge fan of the Disney Store, just like I've been a fan of Disney. When I was young, I always looked forward to trips to the Arden Faire mall, where I could visit the long-gone model train display and the Disney Store. Sure, it was just another retail store, but it felt as close to Disneyland as I could get while staying close to home.
As I got older, the just-for-retail factor became apparent. If you weren't going to buy anything, the only thing the store had to offer was a large screen with promos for the newest Disney productions projected onto it.
Not anymore. Yes, the retail aspect is still there, as it is everywhere Disney magic exists, but now the stores have their own magic, and even more attention to detail, that really take you beyond shopping and create a true experience (That Disney hopes will ultimately get you to spend more).
For the girls, there's a thorough princess section, with a castle, dresses, tiaras, and everything you could want to look like your favorite leading lady. Wave a specific princess's wand in front of the vanity, and that princess magically appears, narrating her story while scenes from her movie play.
For the boys, there's an extensive Marvel and Cars section, and for everyone else there's a screening area that puts the kids in control via the touch screen. The plush toy section is interactive, with gears to spin and a tunnel to crawl through. All stuff I would have loved when I was small enough to participate. Those AT&T kids commercials have it right, kids these days.
Then there's 2D trees lining the aisles, with scenes from the newest Disney films projected onto them. The trees are opaque, so the image is visible on both sides.
On the walls, a boarder runs around the top with characters and icons from the most famous Disney properties. And every once in a while, a character, like Rapunzel or EVE pops up to make a small surprise cameo. It's something you have to look for, but when you see it, it's really special, just like all the hidden details at the Disney parks.
It's still just a store, but it's a store with things to do, even if you don't buy something. It really feels like a little piece of Disney now, not just something hoping you hand over money for your own little piece of Disney in the form of plush.