Creating Disney Magic – Installation of the Christmas Window Displays

In the second instalment of our 2014 Christmas series “Nights Before Christmas at Disneyland Paris”, Senior Visual Identity Manager Christel Du Genestoux explains you how the Christmas window displays at Disneyland Paris are designed, created and installed.

DD: How do you decide on the overarching theme of the Christmas window displays?

DG: We always try to create a link between the window displays and what will be happening in the Disneyland Park during the Christmas season. I participate in different meetings with the Entertainment Department in which they give me insight in the overall theming of the Park. Based on their input, we look for key elements that will be found everywhere. For example, in the Christmas tree on Town Square or on the Christmas Parade. These key elements will be included in the window displays. And some of them will be sold as products too.

DD: What is the theme of the window displays during this year’s Christmas season?

DG: This year is about the gingerbread man and the red and white candy cane. We created Mickey and Minnie gingerbread characters that will be featured in the window displays and on many of our Christmas products.

DD: How do you select the decorations that are needed to evoke the overarching theme?

DG: The decorations are based on the décor you find in the Park. Sometimes, the creative choices are also influenced by the products we sell. That is especially the case for the ‘Princesses’ product range. The Christmas decorations in the windows that display the ‘Princesses’ products all have a royal kind of flair.

The window displays always feature one of the Disney Characters in seasonal attire and the classic Christmas decorations like the Christmas tree, boxes and lights. The outfits of the figures are made by the Costuming Department.

DD: Are the decorations being designed and created in-house?

DG: We design all decorations ourselves. Some of them are created by the Disneyland Paris workshops. Others are made by third party vendors. We always work with the same suppliers. They understand what we want and are great with details. We really like them!

DD: Do you have a repository of decorative items from the past?

DG: Yes, we reuse some of the Christmas decorations. But we try not to put the large pieces of decoration in the same spot two years in a row. For example, Harrington’s Christmas tree made out of ornaments could last year be found in the window displays of the Disneyland Hotel.

We also have a stock where we keep all of our Character figures. I think we have about 300 of them. That allows us to change the displays often and not always have the same Characters everywhere. Obviously, we have Mickey, Minnie and the Princesses. But we also have other Characters, like Remy and Emile from Ratatouille or Mike and Sulley from Monsters Inc. Except for the Princesses, the figures usually get dressed based on the theme of the display.

DD: When do you start planning, designing and creating?

DG: We start in March. First, we brainstorm about a theme of the Christmas window displays. Then we make the design. Based on our detailed drawings and specifications, the decorations we need are built by the Disneyland Paris workshops and the external Suppliers. Finally, the window displays are set up in November.

DD: How do you try to overcome the limitations of the space you need to work with? 

DG: It’s not a limitation. When you create a window display, your design is based on the characteristics of the space you studied upfront. For the girls in my team who design the windows, it’s easy. They know what to do! So it’s not a limitation but a possibility!

DD: What are the steps to be taken to install a window display?

DG: First, we remove the old window displays. Then we create the structure of the new one. Subsequently, we put in the décor and the Character figures. And once that is done, the merchandiser installs the products.

DD: How much time does it take to install the decorations?

DG: For Main Street USA, it takes the longest because we have to decorate 45 windows. Usually we need 7 to 8 days. Everything is set up at night. This year, we have started two weeks before the official launch of the Christmas season. The first week, we worked from 10 o’clock in the evening until 6 o’clock in the morning. During the second week, we didn’t do the night. We started very early in the morning, around 5 or 6 and did the merchandise.

DD: Is there a special detail in this year’s Christmas window displays?

DG: The great thing about Christmas is the light. It’s getting dark early and the streets are decorated with thousands of lights. This year, the Disneyland Paris window displays feature some extraordinary, tiny, white Christmas lights. We found them at the “Christmas World” exhibition in Frankfurt (Germany). Disneyland Paris is the only one to have them because the lights aren’t on sale in Europe yet. I’m very happy with it because we can do everything we want with them. The Christmas lights can be bend to the shapes of the display. It really makes a great difference. It’s unlike anything we ever had before!

DD: How many people are involved in the planning, designing and creating?

DG: My team consists of four designers and three graphic designers. The graphic designers create the backgrounds, floors and sides of the show windows and all kinds of other things like the graphics of the Christmas boxes. My team works together with other departments like the Disneyland Paris workshop and the people who remove the old window displays and put in the new ones. So in the nights before the start of the Christmas season, there are about 20 to 25 people at work to get everything in place on time.

DD: Thank you so much for this interview! You and your team play an important, but rarely talked about, role in bringing the magic to life. So we're glad that we could bring this to the attention of the Disney fan community.

Photos: (C) Designing Disney Research Center

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