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Disney turns to Apple's Steve Jobs to spark retail magic

As Disney attempts to get more aggressive in the retail space, the entertainment giant has relied on its connection with Apple in hopes of recreating some of the Mac maker's retail magic.

According to The New York Times, Disney plans to reboot its 340 stores in the U.S. and Europe, and will open new retail locations, with one potential flagship site in Times Square. The goal: Create more of an "experience" than a store. To achieve that, the company has reportedly turned to a member of its board of directors, Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.

"For the first time, Mr. Jobs's fingerprints can be seen on Disney strategy, in the same way that he influenced the look and feel of Apple’s own immensely popular retail chain," the report said. "While Mr. Jobs did not personally toil on the Imagination Park concept, he pushed Disney to move far past a refurbishment."

Jobs reportedly told Disney executives to "dream bigger," and provided access to proprietary information about how Apple has developed and operated its own retail locations. Following his instructions, Apple created a full-scale prototype store inside an unmarked warehouse in Glendale, Calif.

"Disney will adopt Apple touches like mobile checkout (employees will carry miniature receipt printers in their aprons) and the emphasis on community (Disney’s theater idea is an extension of Apple's lecture spaces)," the report said. "The focus on interactivity — parents will be able to book a Disney Cruise on touch-screen kiosks while their children play — reflects an Apple hallmark. Employees can use iPhones to control those high-tech trees."

Jobs serves on the Disney Board of Directors. He has held that position since 2006, when the Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar Animation Studios, which he had owned since 1986.

Apple's retail stores have proven very successful for the Mac maker. Last quarter, its 254 retail locations sold 492,000 Macs to 38.6 million store visitors, and more than half of those sales were new Mac buyers. Apple is in the process of renovating its own stores, something it hopes to have done for 100 of them by the end of the year.

The company is known for its sometimes extravagant retail stores, particularly the flagship Fifth Avenue location in New York City, where the entrance is a 32-foot glass cube. Apple is also constructing a special roof for its forthcoming Broadway store.

Disney isn't the only company attempting to recreate Apple's retail success. In its own brick-and-mortar venture, rival Microsoft has taken cues from its competitor. It even plans to mimic Apple's Genius Bars with its own "Guru Bars."