A new tongue twister of a store coming to Fantasyland that will prove difficult to say three times fast pays tribute to a magic shop filled to the rafters with “higitus figitus migitus mum prestidigitonium” from Disneyland’s opening day in 1955.
Merlin’s Marvelous Miscellany will open in Fantasyland on Friday, March 11 in the shadow of Sleeping Beauty Castle at the Anaheim theme park.
“It’s a mouthful of a name,” Walt Disney Imagineering Art Director Michael Dobrzycki said. “It’s almost like the reason it’s a tongue twister is because not everyone can do magic. It’s got to be a little trickier or anybody would be doing it.”
Merlin’s Marvelous Miscellany offers a thematic node to Merlin’s Magic Shop that occupied the same Fantasyland location when Disneyland opened on July 17, 1955.
“We know that the heritage and traditions of Disneyland resonate with our guests,” Dobrzycki said during an online video interview. “You want to get that feeling that you had when you were a kid and share it with your kids. Anything we can do that reminds you of that original first time you went to Disneyland is always great.”
Imagineering took visual cues from the original Merlin’s Magic Shop for the new Merlin’s Marvelous Miscellany. The interior of the stuffed-to-the-gills small shop reflects the wizard’s stitched-together patchwork aesthetic.
“I wouldn’t say that Merlin is the most organized of tutors,” Dobrzycki said. “Everything of his is up in the rafters and in the windows, too. It’s like a really delightful jumble of his teaching and research materials from him.”
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In the 1963 “Sword in the Stone,” Merlin stuffs his magic carpet bag full of spells, books and scientific tools before heading off to tutor the young King Arthur. Imagineering has unpacked the wizard’s magic carpet bag in Merlin’s Marvelous Miscellany for the backstory being told in the Fantasyland shop.
“When you’re in the shop, you’re going to see books lining the walls, little Da Vinci models of these great flying machines or tanks, chemistry sets that show his interest in alchemy, astrology and astronomy, star charts, homemade telescopes and armillary globes,” Dobrzycki said.
A jousting dummy with a bucket helmet and broken lance sits in the corner of the shop. Merchandise rests atop stacks of books. Zodiac and astrology charts line the wall behind the checkout stand. And, of course, there will be plenty of bird perches for Archimedes — Merlin’s owl companion.
“The whole upper quarter of the shop is just Merlin’s stuff jam packed and stacked in there,” Dobrzycki said. “It’s going to have a lot of nods to the movie. It’s going to be a pretty cool space.”
As you might expect, the new shop is also sprinkled with Easter eggs for devotees of Merlin and “Sword in the Stone.”
Eagle-eyed fans will spot a triskelion burned into the shop marquee that’s the symbol for Merlin in Arthurian scholarly works. And keep an eye out for spectacles left by the absent-minded sorcerer scattered throughout the shop and in the store windows.
The storefront’s exterior paint and trim takes cues from the crimson and gold color scheme of the original Merlin’s Magic Shop marquee.
The “Higitus figitus migitus mum prestidigitonium” lyrics from Merlin’s signature song in the 1963 Disney film stretched across the front of the new store. Fortunately for all involved, the Sherman Brothers’ earworm song won’t be playing on an endless loop inside the new shop.
The two main Marvelous Miscellany storefront windows out front will be filled with a large telescope, a medieval solar system mobile and other astronomy and astrology gear. Around the corner, the side window facing the Peter Pan’s Flight attraction will feature Merlin’s alchemy lab.
“It’s got this really cool little gargoyle Bunsen burner that’s bubbling up this great green concoction that goes through this spiral glass and all these flasks and vials,” Dobrzycki said of the side window.
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The original Merlin’s Magic Shop and nearby King Arthur Carrousel preceded Disney’s 1963 “Sword in the Stone” animated film featuring the whiz-bang wizard of whimsy and the boy who would be king by nearly a decade. Much like Sleeping Beauty Castle — which was built years before the animated film came out in 1959 — the original Merlin’s shop showed just how forward-thinking Walt Disney was about incorporating upcoming movie projects into Disneyland.
“Although Walt probably had a really good sense that these were the properties he was going to be developing, these were unknown Disney properties at the shortly time,” Dobrzycki said. “He obviously bet on himself. He knew these were going to be great movies and they were going to build a good legacy for the park.”
Before the opening of Disneyland, Walt Disney recruited magician Merv Taylor, who repaired, created and sold magic props at his Hollywood magic store, to run the Fantasyland magic shop.
Merlin’s Magic Shop was where aspiring comedian and actor Steve Martin worked as a magician and salesperson demonstrating magic tricks and practical jokes from 1955 to 1958. While Martin spent most of his time at Merlin’s, he also worked at the Main Street USA magic shop that opened in 1957. Martin purchased the original wooden sign for Merlin’s Magic Shop on eBay for his personal collection, according to the Disneyland fan site Daveland.
”That original sign is what we based the new sign off of,” Dobrzycki said. “It’s a reimagining of that original wooden shape with just a little bit more fabrication savvy. It very much is reinvigorating the old look of the marquee.”
The Merlin theme brings the new store full circle with the magic shop that occupied the location until 1983 when Fantasyland underwent a major renovation. Since then, the Fantasyland retail spot has been home to Mickey’s Christmas Chalet, Castle Heraldry Shoppe, Briar Rose’s Cottage and Villain’s Lair — with the Castle Holiday Shoppe the most recent tenant.
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The opening of the Plaza Point holiday shop on Main Street USA in October made the Castle Holiday Shoppe in Fantasyland redundant. The “miscellany” in the name makes the new Merlin’s shop a flexible location ideal for a wide range of merchandise.
“Obviously when you call it the Castle Holiday Shoppe, that pigeonholes you into the kind of stuff we can sell there,” said Dobrzycki, who has recently worked on Pelican’s Landing, Tropical Hideaway and the refresh of the Jungle Cruise attraction. “With Merlin’s Marvelous Miscellany, that’s going to allow us to change out the offerings with moderate regularity. It could be anything because Merlin has a huge, broad academic interest in all things and he’s got one foot in the future, one foot in the past and his finger in every foot.