Known for never being short on magic, Disney cleared a major hurdle for an expansion project that has been years in the making. Tuesday night, the Anaheim city council unanimously gave final approval to rezone much of the theme park’s property, which already sprawls across 550 acres and includes a shopping district, parking areas, and two theme parks: Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. 

On Tuesday night, Disneyland Resort President Ken Potrock expressed excitement for the expansion, stating, “For nearly seven decades, Disneyland Resort has made a unique, irreplaceable impact on hundreds of millions of guests from around the world. How exciting to know our best days are still ahead – I can’t wait to show you what’s to come.”

But it isn’t a complete Disney takeover. The magic maker’s expansion is approved for “multi-use” zoning, meaning that Disney will not be requiring new land, but building attractions in space the company couldn’t use except for hotels and parking lots. Perhaps most importantly, this expansion requires no public funding. 

The expansion has been dubbed as “DisneylandForward,” and while no finalized designs have been shared with the public yet, Disney did release concept art for what this project may look like on the west side of the resort, near Disneyland Hotel and Pixar Place Hotel. 

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Disney CEO Bob Iger has been discussing with shareholders that DisneylandForward is an opportunity to potentially “embark on all-new Avatar adventures with a visit to the world of Pandora.” This concept would be an elevation of the already-exciting Pandora in Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida, with Disney fans on a boat in the middle of an open lake, channeling the franchise’s second film “The Way of Water.”

Dennis Speigel, owner and founder of International Theme Park Services, expressed his opinions on the expansion. “This is long overdue – this is decades overdue. This, in my opinion, is the biggest thing Disney has done since they opened the gate in ’55.”

With Disneyland currently only using 46% of its property space for its theme parks, the potential for building the most magical experience ever is limitless. Rachel Alde, Disney Experiences senior VP of global development, relayed her thoughts. “What if we could become the first-ever land based on Wakanda, from the Black Panther franchise? A land based on Zootopia, leveraging the work you saw earlier at Shanghai Disney Resort. The creation of Arendelle from Frozen, similar to what you saw at three of our international parks. Or even the opportunity to celebrate Dia de los Muertos, in a Coco-themed land resonating with the diverse community in Southern California.”

The idea of magical Disney films coming to life in ways never before imagined can certainly be exciting, but Disneyland faces the challenge of keeping visitors inside the “Disney Bubble” with this new expansion. Part of Disney’s magic lies in the company’s ability to let its fans leave reality behind and fully immerse themselves in Disney’s charm. 

Released concept art shows that part of the expansion will separate itself from the main Disneyland Resort, requiring visitors to cross city streets, with 7-Elevens and CVS drugstores, to continue their Disney journey. Disney has proven a titan in establishing fantastic theme parks, but addressing how to keep fans inside the Disney Bubble is key, as millions of visitors head to the most magical places on earth to experience life in the world of beloved stories.