Disney Releasing Disney World and Disneyland Expansion Plans This Week

in Disney, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

Bob Iger standing by a stone archway with a view of a fairytale castle in the distance.

Credit: Inside the Magic

May 7 is going to be a massive day for the Walt Disney Company. Now that Disney CEO Bob Iger has crushed the proxy attack from activist investor Nelson Peltz, he can turn his attention to fixing and updating the theme park division.

But like most earnings calls, Iger will likely have to deliver some bad news to investors. That will probably come in the form of a dramatic decline in Disney+ subscribers or further write-downs from Disney’s 2023 movie flops.

Collage with a serious man in foreground, walt disney statue pointing, and disney castle in background, alongside a smiling elder man. bright and colorful design elements.
Credit: Becky Burkett/Disney/Walt Disney Archives/Canva

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Like all good executives, Disney CEO Bob Iger knows that you have to sandwich that bad news with some actual good news. It helps the investors to forget that Disney lost hundreds of millions on its films last year or that Disney+ may never make money.

So, what good news does Iger have? Unlike films and television, the Disney theme park division has been a constant moneymaker for the company as guests continue to head to the Disney Parks.

With that in mind, now would be the perfect time to announce specific expansion plans at the Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. These announcements would help distract investors and fans while Iger tries to fix the television and film departments.

So, let’s examine what we already know and what Disney CEO Bob Iger might have up his sleeve for this week.

Dark Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland.
Credit: Raed Al-Jawad, Flickr

Related: Court Decision Delays Disney World Expansion Plans

The Disneyland Resort

There is so much more known as the Disneyland Resort than there is at Walt Disney World. Disney has pledged $2.5 billion over the next decade to expand Disneyland, Disney’s California Adventure, and Downtown Disney.

Working with the city of Anaheim, Disneyland plans to purchase several city-owned streets, including Disneyland Drive, and build affordable housing in the area.

Having the city’s backing has moved Disneyland Forward even further ahead. However, what we don’t know is what we don’t know.

DisneylandForward aerial concept art
Credit: Disney

Many things could still be announced, including the types of attractions and rides coming to the new project.

Disneyland Forward is slated to have 16 new attractions, including five thrill rides, nine family attractions, two round rides, and an outdoor show. The exact nature of each attraction is unknown.

Disney teased possible projects based on Wakanda from Black Panther (2018), Tangled (2010), Frozen (2013), Coco (2016), and Zootopia (2017). Disney has already opened a Frozen-themed land in Disneyland Hong Kong and a Zootopia land at Shanghai Disneyland.

Beyond just the new attractions, Disneyland Forward will also include a hotel, restaurants, retail, and entertainment on the eastern and western edges of the current park. The plan also calls for a new 17,000-space parking structure with direct connections from the Santa Ana (I-5) Freeway.

Disney also teased the possibility of Tron and Toy Story Land coming to Disneyland, similar to the attraction and Land at the Walt Disney World Resort.

So, when Disney CEO Bob Iger takes the mic to discuss the parks, he could have much to say about the Disneyland Resort.

Statue of a man pointing, accompanied by a cartoon mouse, in front of a fairytale castle under a blue sky with clouds, surrounded by visitors.
Credit: Javier Parigini, Flickr

Walt Disney World Resort

And here’s where the mystery begins. We know that Iger and the Walt Disney Company have pledged $60 billion over the next decade to update its theme parks and Disney Cruise line. Clearly, $2.5 billion of that will be headed to Disney Park in California.

We also know that $12 billion will be set aside for the Disney Cruise Line to purchase new ships, and another $18 billion will be used to maintain Disney’s current theme park operations.

That leaves another $30 billion to bring new rides and attractions to the Disney Parks worldwide. But what’s missing is just how much of that money is headed to Central Florida.

Disney World desperately needs an expansion. Since Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opened at Hollywood Studios in 2019, there have been several ride updates, but nothing major.

The sun sets over the Millennium Falcon at Hollywood Studios' Galaxy's Edge
Credit: Disney

We know Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom are getting significant expansions, but the details of what’s coming or when these projects will start are slim.

