Disney Plans to Expand California Theme Park

Written by Camilla Jessen

Mar.11 - 2024 10:41 AM CET

Photo: Konstantin Yolshin / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Konstantin Yolshin / Shutterstock.com
Disney aims to expand its California theme parks.

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Imagine strolling through the enchanting realms of Frozen's Arendelle, or the lively streets of Zootopia. Disney’s California theme parks could soon make this a reality, pending approval from Anaheim officials for a major expansion over the next 40 years.

This ambitious plan aims to transform a vast 50-acre (20-hectare) parking lot into new attractions. The Disneyland parking will instead be moved into a multistory structure, without extending beyond Disney's existing 490-acre (488-hectare) territory in Southern California. This move would not alter existing permissions but could pave the way for the introduction of new rides and experiences within the resort's current boundaries.

“We know there are stories out there we haven’t told yet, like Wakanda or Coco or Frozen or Zootopia,” said Rachel Alde, Disney’s senior vice president of global development and finance. “We know what kind of stories we would love to tell. We need to get the guidance on what we can build there so we can understand how.”

Anaheim’s planning commission will deliberate the proposal on Monday, with Disney promising a minimum $1.9 billion investment in the theme park, lodging, entertainment and other related ventures over the ensuing decade. This project still requires city council approval.

Disney envisions creating immersive experiences akin to 2019’s Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. The company aspires to replicate successes like Shanghai Disneyland’s Zootopia, where film settings come to life, populated by the animal characters from the movie.

Right now, the challenge lies in accommodating such large-scale attractions in Disneyland California without encroaching on the beloved classics that have charmed visitors since 1955. This expansion proposal marks Disney's most significant request since the 1990s, which transformed Disneyland into a resort destination, eventually introducing Disney California Adventure Park and Downtown Disney.

Disneyland remains a significant attraction, drawing 16.8 million visitors in 2022, making it the world's second-most visited theme park. The parks are vital to Southern California's tourism, particularly benefiting Anaheim, Orange County's largest city, where hotel revenue is a crucial source of municipal income.

“Visitors generate a tremendous amount of revenue for our city that allows us to invest in our neighborhoods,” stated Anaheim spokesperson Erin Ryan. “Disney brings a lot of tourists here.”

Disney's proposal also includes investments in street improvements, affordable housing, and other local infrastructure. The company has been engaging with the community to address concerns, including plans to integrate a local road into the theme park, showcasing a commitment to both expansion and community well-being.