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Disney’s $1.9B DisneylandForward Plan Gets Final Approval From Anaheim City Council; Major Changes Set For Walt’s Original Park

The Anaheim City Council gave final approval today to DisneylandForward, the $1.9 billion, Disney’s multi-decade expansion plan for Walt’s original park. Today’s 7-0 procedural vote came after a unanimous vote approving the project in April. The zoning and other changes laid out by the plan to take effect in 30 days.

Those changes include zoning that will allow mixed use development where it does not exist now. The proposal allows the redeployment of some 57 acres of parking and unused land. 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.

That would allow theme park attractions alongside hotels on the west side of Disneyland Drive. See rendering below.

It would also allow theme park attractions alongside new shopping, dining and entertainment to the southeast on what is today the Toy Story Parking Area at Katella Avenue and Harbor Boulevard. See rendering below.

Earlier this year, Disney CEO Bob Iger offered a brief first look at the “possible” new Avatar-themed area at the Anaheim park. Pandora – The World of Avatar, has been up and running at Disney World in Florida for years and Iger said it is the company’s “intention” to make it a new feature of Disneyland. “We’re thrilled about many potential new stories that our guests could experience in Walt’s original theme park, including the opportunity to embark on all-new Avatar adventures with a visit to the world of Pandora,” he said. “Possible” is the key term there.

At a six-hour Anaheim City Planning Commission meeting in March regarding the company’s request for zoning “flexibility” in relation to the city’s 1994 “Resort Specific Plan” governing the area in and around Disneyland, a string of local residents wondered to the commission and Disneyland honcho Ken Potrock why they are being asked to allow a $1.9 billion revamp of the park with scant details on what specific attractions and experiences are being added. (The company’s plan for the park has been dubbed DisneylandForward.)

“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, including Potrock in his responses to Anaheim residents, have not committed to any of them.

Disney needs the project for its flagship park because, while its Parks and Experiences unit continues to throw off cash, most of the outstanding 10% revenue growth the unit has seen in the past three months is due to its overseas properties.

Disneyland, despite growing attendance and per capita spend, saw results dip year-on-year on higher costs, including labor, said CFO Hugh Johnston on a Q2 earnings call with analysts early today.

A big surprise — he said Parks growth in the current fiscal third quarter will be flat for a few reasons including “some normalization of post-Covid demand as it relates to demand. While consumers continue to travel in record numbers and we are still seeing healthy demand, we are seeing some evidence of a global moderation from peak post-Covid travel.” Wall Street didn’t quite know what to do with that and the stock fell as a result.

Disney is just starting ten-year, $60 billion investment cycle in Parks and Experiences. The first step is the $1.9B DisneylandForward plan. “We’re incredibly excited for the many potential new stories our guests could experience at Walt’s original theme park,” Iger said in his opening remarks on the call.

For more details on DisneylandForward, click here.

Some positives for Anaheim residents include that Disney is required to invest a minimum of $1.9 billion in theme park, lodging, entertainment, shopping and dining within 10 years. Also included are $30 million for affordable housing in Anaheim, with $15 million in the first year and $15 million in five years; $10 million: for sewer improvements along Katella Avenue; $8 million for Anaheim parks within the first year.

Depending on what’s built, Anaheim is projected to see $15 million to $244 million in additional yearly revenue at complete buildout of what’s allowed under DisneylandForward.

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