Disney seeks major expansion of California theme park to add more attractions

Exploring the snowy village of Arendelle from “Frozen” or the lively city of “Zootopia” could become a reality for guests at Disney’s California theme parks. If Disney gains approval from local officials, they can expand their Anaheim resort over the next four decades.

The proposed expansion will not increase Disney’s current 490-acre (488-hectare) footprint in Southern California or alter the existing permissions for construction. It may assist the company in creating new attractions. They can add rides and entertainment to the current 50-acre parking lot, relocate Disneyland parking to a multistory structure, all within the resort’s boundaries surrounded by residential neighborhoods.

“There are still untold stories like ‘Wakanda,’ ‘Coco,’ ‘Frozen,’ and ‘Zootopia’,” mentioned Rachel Alde, Disney’s senior vice president of global development and finance. We have a clear idea of the stories we want to share. We need guidance on what we can build there to better comprehend the process.

The planning commission in Anaheim will be reviewing the proposal for Disneyland, known as the “happiest place on Earth,” on Monday. The project needs Disney to invest a minimum of $1.9 billion in various areas like the theme park, lodging, entertainment, and related uses over the next ten years. Approval from the city council is still pending for the project to move forward.

Disney aims to provide immersive experiences for visitors, like the popular Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge attraction that debuted in California in 2019. The company mentioned that they are still determining which stories will be highlighted in the new developments. The goal is to establish themed areas similar to “Zootopia” in Shanghai Disneyland, where animal characters roam through a lively cityscape reminiscent of the movie’s setting.

Currently, there isn’t sufficient space at the original Disneyland in California to construct something on a grand scale without impacting the existing attractions, which are cherished by dedicated, longtime visitors to the company’s oldest theme park, Alde explained.

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This is Disney’s first significant update to its California theme parks since the 1990s, when it transformed its initial park into a resort destination. Disney later expanded with a second park, Disney California Adventure Park, and a shopping and entertainment area known as Downtown Disney.

Disneyland, established in 1955, ranked as the second most popular theme park worldwide in 2022, attracting 16.8 million visitors, as reported by the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM.

Disneyland and Disney California Adventure are popular attractions in Southern California, drawing tourists to Anaheim, the largest city in Orange County with a population of over 345,000. The city is also home to a major league baseball team and a national hockey league team. Anaheim’s revenue heavily relies on hotel revenue, projected to increase to $236 million this year based on city estimates.

“Visitors contribute significantly to our city’s revenue, enabling us to make investments in our neighborhoods,” stated Erin Ryan, a spokesperson for the city of Anaheim. “Disney attracts many visitors to this location.”

The proposal includes a mandate for the company to invest tens of millions of dollars in street improvements, affordable housing, and other infrastructure within the city. Disney has conducted workshops to answer residents’ questions regarding the proposal, including addressing worries about the company’s intention to incorporate a nearby road into the theme park.

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