Everything We Know About the Disneyland Expansion

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DisneylandForward map

Credit: Screenshot via DisneylandForward website

Disney has officially unveiled plans for a massive theme park expansion on Disneyland Resort property. But are these plans moving forward? Is Disney actually going to expand Disneyland and Disney California Adventure? Fans have so many questions regarding the news, and we have answers. Here’s everything we know about the proposed expansion project for Disneyland Resort, DisneylandForward.

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disneyland forward
Screenshot via DisneylandForward website

What is DisneylandForward?

DisneylandForward is the proposed expansion plan of the Disneyland Resort. The Walt Disney Company aims to expand the theme park, dining, hotel, shopping, and entertainment offerings at the Southern California Disney Parks without actually expanding the amount of property in Anaheim owned by Disney.

In taking a look at the concept art, we can see that Disney instead wants to use the existing Disneyland property in order to bring new and different offerings to the Disney Resort in Anaheim, California.

disneylandforward plans
Credit: Disney

The key thing to keep in mind, however, is that DisneylandForward is the proposed plan for the future of the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. Nothing is set in stone or for certain, and Disney will need to spend a lot of time negotiating and discussing with Anaheim city officials in order to hopefully come to an agreement and bring the plans to life. So, although many fans are getting excited about the future possibilities of the Happiest Place on Earth, it could likely take years before we know exactly what’s to come, and that’s only if the proposals are approved and Disney can move forward.

Credit: Disney

How is Disneyland limited right now?

So, Disneyland wants to build on their existing property. What’s the problem? Currently, there are some limitations, and the company must work with the City of Anaheim in order to reach an agreement and get their plans approved due to the “traditional” district/zone approach that currently exists.

In the 1990s, the City of Anaheim approved specific plans that would guide the growth of the Disneyland Resort and businesses in the newly formed Anaheim Resort area. And while those plans resulted in major improvements to the entire Anaheim Resort, their “traditional” district/zone approach does not allow for the diverse, integrated experiences theme park visitors now seek, severely limiting Disney’s ability to continue investing in Anaheim.

Today hotel, theme park, retail and dining are all part of one immersive experience. Guests expect that the future of entertainment will seamlessly weave all uses together in ways that were hard to imagine 25 years ago when the city created these specific plans.

disneyland resort
All Images Credit Disney

As mentioned, back in the ’90s, Anaheim approved plans that would guide the growth of the Disneyland Resort. However, those plans limited Disney to build on their property in very specific ways. Certain areas of Disneyland property were designated as specific districts, and based on those plans, Disney would only be allowed to build hotels, theme parks, parking, retail, and more in specific areas of their property.

Instead, Disney is hoping to continue to create a highly immersive experience at the Disneyland Resort that will “seamlessly weave” all of the offerings together. So, instead of different areas of the property being specified for theme parks and other areas being specified for hotels, Disney wants to be able to build on the entire Disneyland Resort property in any way the company sees fit in order to make it that much more immersive.

Take a look at a breakdown of this below.

downtown disney
Credit: Disney

1990s Uses and Approvals of Disneyland Resort Property

The existing Disneyland Resort Specific Plan, approved in the 1990s, created districts for growth and limited the types of uses allowed in each district. Approvals generally required new hotels to be located in the Hotel District and traditional theme park uses to be located in the Theme Park District. But guests now seek a more integrated experience for the entirety of their stay.

Credit: Disney

Disney Today

From Cars Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge to the new Pixar Pals parking structure, Disney has spent billions of dollars over the last two decades investing in theme park experiences and infrastructure. While Disney has the development rights and the desire to continue investing in Anaheim, the space to develop integrated offerings is severely limited. Without broadening the uses allowed within each district or demolishing and replacing many beloved theme park attractions, further integrated development and theme park investment are not possible.

Credit: Disney

What are the possibilities for what may come to the Disneyland Resort?

Now that you understand the restrictions in place and what Disney hopes to accomplish in working with the City of Anaheim, what does this mean for the Guests? What are the possibilities for what may come to Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, and the rest of the resort and theme park property?

Well, it has become very clear that Disney is dreaming big.

disneyland forward
Screenshot via DisneylandForward website

The Southern California Disney Parks currently host a variety of themed lands, from Fantasyland and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland Park to Cars Land and the upcoming Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure Park. But what if we told you that Disneyland and Disney California Adventure could be expanding even more? Or, at least, that’s what Disney wants to see in the future.

