It's been commonly thought for many years now that Disneyland had reached its limitations. Nestled in the heart of Orange County's Anaheim, Disneyland's most recent addition of Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge officially nudged up against the last boundary, neatly occupying all available space within the confines of South Harbor Boulevard, West Katella Avenue, Disneyland Drive, and West Ball Road. That was until March 25th, when The DIS reported the news about the DisneylandForward park expansion project.
Let's cover the basics first before we get too far down the rabbit hole. The expansion mostly takes advantage of the surrounding resort area over the Disneyland Drive border, enveloping the Disneyland Hotel and Disney's Paradise Pier Hotel. Much in the same way that Disney's Grand Californian borders Disney's California Adventure park's boundaries now, the project suggests that a stay at one of the other two official resort locations will become a much more immersive one—basically placing you in the room where it happens rather than across the road and through a parking lot.
The expansion will add additional attractions for Disneyland and California Adventure and a small connecting area for Downtown Disney. These will need to be joined to the current parks with what I can only assume would be two enormous bridges or even an underground system, depending on how creative they want to be by the time this project lifts off the ground.
We can speculate endlessly about what will be included in these areas and how they will approach new lands, but it's clear by the Possibilities section of the DisneylandForward website that they aren't prepared to commit to anything at this point.
My first thought is: Yay! Jumping, screaming, happy dance, ugly crying, the works. Of course, the magic of Disney couldn't be confined to the existing space available; I feel almost guilty assuming it would be. Imagineering is so much more than that. Even the sky isn't the limit with this creative team at work. How could I be so defeatist?
As the euphoria subsides, the questions set in, and this is where I have some feelings. How long exactly is this going to take? Well, since none of the specific planning is in place just yet, I can't see this expansion being ready to open for at least ten years. That's not the official word, just my personal opinion.
I was lucky enough to drop in on the chat group when the DIS Unplugged team went live with a discussion on this very topic, and the points brought up by both the team and the guests in the chat were very interesting. As expected, commenters challenged the available budget for such an expansion in the wake of so many cast members being made redundant. The flip side of being the massive increase in jobs that will be produced as this moves forward; from cast members to construction workers, this could be a significant source of employment in the area, creating jobs and strengthening the local economy, not just Disney's.
The questions keep coming, like how will this impact other projects that are already in the works? Will they be placed on the back burner in favor of the more lucrative expansion? I'm reminded of the news on June 25th last year that Splash Mountain would soon be reimagined into a Princess and the Frog attraction, a move both questioned and celebrated by Disney fans as Imagineers move away from the controversial tale Song of the South. Since this announcement, the better portion of a year later, no further news has emerged, leaving some wondering if the changes are happening at all or simply part of a well-planned long game that stirred a PR frenzy without committing to a timeline. Despite being a Splash Mountain lover, I am unapologetically all for the changes, but I wonder if this latest expansion will nudge all of these smaller projects aside.
Logistically speaking, the graphics supplied from the DisneylandForward website seem like a crowd flow nightmare. Without guests being able to circulate between the two parks within the new area, the narrow bridges connecting each section to their respective parks would create a high-traffic bottleneck. With the two parks dissected by the Downtown Disney District, I wonder if the entire area could migrate over to the new shopping / entertainment district shown on the map, leaving the current one free to be reworked into a connecting hub between the two parks and the further expansion.
Don't look at me like that; I did warn you that I had feelings about this.
When I slowly back out of my over-thinking rabbit hole, I can settle on a positive feeling that more Disney is a good thing, no matter what form it might appear in. Expansion and reimagining are the best ways to honor Walt Disney himself, who famously said, "Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world."
Just for fun, let me know your thoughts on what attractions might work best in the new areas. It could be something you have seen overseas or an idea of your own Imagineering. Personally, it did occur to me that the separated area might be a fantastic opportunity to incorporate a Villains Land into the Disneyland portion of the site. Though not even slightly hinted at, the separate area has a bit of an Isle of the Lost (Descendants) potential to it where Disney could introduce some of their more troublesome characters and corresponding attractions.
What's your vision for this expansion?