New Ears make registers sing at Walt Disney World
by, 04-26-2008 at 08:07 PM (4093 Views)
I got a chance to check out the new Build-an-Ear offering at Walt Disney World today, and I have to admit it wasn't what I hoped for. In reading about the program, my initial concern was that the snap-on ears would be bulky or would not sit nicely on the hat. That is definitely not the case, and I think they engineered the beanie well to deal with that issue. Having now seen the selection, I guess my overall impression is that the new hat and ear choices are just not that compelling for anyone over 12, and they can be really, really expensive compared to traditional ears.
The base beanie is $4.95 or $5.95, and the ears are $2.50 or $3.50 each. (It is important to note that the beanies are all "one size fits all," and that size is generally too large for anyone under 5) If you buy a basic beanie and a pair of basic plastic snap-on ears, your hat is $9.95, the same as a traditional hat. Embroidery is an extra $3 - Walt Disney World has completely done away with complimentary hat writing. (A source at Disneyland says that park has no plans to do the same when Build-an-Ear comes to the DLR this summer, but I wonder how long it will take the Budgeteers to nix that decision) At the high end, a fancy beanie with jeweled ears and embroidery is about $16.
Of course, anyone who wants a basic Mickey Mouse hat is going to grab one off the shelf, not build it from scratch. Disney's real profit potential is not on the wall of hat parts, it's on the table in the middle of the room. That's where all of the really expensive iron-on decals are on display. Each one adds $3 to the price of your hat, and you can stick quite a few on each beanie. The helpful cast members will also advise you that you can add the decals - at $3 a pop- to the plastic ears too. If you prefer to forgo the embroidered name, a pack of letter decals runs $6. I watched in sympathy for one poor mom as a cast member tallied up her beaming daughter's $40 creation. Consider this fair warning for parents and grandparents - keep an eye on your young fashionistas.
I also found the process to be rather cumbersome. The display area is small, and there isn't a lot of working space if you have several people trying to design a hat at once. There was also a bit of a wait during my visit, with CMs advising customers that it could be as long as 25 minutes before their ears were ready. After you design and pay for your ears, a CM has to pass your ears back to the work area. It is here that your decals are heat-sealed onto your hat, and any embroidery is sewn onto the beanie. If there is a line, or someone purchasing multiples of the same design as was the case during my visit, you may have to return later in the day to claim your creation.
Despite my own impressions, it seems that the offering has been popular. Disney says that there are nearly 20 each of beanies and ear styles to choose from; I counted only 8 beanies and 12 ears during my trip. I'm not sure if the other styles were sold out or have not yet arrived.
I probably shouldn't be surprised that the available parts are mostly sparkly, jeweled, and/or trimmed with faux fur. This definitely caters to the Club Libby Lu tween scene, and there isn't as much as I hoped there would be for adults. I would like to see more solid-color felt hats and plastic ears, and I think the ability to mix-and-match hats in your school or team colors would be attractive to those beyond the Disney Channel set.
On the other hand, this new offering is going to be great for customers who want "blank" ears without a Disneyland or Walt Disney World logo on them. I get several requests for those each year, mostly from corporate customers who want to make a bulk purchase and put their own logo on the hats. Until now, there has been no way to purchase ears without some other logo on them, so imagine some of my corporate clients are going to be thrilled. (Someone from another division of Disney once told me about the multiple hoops through which he had to jump to get permission to have his division's logo put on ears, so this really surprises me. I wonder if anyone at Disney thought about it that way...)