Marianne Sharpe

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Interview at Disneyland Paris Marketing Magical Moments Vault 20 Opening Interview Things and Secrets about Disneyland Happy Mother's Day

Interview at Disneyland Paris

Marianne Disneyland Paris
Click for the Marianne interview by the Disneyland Paris Blog about the Disneyland Paris product for the Disneyland Paris 20th Anniversary
27 Feb 2012
(Turn your translator on)

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Marketing Magical Moments

Disney: Belmont Shore resident oversees vast retail operation.

7/17/06
By Don Jergler, Staff writer, Long Beach Press-Telegram Marianne Sharpe at Disney

Marianne Bitterbaum Sharpe, vice president of merchandise for Disneyland Resort, at Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean merchandise store. (Kevin Chang / Press Telegram)

ANAHEIM - It's a tale of how a little boy's broken heart led to a Pirate Princess bounty for a giant corporation, or how a swashbuckler is selling mouse ears.

There's a touch of fantasy in every Disney story. But even in "the happiest place on earth," business is still business.

Call him little "Timmy" or "Gregory," and imagine the young boy's face when his Disneyland trip went south after he and his mother's quest for a 50th anniversary gold mouse ears hat turned up nil.

The boy was upset, crying and he kept begging for "the Mickey magic ear hat," the mother wrote in a letter to park management.

Any Disney exec worth his or her weight should be able to make park snack favorite frozen lemonade out of such a sour scenario.

"If a kid thinks this hat is magical, how do we put that magic into the product?"

The rhetorical question came from Marianne Sharpe, vice president of merchandise and store operations for Disneyland Resort, as she cruised through the theme park on a recent hot day.

She stopped often to pick up trash and trade collector's pins when flagged down by visitors as she recalled the letter she'd read more than a year ago, and how it changed her way of thinking.

The 48-year-old Belmont Shore resident is in charge of more than 90 retail stores and some 2,000 employees at the park, Disneyland Hotel and Downtown Disney.

She also heads product creation for the resort. That means she spends much of her time and energy motivating a 150-person team to come up with new products that will satisfy the young and the old, the rich and the poor - the park sells tens of thousands of items from $2 to $5,000 each.

"I find my inspiration by listening to people," Sharpe said during a ride on the newly revamped Pirates of the Caribbean attraction.

Picture Sharpe as: lively, but not overly enthusiastic; down to earth but well-spoken; professional without a hard edge. Sharpe's persona walks a straight line down Main Street U.S.A.

Glancing left and right at a long line of shops, she offers practiced answers to questions with just enough flavor so as not to make investors and top executives at a company like Disney uncomfortable.

Ask her about sales figures, her retail philosophy, product development or just about any hard business question, and she'll give you answers peppered with phrases like, "team work," "organization is key," and "communicating with the customers is important."

Ask her for her own thoughts on something, and you'll get a slice of Disney philosophy along with it.

However, even in a job dominated by products and bottom lines, Sharpe's strategy centers around people.

And to Sharpe, products are merely a reflection of the people buying them.

"I have a 10-year-old, so she's my focus group," she said, referring to her daughter Jessica.

When Sharpe came upon the mother's letter it was the impetus for the park's new "Pirate Princess" line, with a focus on a younger audience, particularly girls and women.

The boy's loss was the Disney consumer's gain, as Sharpe began to expand the product line with a "put the magic into the product" mentality. However, it's likely that problems such as the one faced by the boy in search of the hat will arise again. "`You ran out,' is the most common negative comment I get," Sharpe said, adding that it's a delicate balance between providing variety and volume of product for park visitors.

The Pirate Princess line includes pirate-themed hip-packs embroidered with "Dead men tell no tales," belts with skulls and crossbones, sweatshirts, and a pink cowboy hat with the Pirate Princess logo.

Stores at Disneyland are filled with numerous products related to the film. The top-selling item so far has been the Pirates mouse ears hat, with an earring in one mouse ear and a bandana over the head.

Sales of the hat have overtaken the

top-selling golden mouse ears hat, Sharpe said.

Selling the new line has been smooth sailing for Sharpe.

After a record-breaking opening week of $135 million for "The Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest," sales of pirate-themed products in Sharpe's Disney domain more than quadrupled, she said.

For the month following the release of the film, sales of movie-related paraphernalia typically peak, she said, adding "We've got at least three more weeks."

