Guests visiting World Showcase at Epcot have delighted in the sights, sounds, and tastes of 11 themed pavilions for more than 35 years. Since opening in 1982, shopping has played an important part of the World Showcase experience. Recently, I caught up with Jennifer Furbee and Sylvie Brumbaugh, two Disney Parks Merchandise Cast Members who have the fun assignment of selecting merchandise for World Showcase shops. They gave me a behind-the-scenes look at how they create tangible memories for this immersive shopping destination at Walt Disney World Resort.
“There’s always something new to discover,” explained Jennifer who has supported Mexico, Canada, and The American Adventure pavilions for three years. “For some guests, [World Showcase] may be the only time they visit a particular country. We want them to feel like they are actually visiting the country through the products we offer.”
Developing and selecting new World Showcase merchandise takes several months. During that time, the product developers are researching popular trends, traveling to domestic and international destinations for inspiration, creating product assortments that support stories in each pavilion, and finalizing product samples to ensure they are ready for shops.
Jennifer and Sylvie include many recognizable products from countries represented in World Showcase to create an authentic shopping experience for guests. A recent example is found in Germany pavilion where traditional German lederhosen and dirndl dresses create an instant Oktoberfest celebration. Other authentic products include color figurines from Mexico pavilion or decorative teapots from United Kingdom pavilion.
The team also develops character-themed products with artwork inspired by World Showcase countries. New arrivals in Canada and Norway pavilions include country map collections where Chip and Dale, Goofy, and Mickey Mouse are shown exploring these vast nations.
Sylvie, who began her Disney career as a Cultural Representative in the France pavilion during the late 1980s, has supported Germany, Italy, France, United Kingdom and Norway pavilions for seven years. To her, collaboration is key when creating memorable merchandise.
“To bring these product stories to life, we work with tremendous partners including artists at Disney Creative Group, merchandise operations, location planning, merchandise presentation, and Walt Disney Imagineering,” said Sylvie. “We also periodically hold roundtable discussions with Cultural Representatives to get feedback about the merchandise we carry.”
Sylvie has a unique perspective about her role with the World Showcase team.
“It’s an incredible feeling developing products for the place where I started my career,” said Sylvie. “I have a wonderful sense of pride with every visit to World Showcase. I’m thankful to play a part in creating lasting memories for guests through merchandise.”