Disneyland to make first major change to theme park in decades

Disney has made a key step forward in its plan to expand its California theme park in a first push to make major changes in decades.

The park has plans to build more ‘immersive experiences’ for visitors in Southern California. There have been several suggestions what these could be.

“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 about the original plans. “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.”

The Anaheim City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday to approve the plan to transform Disney’s 490-acre (488-hectare) campus in densely-populated Southern California by moving parking to a multi-story structure and redeveloping a massive lot with new entertainment and rides. It was a second, required vote for the plan after the council gave initial approval last month.

The approved zoning changes and ordinances require another 30 days for changes to take effect.

Disneyland Paris reveals first look at Frozen attractions (Disney)

The proposal doesn’t expand the parks’ physical footprint but will help Disney create new, immersive experiences for visitors by building a land such as the snow-covered hamlet of Arendelle from “Frozen” or the critter-filled metropolis of “Zootopia.”

It requires Disney to invest at least $1.9 billion in the project over the next decade and spend tens of millions of dollars on street improvements, affordable housing and other infrastructure in the city of 345,000 people.

Disneyland Expansion (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

It’s the first time Disney has sought a major change to its California theme parks since the 1990s, when the company obtained approvals to turn Disneyland, its original theme park dubbed “the happiest place on Earth” and built in 1955, into a resort hub.

It later built the Disney California Adventure theme park and the Downtown Disney shopping and entertainment area in the city 30 miles (48 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles.

Disneyland was the second-most visited theme park in the world in 2022 with 16.8 million people coming through the gates, according to a report by the Themed Entertainment Association and AECOM.

Disney’s parks are a tourism magnet for Southern California and especially for Anaheim, which is Orange County’s most populous city and home to more than 345,000 people as well as a major league baseball team and national hockey league team. Hotel revenue typically makes up about half of Anaheim’s revenue, and is expected to climb to $236 million this year, according to city estimates.

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