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Review: Disney’s Electric Holiday Treats in New York

I’m a Disney dork and a die-hard New Yorker. I go dizzy happy when these worlds collide and I get to experience Mickey magic here in the Big Apple.

So it will come as no surprise that my heart skipped a beat when I heard that the ultra chic Manhattan department store Barneys New York would be featuring Disney characters and merchandise in its holiday 2012 promotions, called Disney Electric Holiday.

Barneys is located on Madison Avenue at 61st Street, in the heart of the City’s poshest shopping district. I’m handy with a credit card and thrilled to paw the racks at Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s, and even tony Henri Bendel, searching for marked down Tori Burch flip flops and DKNY sweaters.

But I must confess that I’ve always been intimidated by Barney’s stock of exclusively over-the-top luxury brands sold at over-the-top luxury prices. To illustrate the vibe: A few years ago, two extremely generous and fashion savvy friends took me for a birthday celebration lunch to Fred’s, the in-house cafe at Barney’s. (No, there is no Flintstone’s connection.) Seated at the table next to us was Roger Federer…on the very day after he had won the U.S. Open tennis tournament. That’s Barney’s in a nutshell.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the hoopla surrounding the Disney/Barney’s collaboration (Egads! Skinny Minnie!), there was negligible in-your-face evidence of the Disney characters in the store windows, just some bright lights, the character fashion show video on endless loop and a few $250 Vinylmations off to the side.

Throughout the store, “Disney Electric Holiday” signage pointed shoppers to shiny trinkets like $700 Manolo Blahnik kitten heels and $450 Oliver Peoples sunglasses, most of which had absolutely nothing to do with Disney. To get to the Disney merchandise and displays, you have to head all the way up to the ninth floor, next to Fred’s cafe.

Looking toward Fred's

The first thing you see when you hop of the elevator is a display of Disney-themed party cakes, available to order.

The cakes were darling, but perhaps not quite as elaborate or detailed as what you might expect to get for a private event cake at Walt Disney World. Prices started at $78 for a 4″ round cake and went up from there.

Mini Minnie cake. Minnie is a piece of painted white chocolate.

Black box cake with hidden Mickeys on the ribbon

Daisy cake with sweet daisy decorations

Minnie ears cake

Polka dot Mickey ears cake

Goofy cake

Bow cake, an homage to Minnie

Mickey cake

Faux shopping bag cake. This one was done particularly well.

Next to the cakes were a display of vintage Disney toys and housewares, also available for purchase. The 1930s George Borgfeldt Mickey Mouse Sax Player Tea Set, $595.00, was adorable.

To get to the main Disney merchandise display, you have to move past video screens playing classic Disney cartoons. These are mounted on a wall decorated with line drawings of stylized Disney characters interspersed with fashion world icons.

Video wall

Given the Disney Electric Holiday press, I was expecting to see a vast spread of merchandise, but only found three or four standing display racks in an area carved out of what appeared to be a coffee table book nook.

Disney Electric Holiday merchandise display 1

Disney Electric Holiday merchandise display 2

The Disney gear included a Christmas tree skirt, ornaments, hooded towels, iPhone 4/4S cases (how passé), and some pet supplies.

But the vast majority of Disney-themed merchandise was food: cookies, chocolates, popcorn, and gumballs. Here’s a taste:

Bite sized cookies

Funfetti popcorn

Chocolate lollipops

Gumballs nestled inside a giant slinky

Individual chocolate lollipops

Chocolate ornaments

Character cookies, box of four, each about the size of the palm of my hand

Box of five flavored marshmallow filled truffle cookies

Logo-printed chocolate bar

Lightbulb-shaped chocolates

Individually wrapped sugar cookie, Daisy

Individually wrapped sugar cookie, Goofy

Individually wrapped sugar cookie, Minnie

Looks pretty, right? And I’m a sucker for a Minnie cookie, so I was ready to stock up on stocking stuffers.

But here’s the kicker, even by Disney standards, even by Manhattan standards, even by Disney in Manhattan standards, these goodies were priced beyond comprehension. Those individual character cookies, those 4 inch by 3 inch sugar cookies, were $15.00. Each. Fifteen dollars for one sugar cookie.

In the name of research, I did indeed purchase said sugar cookie thinking, hoping, that there was a secret to it, a hidden golden ticket, or at least some serious yum.

But nope, nada, just a dry, factory made, almost cracker-esque cookie festooned with a peel-off sugar print picture of Minnie.

Inside of the Minnie sugar cookie

Thinking there had to be something going on that I didn’t understand, I also bought the five-pack of flavored marshmallow-filled chocolates ($34.00) to share with my daughters. My 16-year-old proclaimed them to be the equivalent of “really good Mallomars.”

Okey dokey, that’s all fine, but you can buy about 100 Mallomars for what these five cookie things cost.

