DisneylandForward: Everything You Need to Know About Disneyland Resort’s Huge Expansion Plan

by | May 8, 2024 | Disney California Adventure Park, Disneyland, Disneyland Parks

Disneyland Resort is planning a massive, multi-year expansion to the theme parks, resorts, and beyond. Here’s a look at what’s in store.

If you’ve ever wished there was more to explore and experience at Disneyland Resort, good news: massive changes are coming! DisneylandForward, a multi-decade project intended to significantly expand both Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure park, is expected to bring some incredible new lands, experiences, and attractions to the Happiest Place on Earth.

Walt Disney’s original theme park is about to see serious growth under the DisneylandForward plan, both in size and in utilization of different Disney stories and technologies. While right now DisneylandForward is still in the planning and approval stages, the project earned the city of Anaheim’s official approval with a unanimous vote on May 7, 2024. That vote allows Disneyland Resort to begin work on DisneylandForward – and invest an estimated $1.9 billion in the resorts over the next 10 years.

While there’s still quite a bit to come for DisneylandForward, we’re taking a look at what’s in store for Disneyland Resort and what big changes you can expect to see in the years ahead.

How DisneylandForward Will Change Disneyland Resort

Map of DisneylandForward changes at Disneyland Resort

Some of the proposed changes that may happen with DisneylandForward. Photo courtesy of Disney

If you’ve ever visited Disneyland Resort, you’ve likely noticed that it’s quite compact. Set right in the middle of busy Anaheim, which grew up along with Disneyland, the resort has a strictly defined boundary. The entire resort covers just 4,800 acres – making it far smaller than Walt Disney World Resort’s 30,000 acres.

As a result, it’s difficult for Imagineers and Disney executives to build beyond the two theme parks and current hotels. Add in local city planning restrictions on what land around the resort can be used for, and it’s easy to see why Disneyland hasn’t grown too significantly since the 2001 expansion (which added California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and Disney’s Grand Californian Resort & Spa).

The DisneylandForward website explains: “We want to bring more Disney investment to Anaheim. However, this becomes more challenging under our current approvals and limited space available in our Parks today. Without updates, new Disney experiences and placemaking, created from our beloved stories, will likely never find their way to the Disneyland Resort as they have to other parks throughout the world.”

The hope for DisneylandForward is that the project will transform Disneyland Resort, bringing not only an expansion of the resort’s footprint, but also brand-new lands, attractions, and even parking and transportation opportunities.

After all, Walt himself said that Disneyland will never be completed – and DisneylandForward would spend the next 40 years growing the park in some incredible ways.

DisneylandForward: New Lands, Attractions, and More

One of the reasons cited for the huge DisneylandForward expansion is Disney hopes to bring new experiences and stories into Disneyland Resort. Specifically, the DisneylandForward website mentions new lands and adventures like those currently under construction or newly opened at Tokyo DisneySea and Shanghai Disneyland.

Specifically, the DisneylandForward website highlights Tangled, which is part of Tokyo DisneySea’s new Fantasy Springs land, as a possibility for Disneyland Park. Peter Pan and a Neverland-like area featuring two attractions is also mentioned (in fact, longtime Disneyland fans might remember there once was a Skull Rock from Peter Pan inside the park!).

Over at California Adventure, DisneylandForward plans to bring some of the most technologically-advanced, immersive, and cutting-edge entertainment from Disney. The expansion at this theme park will draw cues and potential inspiration from Hong Kong Disneyland’s World of Frozen, which allows guests to step inside Arendelle and experience the Frozen films’ worlds in real life. It’ll also draw from Shanghai Disneyland’s Zootopia, which is home to a larger-than-life metropolis that brings guests into the world of Zootopia and features some impressively high-tech attractions.

The DisneylandForward plan also makes mention of Toy Story Land in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and TRON Lightcycle / Run, a coaster at both Shanghai Disneyland and Disney World’s Magic Kingdom Park as reference points for what the expansion could include.

Of course, since the project only recently earned its approval, details about what exact lands and attractions may come to fruition are still yet to be determined. One thing we do know, though, is that there will be some kind of Avatar representation! In March 2024, Disney CEO Bob Iger confirmed this, stating “We have one Avatar-based land, Pandora, in Florida; we’re going to put a second one in California.”

Is a Third Theme Park Coming to Disneyland Resort?

While the above map highlights a “Possible Immersive Theme Park,” the color coding suggests that this is merely more creative expansions for Disneyland Park and California Adventure.

Currently, there are no plans for a third theme park included in DisneylandForward. If that changes, we’ll let you know – but for the time being, the project is focused solely on expanding the two existing parks.

What Areas of Disneyland Resort Will Be Affected by Disneyland Forward?

DisneylandForward Entertainment District concept art

The concept art for the entertainment area that may come to Disneyland Resort. Photo courtesy of Disney

Disneyland Resort as it currently stands will likely be completely reshaped by the DisneylandForward project. With both theme parks seeing large expansions, they’ll extend beyond their current borders and stretch out (and potentially across some existing streets). Additionally, many of the resort’s existing parking lots will change or be demolished to make way for new additions.

While specifics are still to come, we do know that DisneylandForward will have an impact on these key areas of Disneyland Resort:

  • The area west of Disneyland Drive, which covers the sides of Pixar Place Hotel and Disneyland Hotel, some of Downtown Disney, and the parking lots nearby
  • The current Toy Story Lot, which may be transformed from parking lot into a Disney Springs-style area
  • The current Cast Member parking lot off Disney Way, which sits behind the businesses on Harbor Boulevard across from the resort entrance
  • Magic Way, which will be sold to Disney along with other sections of streets in the area

Disneyland Parking Will Be Transformed, Too

While the expansion of Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks are undeniably the most exciting parts of the DisneylandForward project, more will change around the Disneyland Resort. Most notably, parking as it currently stands is set to change – and the resort may even get a central transportation hub to help guests get around.

A number of existing parking lots for both guests (like the Toy Story Lot and Downtown Disney parking lot) and Cast Members are set to disappear or change radically as the theme parks expand. 

According to the DisneylandForward website, Disney plans to “significantly invest in transportation, parking, transit, and pedestrian safety measures to improve mobility throughout The Anaheim Resort.” What that means for Disneyland is:

  • A new parking destination will be created on the resort’s east side
  • The new parking destination will include one to three pedestrian bridges

More parking changes may ultimately take place as plans firm up and DisneylandForward begins to take shape.

When Will Disneyland’s Expansion Be Complete?

While the news about all of the big changes and theme park expansions is exciting, the work is going to take some time. With the Anaheim City Council’s approval, Disney can now begin cementing its plans for DisneylandForward – but it’ll still take some time before work officially gets underway.

DisneylandForward is expected to take as long as 40 years to fully be completed. There is a 10-year timeframe mentioned in the current plans, but it’s unclear what, exactly, will open within the project’s first decade.

We’ll keep you updated as the project progresses and we learn more about what, exactly, is coming to Disneyland Resort!

Posts by Heather Adams

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Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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Authored by
Heather Adams

Heather is a lifelong Disney fan who grew up at Disneyland and loves spending as much time as possible in the parks. As WDW Magazine’s Content Operations Manager, Heather is a content creator and strategist with experience at a wide variety of different outlets. She’s written for publications including Clean Eating Magazine, Fatherly, The Drive, Task and Purpose, Healthversed, Nation.com, and Car Bibles. Heather also authored the book Fidget!: 101 Ways to Boost Your Creativity and Decrease Stress.
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