DisneylandForward – New Details on Disneyland Expansion Master Plan

Disneyland announced plans in 2021 for a massive multi-year resort expansion unlike anything attempted since Disney California Adventure and Downtown Disney were completed in 2001. Disney is calling this new campaign for updated zoning DisneylandForward.

The plans shared so far have largely been focused on the land use zoning changes required in order for Disney to make the sweeping changes. Prior to the last major expansion that opened in 2001, Disney agreed to the 1993 Disneyland Resort Specific Plan with the City of Anaheim. The proposition announced in 2021 was aimed at updating those permits to allow for expansions of the theme parks, hotel, shopping, and entertainment venues. We can expect that if the proposition is successful, a similarly long turnaround time will be required before any new attractions or lands open on the rezoned property at the Disneyland Resort.

Disneyland recently shared new information on the DisneylandForward project that we dive into below this first section to discuss the general overview of the project. The concept artwork shared in this article is all tentative because it is meant to capture what Disney could build out if Anaheim gives them the green light to re-zone to start creating DisneylandForward.

DisneylandForward Multi-Year Expansion

The 1993 City of Anaheim and Disney agreement established specific zones on the Disneyland Resort property that spelled out what could be built where. The strict guidelines also established restrictions on development size, height, and streetscape.

Disney owns plenty of land in the area to develop but has been blocked in the past because of this zoning agreement with the city. The below graphics are potential expansions that Disney would pursue for the resort if the zoning of the Disneyland Resort property in Anaheim was changed.

The map below captures the scope of the new proposed changes at the Disneyland Resort.

Disneyland hopes to make land changes:

  • Establish a new parking structure off the East Side Harbor Blvd entrance to the theme parks
  • Build a new entertainment/shopping facility on the current site of the Toy Story Parking Lot across the street from the Anaheim Convention Center a block down Harbor Blvd – the plans also list this as the potential for theme park use
  • Expand Downtown Disney, Disneyland, and Disney California Adventure into the current grounds of the Paradise Pier Hotel, Disneyland Hotel, and surrounding parking lots – this is the area that would be the most newsworthy and change the offerings of the resort!

DisneylandForward Recent Project Updates

disneyland study

The City of Anaheim recently finished an Environmental Impact Study (released on September 14, 2023) that looks at the potential impacts of the proposed additions to the Disneyland Resort in the context of the neighborhood and surrounding area. They also updated the general study.

Of note in the new information released is the noise study which identified the current noise levels at Disneyland and then used a very rough outline of what future additions could be to note would future noise levels could be.

Here’s a look at the current noise levels for the Disneyland Resort theme parks as they are today. Use this as a comparison to the next map released.

disneyland noise levels map

The below map is the main new development area of interest that Disneyland is holding up as the area for new attractions. It is unclear whether this area will be a whole new third Disneyland theme park or just an expansion pad for each theme park. In the initial concept map shared below it looks like there are actually places to connect new lands here into the existing theme parks.

Again, we can’t read too much into the map released below because this is really meant to show what a fully flushed-out area here could look like, but looking at the map it lists out 14 new rides and one show. Disney called this new area a “theme park west overlay” in the report. They also labeled the current Toy Story Parking Lot as a “theme park east overlay” and reserve the ability to create theme park experiences on both of these plots of land.

Even if this won’t be the eventual plan, just to see any version of a site plan that includes room for this many new Disneyland rides is pretty exciting for us.

This is the theme park west overlay as labeled in the report.

disneylandforward expansion pad

In a just updated Disneyland Resort Specific Plan (dense pdf linked here), it is outlined that the new plot of land would be connected by up to “two additional pedestrian bridges or crossings” and will be a “continuation of the themed environment across the roadway, similar to the existing Downtown Disney crossing.”

Included here is a blurb stating that crossings may take the form of a bridge similar to the style currently in Downtown Disney with the bridge and sunken roadway or a “themed ride system”. Included below this blurb is a photo of the Walt Disney World Skyliner system and a photo of the Peoplemover at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World. How cool would that be as a kinetic addition to the resort?