Pin trading

Outside the Pirates ride in Bourbon Street, Sharpe was cornered by Rich and Tamara Cusano, a Simi Valley couple who had their eyes on a Haunted Mansion Holiday pin Sharpe wore on a lanyard hanging around her neck.

"We have no kids this week, so we're being kids," said Rich Cusano, who is director of DVD audio for Camarillo-based Technicolor Inc.

He, wearing a black 50th anniversary baseball cap, and she, sporting a new pink Pirate Princess cowboy hat, were among the many guests who approached Sharpe on her walk through the park.

Most Disney employees carry lanyards around their necks with pins on them, and visitors are invited to approach workers and make a trade - pins are sold in many of the park's gift shops.

Pin trading has become one of the hottest trends at the park, and Sharpe said pins are now part of her retail focus because pin sales have "definitely doubled in the last couple of years."

"Collectability is a big driver of our merchandise," Sharpe said. "We do have a strong collectible business."

Sharpe said she's typically stopped about five times on her walks through the park to trade pins - she estimates that she stops about twice as often to pick up trash under a program in which all park executives partake in clean up.

Back in her Anaheim office adorned with prints, and dozens of Disney collectibles, Sharpe explained they represent a "tangible memory" for visitors that tie the "experience to merchandise." Sharpe can rattle off a list of details about each item.

The Team Disney Anaheim office is home to more than 1,000 employees.

Sharpe picked up the park's 50th anniversary golden mouse ears hat, a million of which were sold during the park's anniversary last year. It was one of the first changes to the traditional black mouse ears hat, she said.

In a nearby meeting room Sharpe showed off an array of princess and fairy-related products like "Beauty and the Beast," and "Tinker Bell."

Affixed on all four walls of the large room are wire racks, on which hangs nearly 500 products, Sharpe said.

Only two of the walls are now filled, and more products are being brought in.

The team will look at the existing products and try to come up with a new line of princess-related products to refresh the product line and to coincide with the release of the Tinkerbell DVD next year, she said.

"We'll be in a meeting and you'll be talking about something like the position of Goofy on a shirt," she said laughing. "There's no where else in the world you can do that." Don Jergler can be reached at don.jergler@presstelegram.com or (562) 499-1281.

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House of Mouse Couture

Disney experiments with designer fashion at its new Vault 28 store. The question is, how high-end can Mickey-wear go?

By Kimi Yoshino
Times Staff Writer

October 11, 2006

Marianne Sharpe Forget those tacky, touristy T-shirts with Mickey Mouse slapped across the front.

Walt Disney Co. today opens its first high-end apparel store. Disney Vault 28, a reference to 1928, the year Mickey debuted in the cartoon "Steamboat Willie," opens its doors at Downtown Disney, a collection of shops and restaurants nestled between the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim.

At Vault 28, T-shirts aren't $20 or even $50. Most run about $75. For the fashion-conscious, there are pouty Tinkerbells and hard-to-find designer Mickey-wear once found only at trendy boutiques.

The Burbank-based entertainment giant hopes the designer concept will have a happier ending than the Disney Stores. Launched in 1987, the chain peddled mass-produced goods at 743 shops at its 1999 peak.

But profit at Walt Disney's consumer products division, which included the Disney Stores, fell to $386 million in 2000 from $893 million in 1997.

In 2004, after Disney closed more than half of its stores, the last 313 shops were sold to the Children's Place. Disney continues to operate World of Disney stores in New York, Anaheim and Orlando.

"This is the only one of its kind," said Marianne Bitterbaum Sharpe, Disneyland Resort's vice president of merchandise and store operations.

"We constantly hear from our guests that they want something contemporary. They wanted products that were not readily available in many areas."

The company also will test products at its World of Disney stores before deciding whether to expand Vault 28.

Disney launched a vintage and couture line in 2004 but felt it wasn't capturing trendy teens and women. Up until now, those lines were primarily limited to hipster boutiques like Kitson and Fred Segal.

Vault 28 will be stocked with two new Disney brands, Kingdom Couture and DV28, as well as fashions from celebrity-favored designers such as Chip & Pepper, Paige Premium Denim, Tarina Tarantino and Red Monkey.

The goods don't come cheap. A pair of jeans costs close to $200. A King Baby leather belt with a skull and crossbones costs $900. Alice in Wonderland-printed panties designed by Kidada Jones, daughter of Quincy Jones, run $32.

Pricey products aren't new to Disney. Fans are willing to spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars on limited-edition art, watches and collectibles available inside the theme parks.

