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Disney announces DisneylandForward – plans for future expansion in Anaheim

Yesterday Disney made a somewhat unexpected announcement, on something which provides a lot of optimism regarding the future of the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California.

Dubbed DisneylandForward, Disney are thinking big and re-imagining how they can expand and evolve the resort over the next couple of decades – all within it’s existing boundaries. Basically, the announcement marks the start of open dialogue and engagement with the city of Anaheim and surrounding community; in an attempt to update old (restrictive) permits – allowing Disney to bring more magic to the resort.

The lowdown

Disneyland wants flexibility for the land it owns.

At the moment current permits (which were agreed in the 1990’s) stipulate certain “districts” can only be used for a particular purpose (i.e. hotel, parking, retail, theme park). Now as times have evolved and consumer behaviour has changed – Disney would like to integrate several districts into one, creating an immersive experience. We all know that the resort is limited by space – so this is huge news, effectively re-purposing space to better suit the needs of everyone.

Unlike previous developments (remember the proposals for a luxury new hotel which fell through), Disney is not seeking any public funding for the project, nor are they 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.”  – quote from the website

Walt Disney famously once said: Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world. That is something which will always ring true. On almost every visit to the original Disney theme-park, I’ve often stumbled across something new – whether it’s a new show, dining experience or enhancement to an attraction. 

A look at the Disneyland Resort today

a map of a disney resort


The image above shows the resort in it’s current form – as you can see with the designated districts, there is very little room for expansion – particularly for the theme parks.

A quote from the website reads:

“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.”  

Now, let’s take a look at what could happen

a map of disneyland theme park


From the image above, we’re able to see a glimpse into what a future expansion could look like, providing Disney obtain approvals of course. I don’t know about you but I’m hoping it gets the green light… just look at what we could see coming to Southern California!!

Let’s start by looking at the West side of the resort…

I’ve been reading into this a lot overnight and despite a frenzy on social media about a “third gate” (that’s a theme-park for those not familiar with theme-park lingo), Disney aren’t 100% sure what will go here yet. The concept art looks as though it shows large expansions for both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks – connected by bridges which would extend over Disneyland Drive; but who knows… we see a third gate on the West Coast. WestCot anyone?! I’ve probably just sent social media into a meltdown bringing that up.

The additional space would allow Disney to bring new, exciting attractions and immersive experiences to Anaheim. Suggestions on the website states that themed lands could include Frozen, Peter Pan, and Tangled (which are coming for Tokyo DisneySea’s Fantasy Springs), Zootopia from Shanghai Disneyland, Toy Story Land from Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and TRON Lightcycle Run, which is under construction at the Magic Kingdom in Florida.

A new shopping and entertainment district to the East?

a aerial view of a resort

Finally, let’s take a brief look at the area on the East side of the resort which is currently home to the Toy Story parking lot – located on Harbor Blvd and across the street from the Anaheim Convention Center. The website indicates this area could provide an ideal location for a mixed-use shopping and entertainment district, perhaps with a hotel surrounding it too.

There is reference to something modeled after Disney Springs at Walt Disney World – which is Florida’s shopping and entertainment district. If Wine Bar George and Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar came to Anaheim, I would be very happy!

Supporting future development

In order to support any future development of the resort, Disney are planning to invest a significant amount into transportation, parking and pedestrian safety measures across the Anaheim Resort. Any future construction and investment with DisneylandForward would also include:

  • Using environmentally responsible techniques through design and construction
  • Creating thousands of good-paying new jobs through construction and operations
  • Support of local non-profit organisations, affordable housing projects, workforce development and community engagement

Why now?

Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure Park have now been closed for over a year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. In typical years, the resort generates $94.5 million in surplus revenue which goes directly to Anaheim’s General Fund*, is responsible for $8.5 billion in positive economic impact and more than 78,000 jobs in Southern California**.

Disney have taken the time to look to the future. The public review and approvals process will take time, so starting now makes perfect sense. Remember the famous saying of Keep Moving Forward?!

Final thoughts

Whilst details are still thin on the ground, Disney are now seeking approval from the city for future development plans. Given everything we have all been through over the past year – this is really promising news and I know so many of us are very excited about what the future may hold.

Let’s all look to the future – because there’s a great big beautiful tomorrow!

*Economic data from 2019-2020 Anaheim City Budget
** †Based on FY18 study, prepared by Woods Center for Economic Analysis and Forecasting (WCEAF), California State University, Fullerton.

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  1. Hopefully they get the green light! We did our first Disneyland trip last Feb and really loved it but was really surprised how small it really is when you compare it to WDW (which is where we usually go). But I kinda liked the “small” feel versus WDW, where it takes forever to get anywhere. Hopefully the Anaheim city council approves Disney’s plans!

    1. I’m all for progress, and new jobs but think about traffic and how that will affect us Who lives in Ansheimyand surrounded cities.

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