This one is a bit tricky...there are at least four full stores on property (Downtown, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, and The Studios) and a mini store that takes up residence in another store (Animal Kingdom). If I wanted to get ticky about it, technically, there is also a gallery Downtown called Pop Gallery, a Marketplace Co-op edition of the Wonderground Gallery, and several of the deluxe resorts have galleries as well for the true artist lover. But for the purpose of this review, lets stick with the "Art of Disney" branded stores...the big four (since they are all quite similar).
My absolute favorite is the one Downtown. It's almost right as you walk in the door, across the walkway from the Disney Days of Christmas Store and before you get to the Downtown Rainforest Cafe location:
I don't take a lot of pictures in here (it is weird taking pictures inside a store anyway, but I guess not was weird as taking pictures of your food...Disney is a different environment though), but here are some highlights from years gone by. At the On Demand center, you pick from a computer screen the print, size, frame, pretty much every aspect of it and they mail you the finished product. It's expensive, so we've never done it.
Here's the usual artwork and art pieces:
The one at Disney's Hollywood Studios is my very close second favorite, not because the merchandise is different, but because you can go in the back way into the Magic of Animation and get to the "good stuff", aka, the art work. They have different pieces of animation history on display (and, believe me, they don't skimp you), as well as the Oscars that Disney won. If you keep walking further in, you can see and old animators desk (that actually used to have animators working at back in the day), and there are character meet-and-greets as well. Here is one of the old animator's desks...looks a bit like certain areas of my house:
Not only is the issue of the access to Magic of Disney Animation, but because of it's inconspicuous location:
most people don't even know it exists and it's usually always pretty empty (unlike Downtown):
Epcot ends up my third favorite, because I usually end up here to pick up those "last minute" items that I have been fretting over the entire trip. It's in a very convenient location, right across from Spaceship Earth and therefore on your way out of the park. Plus, this store tends to have older items (I don't think they keep up their stock as much), so it's easier to find older or even discontinued items here.
Magic Kingdom is my least favorite of the four, simply because it technically rides the line between full-on store and corner nook. It has a store front, so that counts for something. I don't have a single picture of the inside of this store for some reason. Goal for next trip I guess!
I really only have a very small picture of the AOD nook at Animal Kingdom. With all the changes going on around there, there is no telling where it will end up or even if it will still be there:
One of my favorite things to buy at the AOD stores are the hand-drawn characters. You can either buy the ones pre-drawn, or pick a character from a book and the resident artist will draw it for you (although it's rare that they do it right in front of you, it sometimes takes a couple of days, but you do get to pick a color, mat, and frame of your choosing, frames cost a lot, so I've never done that either). This was one of the first souvies I ever bought, and I always make sure to get one. They do get expensive sometimes, especially if there is more than one character on the page. If I remember correctly, I'm not sure what the price has gone up to now, but I think it was close to $36 last trip, double for two, triple for three, etc (I can't even imagine what a drawing of the dwarfs would cost...I would hope they would give a multi-character discount, but knowing Disney, I doubt it). The distinction between number of characters can get questionable...the second one I ever got was Maleficent with Diablo on her shoulder and it counted as two characters and I had to pay the two character rate (but back then it was less than $60). By my count, I now have close to 30 of them (some years I go nuts and get several, others, just one or two, especially now since the cost is so high). Here's one from last trip, you'll notice the embossed stamp that shows which AOD store it comes from:
I really love the Larry Dotson prints and get those as well. I always get one of each resort I'm staying at (although I haven't gone back and got past resorts, since they are dated). He has actually been there signing prints for several of my trips, but I've always been way too scared to even get close to him. Here's the print I got last trip:
It's also the best place to buy Big Figs (the nickname for the very large, or what used to be very large, they are really little now) Disney character figurines that cost a small fortune, but make GREAT collectibles! I don't have a lot, maybe 6 or 7, but I do love them all.
I do actually have this Cinderella Castle. Since they have shrunk the size so much, the castle they currently offer (which looks exactly the same only the base is a bit different) is close to the same price I paid for this one, but probably less than a third the size. Sad.
Just as a bonus (since, considering they are expanding the Wonderground Gallery in the Co-Op, the fate of the Pop Gallery is questionable right now), here is the Pop Gallery:
Along with a couple of photos on the inside (which they severely discourage...I'm stealthy), my stitchy friends should notice the Jasmine Becket-Griffith prints. She actually lives in Celebration, which is "right across the street" as it were, from Disney World (Celebration has an interesting history, it was actually built by Disney, but they gave it up years ago for a myriad of reasons too numerous for this post).
And I'm not big on mounted animals, but these are pretty darn cool:
You can find art and fine collectibles (not just cheap-o figurines) all over Disney, you just gotta know where to look! Lord help me if I ever win the lottery, I may need a separate house for all the crap I will buy! I don't have any of the original artwork (some of it costs more than I make in a year), but I do have some prints and that will have to do me for now!