The concept can work if people are willing to pay the price, said analyst Kurt Barnard, president of Retail Forecasting.

"Disney is trying to achieve a store with a difference," Barnard said. "They may ultimately turn out to be right. The American public is being besieged with stores that all carry what? The same thing."

To succeed, the company will have to come up with something more appealing than its movie-centric Disney Stores, he said.

"Are enough consumers going to be sufficiently interested in the very high-end T-shirt they propose to sell?" Barnard said. "The jury's still out on that one."

This is not the first time Disney has sought a more sophisticated audience. In 1994, it launched a prototype Walt Disney Gallery at Westfield Main Place Mall in Santa Ana. The store carried high-priced animation art, Lladro figures, flatware and dinnerware.

That store closed, although a Disney Gallery still operates inside Disneyland and a similar shop can be found at Orlando's Downtown Disney.

Unlike the Disney Stores, which banked on merchandise featuring animated movie characters and responded too slowly to changing trends, Vault 28 isn't a cookie-cutter operation, said Mary Murray, Disneyland Resort's director of merchandise and specialized business. Instead of relying on movie tie-ins, most of the clothing depicts classic characters: Mickey, Tinkerbell, Alice in Wonderland and the Cheshire Cat.

"We can change the theme as trends change," Murray said. "We're going to be able to react."

Pirate-themed apparel is popular, with designers slapping skulls and crossbones onto belt buckles, jewelry, T-shirts, jackets and the like. And Disney has merchandise to reflect that, including some not related to its official "Pirates of the Caribbean" movie-licensed products.

The company also has been trying to reinvent Mickey Mouse and its other characters as trendy and urban.

When Disney re-launched the Muppets last year, Miss Piggy modeled for a British fashion magazine in a Prada dress. In 2004, Dolce & Gabbana featured runway models in Mickey T-shirts.

A thermal shirt sold at Fred Segal features "Pimp Mickey" complete with a gold-studded chain, rhinestone-rimmed glasses and a fedora.

Although Pimp Mickey isn't at Vault 28, that's the vibe the store is pursuing.

"It's really moved to a 'Mickey is cool' fashion appeal," Sharpe said.

kimi.yoshino@latimes.com

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Things and Secrets about Disneyland

Here are 30 things you didn't know about Disneyland
By Alex Bracetti, August 11, 2015

Also, here are 30 secrets you didn't know about Disneyland
By Larry West

Disneyland has been such a dream destination and a treasured cultural icon to people worldwide for more than half a century that almost everyone thinks they know quite a lot about Walt Disney's original theme park. But there is more to the "Happiest Place on Earth" than meets the eye.

