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NEW YORK Toys “R” Us may be calling its new Times Square flagship store “The Center of the Toy Universe,” but the retailer was the center of the Times Square universe last week. Beginning on November 10, Eventage Event Production produced seven events for the opening. Some of those events included a store preview for corporate employees on Sunday, November 11; a press conference on Tuesday and a sneak peak for the travel industry on Tuesday night; an event for industry analysts on Wednesday morning; and a cocktail reception for vendors on Thursday, November 15. The week culminated in a procession of toys and a ribbon-cutting ceremony on a sunny but cold Saturday morning, after which the store opened to the public. Thousands of eager kids and parents lined the streets to watch the festivities, which included performances by the Broadway Kids, the New Rochelle High School dance squad, and the cast of the Broadway musical 42nd Street.
The hour-long parade, which included 61 cartoon and toy characters from Barbie to SpongeBob SquarePants to Bert and Ernie and more than 100 actors, sign carriers and other staff required the closing of Broadway from 48th Street to 44th Street, where the store is located. That was just one of many logistical and creative issues that Eventage's Jim Dowd faced when producing the event.
“We've been working on this nonstop since April,” Dowd told us. Producing a parade in Times Square requires a lot of cooperation from the city. Another problem: Many of the toy companies do not allow their characters to appear with other companies' characters. It took months of negotiating on Eventage's part to get permission to have Nickelodeon's Rugrats and Dreamworks' Shrek in the same parade, for example.
So why all the fuss for an already-established toy retailer? “This was not just the opening of a store in a mall, it was an entire rebranding effort,” Dowd says of the week-long festivities that Eventage produced. “When we were bidding on the job, they said, 'We want this big.'”