Disneyland Forward: Disney wants new rides, shops in Anaheim

Despite a deadly pandemic closing its theme parks for a year, Walt Disney Co. has begun charting a course for the future by announcing plans Thursday to upgrade and renovate its Anaheim resort with new attractions, shops and restaurants within its existing 490-acre footprint.

The plan, dubbed Disneyland Forward, is short on details, but Disney officials made clear they want to squeeze new attractions, shops and eateries into underdeveloped existing areas of the resort, specifically around two Disney hotels west of the theme parks and in the site of a parking lot east of the resort.

Disney officials said it is too early in the process to disclose construction cost but vowed to bring detailed construction plans for approval to the Anaheim City Council by 2023. The media giant spent $1 billion to open its newest expansion to Disneyland, Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, in May 2019.

“Guests need and want more, ” said Jeanette Lomboy, Disney portfolio executive at Walt Disney Imagineering. “In order to give guests what they want, we need more flexibility in Anaheim.”

Disney officials emphasized that they have no plans to ask for any public funding to support the project and do not envision adding a third theme park to the resort.

Although Disney officials declined to say what new attractions might be added, they described several lands and attractions that have been added in other Disney parks as examples of what could come to the Anaheim resort. Those included the themed areas based on the Disney movies “Tangled,” “Peter Pan” and “Frozen” set to open next year at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan. They also mentioned attractions based on the movie “Zootopia” under construction at Shanghai Disneyland and the new Toy Story Land and soon-to-open Tron ride at Walt Disney World in Florida.

“The possibilities are endless,” Lomboy said. “We’re excited about the possibilities and ready to dream.”

The challenge facing Disney is the media giant must first persuade the city of Anaheim to redraft a specific plan approved by the city in the 1990s that defined the areas of the resort that are set aside for attractions, for hotels and for parking. The Disney Forward plans would call on the city to overhaul that plan dramatically, allowing theme park elements to be added in the area set aside for hotels, and shops and restaurants in the area allocated for parking, among other changes.

Anaheim Mayor Harry Sidhu has been briefed on the plan, according to a city spokesman, who said the mayor is supportive of Disney’s efforts and looks forward to seeing the detailed project make its way through the city’s approval process.

“I welcome fresh thinking about how the Disneyland Resort evolves and how we best maximize this resource for our city,” Sidhu said in a statement.

The renderings offered by Disney show new themed attractions added around the Disneyland Hotel and Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel on the east side of the resort. On the west side of the park, the Toy Story Parking lot, which holds more than 5,000 spaces, would be developed with hotels, restaurants and shops, according to the images released by Disney.

Disney officials said the future plans would include the addition a new parking structure with a pedestrian bridge, crossing S. Harbor Boulevard to connect with the theme parks.

The coronavirus pandemic has kept Disneyland and Disney California Adventure closed since March of 2020. But thanks to dropping COVID-`19 cases and the rollout of several vaccines, the state issued guidelines March 5 that gave theme parks the greenlight to reopen as early as April 1. Disney announced plans to reopen its Anaheim parks April 30.

Disney has announced a plan to overhaul its Anaheim resort with new attractions, shops, restaurants and entertainment. This “Eastside” rendering shows the possible additions in an area set aside for parking.


The year-long closure of Disneyland and Disney California Adventure has been a financial blow to city of Anaheim, which relies heavily on hotel occupancy taxes and sale taxes generated by resort visitors.

The city anticipates a $108-million deficit for the fiscal year that ends in June, mostly due to the steep drop in hotel occupancy taxes, according to city officials. Some city services, such as tree trimming, have been cut to save the city money.

To help close the deficit, the city has received $53 million in federal funds for this year and the city council voted Tuesday to issue $210 million in bonds to help close the funding gap for the current fiscal year and the next two years, city officials say.

The resort, which opened in 1955, generates about $8.5 billion in economic impact annually and supports more than 78,000 jobs in Southern California, according to a study by Cal State Fullerton.