This week, Walt Disney Imagineering began to share some of the possibilities that the future holds for the Disneyland Resort. It has become abundantly clear that the California Disney theme park destination wants to delight Guests in a variety of new ways and go above and beyond when it comes to entertainment, attractions, and other offerings.

Disney released the following concept art that details some of the areas of Disneyland Resort property that they hope to transform in the future. Should they get approval, the company hopes to transform the parking lot areas adjacent to the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel, as well as the west end of the Downtown Disney District, into “possible immersive theme park” space, that could include hotel, retail, dining, and entertainment offerings, as well as attractions. The company hopes to transform the Toy Story parking lot into “a new kind of Disney entertainment” property that could include theme park, hotel, retail, dining, and entertainment offerings, as well.

Take a look:

disneyland third theme park
“Possible Immersive Theme Park” area. Credit: Disney
disneylandforward concept art
“A New Kind of Disney Entertainment” area. Credit: Disney

Inspiration for DisneylandForward

Although Disney reiterated that they have not announced exactly what will come to the Disneyland Resort in the future, if these expansion plans are approved and if they can move forward with the project, the company did hint at a number of possibilities.

Walt Disney Imagineering stated that they have plenty of stories to tell at the Disneyland Resort, and inspiration for what to create and bring to the Southern California Disney Park destination could come from the new and exciting additions that are planned (and have already arrived at) other Disney Parks all around the world.

The DisneylandForward website states that Disney’s newest lands and attractions could inspire what may come to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park. Disney Springs at Walt Disney World could be an inspiration for the transformation of the Toy Story parking lot, too.

With DisneylandForward and an updated approach, these exciting new lands and attractions coming to Tokyo DisneySea could be the perfect inspiration for the future of Disneyland Park.

Concept art for Frozen-themed land at Tokyo DisneySea
Concept art for Frozen-themed land at Tokyo DisneySea. Credit: Disney
Concept art for Tangled-themed land at Tokyo DisneySea.
Concept art for Tangled-themed land at Tokyo DisneySea. Credit: Disney
Concept art for Neverland at Tokyo DisneySea
Concept art for Neverland at Tokyo DisneySea. Credit: Disney

With updated approvals, Disney California Adventure Park could be home to some of Disney’s most technologically advanced, immersive and cutting-edge entertainment, taking cues from these exciting lands and attractions around the globe for inspiration:

concept art for zootopia at shanghai disneyland
Concept art for Zootopia at Shanghai Disneyland. Credit: Disney
toy story land at disney's hollywood studios
Toy Story Land at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Credit: Disney
Tron at Shanghai Disneyland
Tron at Shanghai Disneyland. Credit: Disney

Keep in mind, however, that nothing is set in stone. Although Disney hints that these could inspire Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, the company has not outright said that these exact lands or themes will come to Disneyland Resort. Many are holding out hope for other possibilities, like lands inspired by Raya and the Last Dragon, Luca, or Wakanda from Black Panther. 

Additionally, as mentioned earlier in this article, Disney proposed that the Toy Story lot could be transformed into an area inspired by Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort:

This property could be the perfect location to cater to locals, conventioneers, hotel and Disneyland Resort guests with restaurants, hotels, live music, shopping, ticketed shows and theme park experiences modeled after the popular Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort.

Screenshot via DisneylandForward website

It seems that right now, since the company is very early in the planning process and agreements still have to be reached with the City of Anaheim, everything can change and anything can happen.

Mad Tea Party
Credit: Disney

Frequently Asked Questions

Disney published an entire list of frequently asked questions regarding DisneylandForward on the official website. Below, we have included each question and Disney’s explanation, straight from the source.

Why are you seeing these approvals now?

It’s hard to believe it’s been an entire year since the Disneyland Resort closed its park gates to guests. We’ve taken this time to look forward. We realize that in order to invest in a way that makes sense, not just for Disney but our entire community we need to seek out ways to create integrated experiences. In order to do that, we need updated development approvals from the city. The public review and approval process will take time. Starting today this process will allow us to take the first step forward.

DCA Night
Credit: Disney

What do you have planned?

We are at the very beginning stages of the process. While the project will be refined over time, we hope to explore the creation of integrated experiences featuring new theme park attractions, dining, retail, hotel, and more. Right now, we don’t have any specific projects planned for the future. To be clear, Disney is not seeking any public funding for DisneylandForward, nor are we seeking additional square footage or hotel rooms beyond what is currently approved and allowed. Rather, we are simply asking to update our existing approvals to allow for integrated development to be located and built on Disney properties.