Inside of the truffle cookie, this one was caramel and marshmallow.

Other prices were: popcorn, $28; chocolate bar (7.5 oz), $28; lightbulb-shaped chocolates, box of six bite-sized, $24; four mini chocolate lollipops (4 oz total), $24; box of 16 bite sized cookies (4.5 oz total), $48; two pounds of gumballs in a plastic rainbow slinky, $58; individual chocolate lollipop (2.2 oz), $12; box of four character cookies (2.6 oz total), $55. Seriously.

Seriously?

I truly don’t mean to sound snarky. Again, I LOVE Disney. I happily pay premium pricing for treats when I’m in the parks. And I have no problem dropping over $1,000 for a truly special meal with my family. But I simply don’t understand who would buy these items.

The people who shop at Barneys don’t eat sweets, or rather they eat sweets in a way such that a 7-inch cake feeds 40; and the people who are devoted Disney fans probably aren’t going up to the 9th floor of a department store on Madison Avenue and paying $15 for one dry sugar cookie, particularly when they can walk a few blocks over to the Times Square Disney Store and get a rockin’ “I Mickey NY” tee for about the same price, which can be worn with pride for years.

Actually, the subset of people who are Disney fans AND silly enough to pay $15 for a cookie is probably exactly one – me – and I’ve already paid my visit to this particular mecca. Maybe these items are made for corporate giving. Maybe I’m misreading the Barneys clientele. Maybe it’s all just meant to be photographed, not consumed. Whatever the case, I’m a bit confused.

On the upside, if you do make it to Barneys to ogle the cake display, there are a few very nice things to note. First, Barneys is stepping up and pledging 25% of the retail price of all items in the Electric Holiday collection to the Red Cross for disaster relief services.

Having seen the ravages of hurricane Sandy first hand, this donation is much needed and I’m sure much appreciated.

Second, Barneys and AirFrance are running a promotion as part of the Electric Holiday. You can enter to win two round-trip business class tickets to Paris, a four night stay at Hotel Sofitel Paris le Faubourg, two tickets to Disneyland Paris, a $5,000 Parisian wardrobe, and luggage from Barneys New York. To enter, text HOLIDAY to 30644.

And if you win, don’t forget where you heard about the contest. I’ll buy you some nougat if you take me to Disneyland Paris with you :-)

And third, off to the side of the vintage Disney merchandise is a lonely photo booth. For just two dollars, you get two strips of three photos of yourself printed with the Disney Electric Holiday logo at the bottom.

Best souvenir value ever.

Best value at Disney's Electric Holiday at Barneys New York, two photo strips, two dollars

So Disney shoppers, will you be shopping Barneys this holiday season, online or in the store? Do you have a take on the target audience for these luxe Disney sweets? Are you having trouble imagining the elf-sized bites that would be necessary for 40 people to share a 7 inch cake? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Erin Foster is the Disney Food for Families columnist and a behind-the-scenes guru here at Disney Food Blog! Check out more of her posts here.

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19 Comments

  1. Sandi says:

    Ummmmmmmmm….no. I’ll be waiting and buying my treats in Disney World. Do you realize how many cupcakes and cinnamon rolls you could buy for that kind of money? : )

  2. Chris says:

    Thank you for the incredibly thorough review! And, by extension, thank you for saving us a trip into the city…clearly we won’t be bothering with this. I agree; I can’t see who Disney is really targeting with a promotion like this. Is it the families who are on their way to the American Girl store to drop a boatload of cash?

    Given the outrageous prices for the mediocre merchandise being sold there, clearly they are counting on money being no object for those who visit. I have to say that, as a bit of a purist, I also didn’t really care for the artists’ interpretations of the characters, even if the prices were within shouting distance of reasonable. The price (and quality) of the cookie you bought is simply absurd. Really, Disney should be embarrassed.

    Again, thanks for reporting in such great detail on this promotion!

  3. Kathi G says:

    If the cake taste anything like the cookies you probably would only want an elf sized piece.

  4. Sandy - winnieatepooh says:

    Thank you so much for this review! I was considering making the trip to see it in person, really excited to see the shop, since last years’ Lady Gaga display was so over the top. But it seems like they didn’t even try for Disney, and I take such offense to that! Nevertheless, I did spend $40 for a Minnie ornament from the Barney’s website, and maybe that’s good enough. Although, how cute is the photobooth! I love it. Thanks again for a great review and taking one for the team on that cookie.

  5. Galloping Gourmand says:

    Disney and Barney’s is a surprising combination. I’m happy that they are partnering with a high end retail outlet in NYC. That’s been missing from their city product mix. This CT boy will be sure to check out all the lovely things I will never, ever be able to afford nor, even should I hit the lottery, justify.

    I love the stylized characters on the cakes.

