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          “How Woodward’s Christmas

        Animated Windows Came About”

 

As Corporate Manager of Visual Merchandising, Joe DeBruin attended the National Association of Visual Display Industry’s Visual Merchandising Market in New York twice each year—one week in June and one week in December.

 

During the December market week, he would visit stores such as Macy’s and Saks 5th Ave., which had marvelous animations in their windows. The windows were so popular, that the stores needed crowd control on their sidewalks for the many customers and their children who came from far and wide to see the windows and shop in the stores.

 

Joe recognized this as a great opportunity for Woodward’s “flag ship” store #1 in Vancouver.

 

In 1976, we started with three animated windows. The large corner window at Abbott and Hastings was devoted to a replica horse-drawn delivery wagon accompanied by smaller animations. Many of the first animations were produced by local Vancouver display manufacturing companies such as B.W.G Display and Molen Display. From this small beginning, the Woodward’s Downtown store eventually featured 18 animated windows with the latest technology from New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and other large cities. Each window highlighted how Woodward’s heritage and the Canadian West were intertwined.

 

To entice customers and their families into the store, a large part of Toyland (16’x120’) was transformed into a magical walkway, with bridges over running brooks, animated figures at every turn, sound effects, and colour changing trees. The path finally ended in a replica old-fashioned Woodward’s Store, where Santa would visit with every child. It would take the Downtown Display Team, headed up by Bert Jansen, two weeks just to set up these animations every year. Extra electrical power had to be installed by the store’s Electrical Maintenance team.

 

The animated windows and “Santa Land” became very popular over the years, being featured on local and national T.V. many times. The windows at Christmastime in the Downtown Vancouver store became a Vancouver tradition. Children of all generations made the trip to the Downtown Store a must during the holidays—aging Yuppies in turn brought their children to view the wonders of all the animated characters and animals. Busloads of school children were organized annually from the Lower Mainland, the Interior and the Island, just to visit the windows and Toyland.

 

Vancouver wasn’t the only area that recognized the special nature of the windows. In the March 1991 edition of the Visual Merchandising and Store Design magazine a special tribute was paid to the artistry and theme of the windows. The magazine, circulated throughout North America to all Visual Presentation professionals, had a two-page article, complete with pictures of Woodward’s windows, followed by an article on Tiffany’s of New York. Woodward’s animated windows, including Santa’s workshop, represented a part of one of the largest collections of animated figures in North America. Woodward’s Visual Presentation team—throughout the chain in both B.C. and Alberta—were recognized to be one of the best in the business!

 

When Woodward’s closed its doors, the animations were sold to a local display company. Some of those animations are still set up annually at Canada Place, Convention Centre at Christmas