What will the cost of DisneylandForward be to the City of Anaheim?

This effort will be privately funded by Disney. Disney is not seeking any public funding as a part of DisneylandForward.

matterhorn and monorail disneyland
Credit: Disney

Will you build another theme park?

We are not announcing any future projects at this time. Currently, we are focused on meeting with the community to explain DisneylandForward and working with the City of Anaheim to review and ultimately approve the project. These updated approvals are necessary as they will allow us to explore new integrated and immersive experiences that could include adding new theme park attractions without having to remove and replace treasured rides and attractions.

Will you build another hotel with DisneylandForward?

Our focus at the moment is to reach out into the community to share DisneylandForward with residents and stakeholders and answer questions about DisneylandForward. With DisneylandForward, we will have the opportunity to bring integrated and immersive development to the Anaheim Resort area that could include hotels, dining, entertainment and theme parks, all in one area.

disneyland hotel sign
Credit: Disney

You have noted possible parking on the eastside. Will this be the same parking structure that was scrapped previously?

Disney is committed to ensuring that there is sufficient parking to serve the Disneyland Resort for years to come. The City approved parking on the eastside of the Anaheim Resort area as part of our 1990s approvals. In the future we envision parking structures on the eastside as we grow and invest. We remain committed to working with Harbor Boulevard businesses to develop planning and operating guidelines that address accessibility to area businesses and take into account their concerns.

What are the traffic impacts?

The Disneyland Resort has made significant investments over the years in parking and mobility throughout the Anaheim Resort area culminating in the Pixar Pals parking structure which has significantly increased parking supply in the Anaheim Resort area. Parking, transportation, transit, and pedestrian safety investments are an important part of the future, and will be considered with any projects made possible as a result of DisneylandForward. In fact, as part of this process, the City will be updating the existing environmental impact report for The Disneyland Resort Project, which will include a thorough analysis of potential environmental impacts and will identify mitigation measures to address and reduce impacts.

disneyland cars
Credit: Disney

Will DisneylandForward result in jobs?

DisneylandForward will allow Disney to invest in the resort area in an integrated and immersive way. Any development made possible because of DisneylandForward will in turn create jobs both during the construction phase, as well as during operations. We expect the impact of any development made possible by DisneylandForward to be far reaching.

What will you do first as a result of DisneylandForward?

We are at the very beginning phases of the public approval process for DisneylandForward and our goal at this time is to reach out to the community and share DisneylandForward with Anaheim residents and stakeholders.

Credit: Disney

How does DisneylandForward benefit all of Anaheim?

As proven from past Disney investment, when Disney invests in a major way, the entire region grows, which in turn creates jobs, taxes, and additional revenues to the city which fund essential services such as fire, police, and schools.

We saw this play out firsthand with the development made possible by the approvals in the 1990s. As a result of that investment, Anaheim welcomed Disney California Adventure Park, Anaheim’s first luxury hotel Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa, and Downtown Disney District, all of which significantly increased the number of jobs in the resort area and revenues to the city.

DisneylandForward would clear the way for Disney to continue to invest in the Anaheim Resort in a meaningful way. Any development projects made possible because of DisneylandForward, would in turn result in major job creation and additional revenues to the city.

cars land
Credit: Disney

What is the environmental impact of DisneylandForward?

As part of this process, the City will be updating the existing environmental impact report for The Disneyland Resort Project, which will include a thorough analysis of potential environmental impacts and will identify mitigation measures to address and reduce impacts.

How will COVID-19 affect DisneylandForward?

DisneylandForward is a vital planning effort among Disney, the city, and the community. It is truly important that we reach out, and explain DisneylandForward to the community and area stakeholders. We are committed to holding informational meetings which will be held virtually until conditions improve.

Disneyland on-site hotels
All Images Credit Disney

When will Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Parks open?

As of today, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure Parks will be opening to guests at the end of April. There will be a reservation system in place that will allow guests with a valid theme park ticket to make a reservation for entrance into a particular theme park on a particular day, subject to availability. For more information, please visit our website.

More information

Want more information? Look no further than the official website for DisneylandForward. You can click here to visit and sign up for updates. We plan to share official information as it is released by The Walt Disney Company. Get excited — we know we are!

disneyland forward
Screenshot via DisneylandForward website

What do you think of the possibility of Disneyland Resort expanding its offerings? Which attractions or experiences do you hope The Walt Disney Company brings to Anaheim? Share with us in the comments!

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