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Disneyland’s $1.9 billion plan for new lands and attractions approved by city council

In the early 1900s, Anaheim, California, was a rural community with endless rows of orange groves. Of course, that all changed when Disneyland opened July 17, 1955, and transformed the town into one of the world’s most well-known tourist destinations.

Now, Disney has set out to transform the city again with an ambitious project called DisneylandForward.

DisneylandForward is a “multiyear public planning effort” to bring new lands, attractions, hotel rooms, entertainment and more to Disneyland; as a result, it will bring more jobs and tourists to Anaheim. DisneylandForward cleared a major hurdle toward becoming a reality this week when the Anaheim City Council voted 7-0 to approve the plan.

Disney still faces a second procedural vote May 7 and a 30-day waiting period before it can officially break ground on any new developments. However, Wednesday morning’s unanimous vote essentially renders these additional steps a formality.

map disneyland

On the DisneylandForward website, Disney suggests the project is necessary to “evolve the way we entertain today and mix together theme park, entertainment, shops, restaurants and hotels within the same experience throughout Disney properties in the future.”

Related: Best Disneyland hotels in and near the park

The DisneylandForward project would not expand Disney’s current footprint. Instead, it would shift current zoning codes and give Disney more flexibility to potentially build a theme park, hotel, retail, dining and entertainment locations on acreage Disneyland already owns or operates on, as seen in the map above.

Disney has not yet revealed any of the lands or attractions it hopes to build if DisneylandForward comes to fruition. However, it has shared that the purpose is to bring immersive, innovative developments similar to those already underway at other Disney parks to Disneyland.

World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland
World of Frozen at Hong Kong Disneyland. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

Disney has specifically pointed to Tokyo DisneySea’s Fantasy Springs expansion, featuring experiences themed to “Tangled,” “Peter Pan” and “Frozen;” Hong Kong Disneyland’s World of Frozen; Shanghai Disneyland’s “Zootopia”-themed land and Toy Story Land; and Walt Disney World’s Tron Lightcyle / Run as possible inspirations for the future of Disneyland.

Related: TPG goes behind the scenes as Disney unveils $60 billion toward future of theme parks

The developments mentioned above are part of Disney’s $60 billion, decadelong plan to grow its theme parks, cruises and other experiences. That, of course, includes Disneyland; however, there are certain projects Disneyland cannot move forward with unless DisneylandForward is approved because of current zoning plans.

avatar themed land

So far, Disney has dangled one carrot: an all-new “Avatar”-themed experience at Disneyland. It has not announced where this experience will be, which attraction(s) will be built or even when it might open. But, it did share a piece of concept art and an appeal to give DisneylandForward the green light in a recent blog post.

“We are excited about the stories our guests could experience at Walt’s original theme park destination after approval of DisneylandForward – including the chance to experience all-new Avatar adventures with a visit to Pandora,” Disney Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro wrote in the post.

map rendering disneyland project

If approved, Disney would fully fund the project. The company has committed to invest a minimum of $1.9 billion in theme park lodging and experiences in the first 10 years of the agreement. Disney has also promised significant investment in the city of Anaheim, including a $30 million contribution to fund affordable housing projects within the first five years of DisneylandForward, $8 million for city park improvements in Anaheim, and $85 million to improve traffic flow, pedestrian circulation and safety; it will also continue Disney’s mentorship and career development program for Anaheim residents.

Disney would also pay $39.6 million to the city of Anaheim to take over maintenance and management for Magic Way and two smaller road segments — roads that mostly serve Disneyland guests and cast members. This would improve pedestrian access to Disneyland and reduce cut-through traffic to the area.

Disneyland Sleeping Beauty Castle
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland. TARAH CHIEFFI/THE POINTS GUY

Don’t expect to see major changes at Disneyland on your next visit even if DisneylandForward is approved. Though some projects may come to fruition sooner than others, DisneylandForward is a growth and development plan that spans the next 40 years.

However, if you do visit soon, you may get to experience the all-new Tiana’s Bayou Adventure (opening later this year) or stay at the recently opened Pixar Place Hotel.

When Disneyland opened in 1955, Walt Disney famously said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in this world.” Disneyland certainly has grown over the years, but if DisneylandForward moves ahead, Disneyland could change in magical ways even Walt may not have imagined.

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