Advertisement

Disneyland’s Multi-Decade, $1.9B Expansion Plan Clears Crucial Hurdle After Contentious Public Meeting

Disney cleared a crucial hurdle today in its plan to revamp Disneyland to the tune of $1.9 billion over the next decade, but not without contention.

The Anaheim City Planning Commission voted 5-1 to approve sending the corporation’s DisneyForward plan to the full City Council. DisneyForward would transform Walt Disney’s original theme park over the coming decades, adding mixed use amenities and attractions.

More from Deadline

Amid an initial flood of glowing public statements at the gathering from union members, hoteliers, residents, Disneyland castmembers and Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock, the planning commission seemed set to send the deal forward. But a wave of well-spoken public commenters against the project and (sometimes wandering) questions from Commissioner Luisandres Perez sent the meeting into its sixth hour before the final vote was taken.

Disney hopes to have the project reviewed soon by the Anaheim City Council and receive approval before the end of 2024.

DisneylandForward was first introduced in 2021, and in 2023 Disney executives revealed new details about the project, including a Disney-sponsored economic study from Cal State Fullerton estimating that, for every $1 billion Disney invests to update and renovate the resort, more than 4,000 jobs and $1.1 billion in economic output would be generated during the four-year construction period. Thereafter, according to the Los Angeles Times, that investment will generate $253 million annually in economic output, $15 million in tax revenue and 2,292 jobs.

Today, Disney projected even larger jobs numbers, with 8,960 jobs created during construction and 4,584 added during operations. Potrock even promised that those construction jobs would be “100% union labor with a focus on hiring Anaheim residents and veterans.”

The development agreement would last until 2064. It is estimated that Disney would wind up spending $2.5 billion when work is complete.

Last September, Anaheim released a 17,000-page environmental impact report for Disney’s proposed Disneyland Forward expansion. There was good and bad in the outlook. The report claims the expansion would significantly impact air quality, greenhouse gas emissions and noise, but would inflict minimal impact on transportation and neighborhood aesthetics. There have since been a number of public meetings on the subject.

Disney, specifically, is looking for Anaheim officials to loosen zoning restrictions in the city’s 1994 “Resort Specific Plan” for the area in and around Disneyland.

The DisneylandForward website maintains that “…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.”

What the resort needs, the site maintains, is flexibility.

“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 more than 25 years ago when the city created these specific plans.”

In return for that concession, Disney would guarantee the city $30 million for affordable housing, $8 million for parks and $35 million for nearby road improvements.

So what are Disney’s plans in the area?

“With DisneylandForward and more flexibility within our existing properties, new lands and adventures like those underway at Tokyo DisneySea and Shanghai Disneyland could inspire new experiences here,” reads the copy on DisneylandForward.com. Examples given are Frozen land and the Tangled and Peter Pan attractions for the original park and ZootopiaTron and Toy Story elements for Disney’s California Adventure. These are just examples, however. Disney brass have not committed to any of them, though Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed recently that a new attraction based on the Avatar franchise will hit Disneyland soon.

At the City Planning Commission meeting, Disneyland’s Ken Potrock said the company wants to build “integrated experiences,” and while he didn’t commit, he namechecked three existing attractions as examples: Zootopia in Shanghai, Frozen in HK Disneyland and Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in Anaheim.

But where would these new attractions, whatever they may be, go? Artists’ renderings of the plans provided by Disney, while conceptual, show one major development to the west of the current parks near the Disneyland Hotel and another to the southeast of California Adventure. Both plots are currently dedicated mostly to parking. See images below.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed development along the western side of the resort’s existing parks nestled in among the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Hotel. (DisneylandForward.com)

An artist’s rendering of the proposed development adjacent to the southeastern corner of Disney’s California Adventure in what is now the Toy Story parking area. (DisneylandForward.com)

Bruce Haring contributed to this report.

Best of Deadline

Sign up for Deadline's Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.