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Fridays with Jim Korkis: Mouse Gear to Creations



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

FROM MOUSE GEAR TO CREATIONS

By Jim Korkis

When Epcot opened on October 1, 1982, the park’s largest store was called Centorium. It combined the two words “Century” and “Emporium”.

Epcot was to lead guests into the new 21st century and “emporium” is a place where goods are bought and sold, which is why the big store in the Magic Kingdom is called by that name. So the Epcot store was meant to represent a retail location for the new century.

It had a large ground floor and a smaller upper level reached by stairs or a glass elevator. As the Millennium Celebration started to approach, Walt Disney World closed the store, removed the upper level as a shopping venue and added more space to the ground floor.

It reopened in September 1999 as Mouse Gear, the largest in-park merchandise location of any Disney theme park at that time worldwide. The name Mouse Gear also combined two words: Mouse referring to Mickey Mouse and Gear referring to a toothed wheel used in machinery as well as “gear” referencing equipment and clothing.

Guests were surrounded by the sights and sounds of machinery at work. Colorful gears, pistons, levers and belts created a theme of production and activity.

Imagineer Agnes David-Hoffman was the art director and principal designer of the store. When it opened, she stated, “It’s a perpetual merchandise machine. This is the place where all the great ideas for merchandise are happening…where all of that production is happening. Not only is this going to be retail entertainment, it’s also meant to be an attraction for the guests.”

(c) Disney

The Imagineering storyline was that Mickey Mouse and his friends use this “factory” to create all the merchandise for the Walt Disney World Resort.

There were four different entrances surrounding the building.

One of the entrances was meant to be the “shipping” section where characters send the merchandise to other places on property. In this section was a giant icon in the shape of Mickey Mouse’s hand suspended overhead and a series of mechanical pieces styled to look like famous Disney characters on the wall.

As the Mickey icon moved clockwise from above, pointing at the different wall pieces, the mechanisms came to life with moving gears, gauges and sounds as the merchandise is sprinkled with the last piece of important material…pixie dust.

Imagineers created a special soundtrack to run in part of the store featuring a combination of industrial sounds that had been formatted into a rhythm or song. In addition, classic Disney songs were played.

The second level was styled to resemble the office of the factory with one section featuring frosted window silhouettes of Donald Duck, Scrooge, Daisy Duck and the nephews, that had also a loop of dialog indicating not everything was going well. Behind those windows were the actual store’s merchandise management team’s offices.

Hanging overhead and often unnoticed by busy shoppers was Dreamfinder’s Dreamcatcher from the Journey Into Imagination attraction that had closed.

Mouse Gear closed January 4, 2020 and was replaced by the Creations Shop that opened September 15, 2021 as part of the big EPCOT Transformation project announced in 2019.

The new store does not have an immersive storyline but features merchandise that embodies the “bold, sleek design” of EPCOT with large glass walls to connect guests with the bright outdoors.

Since Mickey Mouse is “the symbol of creativity for the Walt Disney Company”, the store was named “Creations” and features an oversized mural of Mickey Mouse as well as other designs and murals paying tribute to the iconic character.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Disneyland Historical Highlights!

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