Here are 30 secrets, fun facts and bits of trivia about Disneyland Resort that may surprise you:
  1. Disneyland opened July 17, 1955, with 18 major attractions. Today, there are more than 60 adventures and attractions.
  2. When Disneyland opened, Anaheim, Calif., had five hotels and two motels with a total of 87 rooms, and there were 34 restaurants in the city. Today, Anaheim boasts approximately 150 hotels and motels with more than 18,000 rooms, and well over 450 restaurants.
  3. From groundbreaking to opening day, Disneyland was built in just 365 days.
  4. Well over 600 million guests have passed through the gates of Disneyland since opening day, including seven U.S. presidents and many other prominent 20th century dignitaries and celebrities.
  5. Having fun is hungry and thirsty work. Every year, guests at Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park consume an estimated 3 million hamburgers, 2 million hot dogs, 6.5 million orders of french fries, 1.6 million servings of popcorn, 3.2 million servings of ice cream, 1.9 million gallons of soft drinks and 2.8 million churros.
  6. Disneyland Park does not sell chewing gum, because Walt Disney wanted to keep the park clean and prevent guests from being inconvenienced by stepping in a gooey mess.
  7. Disneyland creator Walt Disney, who pioneered animated filmmaking, was the voice of Mickey Mouse for two decades and won more Oscars (32) than anyone else in history, attended only one year of high school.
  8. When Disneyland was under construction, Walt Disney had a private apartment installed over the historic fire station on Main Street, U.S.A. so he could supervise. After the park was built, he and his family continued to use it frequently. Everyone in the park knew when Disney was there because he left a light burning in the window. Since Disney's death in 1966, the light has been left on to honor his memory and to show that his spirit will always be a part of Disneyland.
  9. A fireman's pole connected Disney's private apartment to the bottom floor of the firehouse. Walt Disney was usually eager to start his work day and often would slide down the pole. The hole at the top of the pole was sealed up after an enthusiastic guest climbed up the pole one day and introduced himself to the Disney family.
  10. Approximately 21,000 "cast members" work at the Disneyland Resort. Collectively, they contribute more than 500 arts, crafts, professions and other skills to the operation.
  11. Every Disneyland Cast Member wears a name tag, even the draft horses that pull the trolleys up and down Main Street, U.S.A.
  12. Some Disney cast members have gone on to international fame. From the age of 10 to 18, comedian Steve Martin worked at the park after school, on weekends, and during summer vacations. He started by selling guide books at the gate, and then moved on to selling souvenir spinning lassos in Frontierland. Martin later demonstrated and sold packaged magic tricks and joke novelties at the old Merlin's Magic Shop in Fantasyland, where he became an accomplished magician. He learned to juggle from Disneyland Court Jester, Christopher Fair, and modeled his trademark, "Well, excuuuuuse me," phrase on the exasperated outbursts of a woman he worked with at the park.
  13. The Disneyland Resort Operational Costume Division has a costume inventory of roughly 800,000 pieces and stocks 500,000 yards of material in 900 different fabrics. Approximately 150,000 individual pieces and 300,000 buttons are replaced each year.
  14. The Disneyland Resort issues, maintains and cleans costumes for more than 15,000 cast members, who exchange more than 20,000 garments for cleaning each week during the summer.
  15. In addition to dressing thousands of human cast members, Disneyland Resort also maintains costumes for more than 650 Audio-Animatronics® figures.
  16. The Disneyland Band has logged more than 3,500 marching miles and more than 90,000 performances since opening day in 1955 and draws from a repertoire of more than 400 musical numbers.
  17. Keeping Disneyland Park clean is no small task. Workers use 1,000 brooms, 500 dust pans and 3,000 mops a year to keep the park looking its best, and collect approximately 30 tons of trash during a busy day—about 12 million pounds annually. The streets of Disneyland are washed and steam-cleaned after closing each day.
  18. Not all of the refuse collected in the park goes to the landfill. Every year, Disneyland Park recycles approximately 4.1 million pounds of cardboard; 1.3 million pounds of green waste; 370,000 pounds of office paper; 361,260 pounds of glass bottles; 274,280 pounds of plastic bottles; and 17,240 pounds of aluminum cans.
  19. More than 5,000 gallons of paint are used each year to keep Disneyland looking fresh and better-than-new.
  20. Disneyland has 10 bodies of water, which hold nearly 20 million gallons of water.
  21. Disneyland uses more than 100,000 light bulbs, including 11,000 "rim lights" that outline the buildings on Main Street, U.S.A.
  22. The landscaping at the Disneyland Resort includes more than 800 species of plants from more than 40 nations—including roughly 17,000 trees and 100,000 shrubs—which makes it one of the most extensive and diverse botanical collections in the western United States.
  23. The trees at Disneyland Park range in size from one-foot dwarf spruce in Storybook Land to 80-foot high eucalyptus trees and towering evergreens along the Rivers of America.
  24. Each year, about 1 million colorful annuals are planted at Disneyland. The Mickey Mouse flower "portrait" at the Disneyland Main Entrance is replanted six times a year.
  25. Maintaining the acres of flowers and greenery at Disneyland requires a horticulture staff of 100. More than 60,000 drip emitters and sprinkler heads keep the grounds watered.
  26. More than 30 different languages are spoken by Disneyland Resort cast members, including Russian, Hindi and Portuguese.
  27. Sleeping Beauty Castle features a real working drawbridge, but it's only been lowered twice—on opening day in 1955, and to celebrate the newly remodeled Fantasyland in 1983.
  28. The King Arthur Carrousel has 68 horses. No two are alike and they all move.
  29. When the Disneyland Monorail debuted in 1959, it was the first daily monorail operating in the Western hemisphere.
  30. It cost $17 million to build Disneyland in 1955, more than $138 million in today's dollars, although the price of the real estate has probably increased considerably over the past 55 years.

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Happy Mother's Day

Jessica's Flower Paul, Marianne, and Jessica Sharpe

Happy Mother’s Day Mom,
We really wish you a happy Mother’s Day.  We think of you and your always warm heart and cheerful words.
Love,
Marianne, Jessica, and Paul

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