Disney Skyliner Guide

This is the theme park east overlay as labeled in the report. Based on the concept map below it looks like this would be more of a complex along the lines of Downtown Disney. This area is just across the street from the Anaheim GardenWalk area.

From what we can see in the report so far, there is not any listed new transportation or connection listed for this theme park east area. It would be great for guest flow to see this piece of real estate connected back into the main resort by a PeopleMover or Skyliner system rather than the current bus system used to connect the parking lot.

disneylandfoward toy story parking lot

Another interesting detail via MiceChat – all of the construction will be built out to be visually appealing from 360 degrees. This is more in the style of the Matterhorn being attractive from all sites vs the the back of Cars Land where the show building is visible.

The Anaheim City Council is expected to consider this proposal in early 2024. This will be when we get a better idea of the likelihood of the rezoning’s success moving forward as Disneyland will work closely with the Anaheim City Council before implementing these possible expansion plans.

There’s a lot here. H/T to MousekeGamer and MiceChat on Twitter for alerting me to the study and news.

What does this all mean for Disneyland? When will we see an impact?

We want to be careful to say that this isn’t any big announcement of an expansion at Disneyland. This is the Disney Parks leadership getting their ducks in a row to be able to expand the parks when the opportunity allows for it. Getting the new zoning approved would give great flexibility.

indiana jones land animal kingdom

Remember that over in Walt Disney World even though their land is zoned correctly for construction of new lands, Disney is still not locking in solid timelines for new lands and attractions opening. Even when they announced the next version of plans for Animal Kingdom expansion first teased over a year ago they did not give a solid timeline or even confirm that the announced Indiana Jones and Encanto additions are what we would actually receive. The same goes for the Avengers Campus E-Ticket attraction which we continue to get trickles of news about without any visible construction progress.

Disney is also fighting battles on all sides with ongoing worries about the decline of their cable TV business, pressure on streaming to turn a profit, and a year lacking major theatrical releases. The Disney theme parks are poised to be the engine of growth for The Walt Disney Company but there are a couple of other areas they seem to want to work on cleaning up first. We know that the Disney Parks leadership wants to take the division into overdrive to deliver new experiences for guests. I hope that they get the opportunity to plow full speed ahead.

In early 2024 we will know if the Anaheim City Council wants to play nice with Disneyland this time around and approve the package. Once that happens, it will be back in Disney’s court to make use of the project approval. The extremely optimistic timeline for this would be Disney gets the approval in early 2024 and then they already have projects in process that they can prep to a point that they are comfortable announcing some new plan at the 2024 D23 Expo event. This would be a complete shift from the lack of development in the last few years coming out of the lockdown. The less optimistic view is that the early 2024 approval would lead to project development starting up and then sharing them for the first time at D23 2026 or 2028.

d23 expo dates 2024

There are arguments for why we could see the slower timeline and the longer timeline. The longer timeline would be the result of Disney continuing on the path they’re on now with development being impacted by cost concerns across the rest of the company. The shorter timeline could be the result of Disney acknowledging that the parks are their growth business and differentiator from other media companies and are in need of investment. Wanting to have something ready to open in Summer 2028 when the Olympics come to Los Angeles could also be a factor. We will have to wait and see.

Keep reading for a full synopsis and overview of the potential outcomes of the DisneylandForward project. Below you can read more about the economic impact that is expected with DisneylandForward.

expansion disneyland forward project

Slide shared on Twitter by Scott Gustin.Disneyland President, Ken Potrock, provided updates on the project at a business luncheon (5/18/2023). The presentation included some of the previously released artwork (all of this coverage below!) and focused on the potential positive economic impact to Anaheim.

Potrock provided statistics from a recent economic study that concluded that for every $1 billion Disney invests in Disneyland that over 4,000 jobs are created along with $1.1 billion in economic output during a 4-year construction period. He also shared previous economic impact of the Disneyland Resort as seen above.