Let’s look at what we know and what could be coming.

Animal Kingdom

Josh D’Amaro announced at the D23 Expo last September that Disney’s Animal Kingdom would see its first major expansion since Pandora: The World of Avatar opened in 2017.

The plans include replacing DinoLand U.S.A. with a Central and South American-themed Encanto land and replacing Dinosaur with Indiana Jones Adventures, similar to the one at Disneyland.

An aerial shot of Disney's Animal Kingdom Park with art representing the expansion proposal.
Collage by Inside the Magic

In March, Disney World filed permits to start the construction process at Animal Kingdom, but nothing has come of the project since then.

This would be the perfect place for Iger to clarify the types of rides and attractions coming with this new expansion and offer fans a timetable. Since this project is the furthest along, it seems likely that an Animal Kingdom update is coming this week.

Magic Kingdom

In early April, Disney insider Scott Gustin reported that the Walt Disney Company is in the process of filing permits to begin work on expanding the Magic Kingdom. The water permits will be filed “in the coming weeks” for a project that Disney Imagineering calls “Beyond Big Thunder Mountain.”

This project first emerged last September at the D23 Expo. Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products Josh D’Amaro and Disney’s Chief Creative Officer and Co-lead of Walt Disney Imagineering Bruce Vaughn teased what they called the “largest Magic Kingdom expansion” ever.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort
Credit: jared422, Flickr

Beyond that, very little is known about the expansion. Rumors have been floating around that Disney is considering bringing a Radiator Springs Racer ride similar to the one at Disney’s California Adventure.

There were also rumors that Disney considered a Toy Story ride, which would be redundant given that Toy Story Land already exists at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

This would be the perfect time for Iger to clarify the plans for the Magic Kingdom, as Disney fans still hold out hope for a villain’s Land.

EPCOT and Hollywood Studios

Crickets…

Okay, so that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but not by much. EPCOT just finished a major, yearslong transformation, and it doesn’t appear that anything else is in the offering, except for an update to Test Track starting next month.

Two construction workers shake hands inside of EPCOT at Walt Disney World Resort in preparation for Test Track.
Credit: Inside The Magic

While the front of EPCOT has been completely reimagined, World Showcase hasn’t been updated in quite some time. It’s been 36 years since Norway opened in the World Showcase. That was the last country that was added.

There were some rumors of Brazil or Australia, but that felt more like wishful thinking than anything Dinsey said.

There is also the old Body Wars pavilion that sits between Mission: Mars and Guardians of the Galaxy Cosmic Rewind. That would be the perfect spot to add something new and inventive to EPCOT.

There doesn’t seem to be much brewing for Hollywood Studios. It is the smallest of the four theme parks at Disney World and the one that needs the most space.

Before COVID, Hollywood Studios saw the most expansion action, with Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge opening within a year of each other. And Hollywood Studios followed that up by opening Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railroad in 2020.

Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser concept art
Credit: Disney

But there hasn’t been much since then, and now it’s needed more than ever.

Like EPCOT, Hollywood Studios has the perfect place for expansion: Star Wars: Galactic Starcruise hotel. The failed Star Wars experiment has been empty for over six months, and Disney could use that to expand Hollywood Studios again.

It’s On Iger Now

With Disney Parks being the crown jewel of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger will need to deliver some good news to his investors, which should come in the form of Park expansion announcements.

A person in a Mickey Mouse Disney costume peeking out from behind a wooden door, next to a man in a suit giving a speech.
Credit: Edited by Inside the Magic

Iger doesn’t have to look further than his rival in Central Florida, Universal Studios Orlando, to realize that staying on top may not last forever. Universal seems to be making new announcements daily about the exciting rides and attractions coming to Epic Universe next year.

And even though Iger says Disney World isn’t scared, they should be. The only way to counter this is to have something in the hopper to keep fans returning year after year.

So, now it’s up to Iger to woo us and the investors. We’ll see what he comes up with.

What do you think Bob Iger will announce at Disney’s earnings call? 

in Disney, Disney Parks, Disneyland Resort, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

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