  6. Amy Jean says:

    Thanks for the thorough- and very honest- review. It confirms my hunch, that Disney is really best enjoyed in it’s pure form- in the parks!

  7. richard says:

    Lord, where to begin.

    In what universe does a 4-inch cake feed 8 and a 7 inch cake feeds 40? Are they serious?

    I’ve never really gotten the appeal of Barney’s. Their holiday windows are what some would call “eclectic” but what I call “upscale hipster nonsense that has little or nothing to do with the holiday season.” I’ll take Macy’s more traditional approach, thank you very much

    I do imagine these items will sell well among the Barney’s set. To the typical Barney’s shopper, a $15 cookie (which, of course, they wouldn’t consider eating… but there’s Muffy and Buffy’s Christmas stockings, doncha know!) is something of a bargain. And if that means more money to Hurrican Sandy relief, that’s awesome.

    Shame on Barney’s for basically using Disney to draw people into their web of overpriced nonsense. If they’re going to use Muffy and Buffy whining, “But mother, father, we simply MUST see the Disney display!” they should at least make the experience more exciting than a few cakes and overpriced MallowMars.

    Oh, and never shy away from snark where it’s necessary. And man, when it comes to this display at Barney’s, it was highly necessary!

    Richard/Tralfie

  8. Erin F says:

    Sandi – Mmmm. I’m all about saving my pennies for WDW cupcakes!

    Chris – If you were going to be in the area anyway, then it might be worth a visit just to see the cakes, but I certainly wouldn’t make a special trip into the City, particularly when the video (really the only thing in the windows) and much of the merchandise is available online.

    Kathi – I imagine that the cakes are made in house or by a nearby specialty bakery. The food at Fred’s is total yum, so I’m guessing that the cakes are better than the cookie.

    Sandy – I’m all for your ornament purchase. They were quite cute, and will last for years, as opposed to the disappearing nature of the sweets.

    GG – It was a surprising combination, that I had been looking forward to. I wanted to love the window display, but was disappointed that it was only a video that you could easily see online.

    Amy Jean – I’ll all for a good excuse to visit the parks!

  9. Katie says:

    Were all of the cookies made by Elenis or just the box of 16 multi-colored Mickeys?

  10. Catie says:

    I must say that I agree with your review- when I first heard about this merchandise I was thrilled – until I saw the prices. I was shocked too, and sadly none of these items will be going on my Christmas list. I wasn’t impressed and find Parks merchandise to be better (not to mention cheaper!) thanks Barney’s but no thanks

  11. Erin F says:

    Katie – The only cookies made by Elenis were the box of 16 minis and the box of four character cookies. I’ve had Elenis several times in the past. They are of much better quality than the single character sugar cookies, but still very expensive for what you get.

  12. JoAnn says:

    The serving sizes on the cakes are definately out of wack. If a 4 inch cake serves 8 (1/2 inch per person) then a 7 inch cake should serve 14.

  13. Kerri says:

    I have a $50 gift card for Barney’s given to me by a very well-meaning family at the end of summer camp. Since I work at summer camp, I don’t generally buy Manolo Blahniks or $700 skirts, so I wasn’t really sure what to do with my gift card – but maybe some overpriced Mallowmars!

  14. Joy Ousterout says:

    Is it just me – or does “stylized” Mickey look more like Bambi? Definitely do NOT like the distorted characters – Daisy is the only one I consider passable. Reminds me of cheap knock-off “Disney” items that clearly came from over-seas. Boo!! Cool article though! Absolutely cracked me up. Can’t wait for our trip to Paris! I loves me some nougat ;)

  15. Alexa says:

    Very similar to the Lady Gaga display they had last year! Something different to do, but nothing I would purchase

  16. Clara says:

    I love reading about the adventures of another NYC Disney fan!

    This review is well-written and hilarious – thanks! I think I’ll check out the display since I’m in the neighborhood, but I doubt I’ll buy anything but a photobooth strip.

    Keep the snark coming :)

  17. Natalie says:

    Oof… I work right around the corner and I was starting to get jealous of all the tourists on 5th Avenue with Electric Holiday shopping bags, but I can see I won’t even be buying something small just to get the bag! I’m a little confused by all the hoopla surrounding… some cake and cookies?

  18. Rachel M says:

    I’m behind on my blog reading but from the sounds of this I didn’t need to have rushed right there to see this anyway. Or buy anything for that matter. $15 for a cookie?? I can make a batch of cookies, cut them out with my Mickey cookie cutter and not spend anywhere near that. I guess all some people see is the status of paying more for something.
    Keep that snark coming…

  19. Erin F says:

    For those who are interested … Here’s a little more info on the source of the cakes:

    http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2012/12/13/fashion/20121213-BROWSING.html?ref=fashion

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