The Woods Center for Economic Analysis looked at three scenarios in this study:

  • An incremental investment of $1 billion by Disney
  • New hotel or equivalent Disney Vacation Club
  • “Full build-out” of maximum entitlements including a theme park and hotel

Here is the full aerial view of the Disneyland area which features the areas of expansion being considered:

DisneylandForward Concept Plans

An environmental impact study currently in the works will be completed in the coming months and then the proposal will go to the Anaheim Planning Commission later this year.

Disneyland has a summer filled with local community events to begin garnering support for the DisneylandForward expansion. You can view the full list of events on the DisneylandForward website if you would like to attend to learn more.

Timeline and City Cooperation For DisneylandForward

Disneyland Officials have already stated that they expect this to be a multi-year approval process. They will be working closely with the city to move forward. Disney also emphasized that they are seeking no tax exemptions or public funding for any of the expansion plans.

Anaheim Mayor, Harry Sidhu, released a statement on the plans:

“In the past year, we have seen what the Disneyland Resort means to Anaheim’s economy and the role it plays in helping us provide vital public services for our residents, neighborhoods, and businesses. I welcome fresh thinking about how the Disneyland Resort evolves and how we best maximize this resource for our city.”

While we don’t expect ground to be broken on projects any time soon, it is very exciting to hear about the investment planned for the Disneyland Resort.

The next step is for the Anaheim City Council to review Disney’s proposal in early 2024. From now until then we cane expect a large push from Disney to create positive support for the project which they have begun by launching local community events to educate the public on these plans.

Expansion of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure

You can see in the artwork released that Disney hopes to expand both Disney California Adventure and Disneyland across Disneyland Drive to allow for new expansion pads for both parks.

A close up of the maps above shows the connection between Disneyland and Disney California Adventure and their respective expansion pads.

I don’t expect that the specific lands have been decided on yet, but you can see where the connections would come from. Looks like an entrance to the new area from back in Critter Country in Disneyland and Pixar Pier in Disney California Adventure.


You can see what looks like turnstiles illustrated in both the graphics above and in the larger flyer over artwork. Look at the artwork highlighting the new end of Downtown Disney a little closer here. Very interesting!


Jeanette Lomboy, Disney Portfolio Executive from Walt Disney Imagineering, said of the potential expansion:

“We’ve had a long history of being bold in Anaheim, and we want to continue to be bold. But we do have constraints here in Anaheim. For our Imagineers, there is no shortage of good ideas, content and stories to tell. Unfortunately, if we can’t bring these ideas to Anaheim based on the current limitations, then Disney’s investment goes elsewhere to our other parks.”

On the DisneylandForward website, Disneyland officials share some of the lands currently going into other Disney Parks around the world that are good examples for potential expansion at the Disneyland Resort. Tokyo DisneySea is the best example of an exciting new expansion in an area located off of the existing footprint of the theme park.

That project also includes new attractions alongside hotels.


New Shopping District on Toy Story Parking Lot

Disney shared high level concept art for the potential creation of a new entertainment district on the site of the Toy Story parking lot. Not many details on this piece of the expansion were given. It is important to remember that this concept art was only released to convince the city to rezone the property – we don’t know what the actual plans for the area are yet.


Creation of DisneylandForward Eastern Gateway Parking

Disney is also pushing forward to create the Eastern Gateway Parking structure project that would create a large new parking structure and transportation hub on the Harbor Blvd side of the resort in addition to a pedestrian bridge over Harbor Blvd.


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About Gavin Doyle

Gavin Doyle is a best-selling author and founder of Mickey Visit. He is an expert on helping families save money and experience more at Disney, Universal, and beyond. He has been featured in Forbes, ABC7, Travel+Leisure, the OC Register, Orange County Register, LA Times, Yahoo! News, and more.

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1 comment add your comment

  1. Very saddened that the Disney we once knew to be wholesome and family….now has become political and easily manipulated by current issues.

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