What is the DisneylandForward Expansion? An Unofficial Project Guide

If you follow Disney Parks news or perhaps attended the most recent D23 Expo, then you may be familiar with the proposed DisneylandForward expansion, which will allow Disneyland to utilize existing space to create new theme park experiences. However, as the project remains in its early infancy, a lot of discrepancy and confusion surrounds the details of this future expansion.

To “keep moving forward” is the Disney way. So, let’s break it down as the Disneyland Resort looks to expand:


Credit: Disney

What is Disneyland Forward?

DisneylandForward is a “multiyear public planning effort” proposed by Disney Parks officials to renegotiate permits and zoning within the Southern California city of Anaheim in ways that will allow the Walt Disney Company to reevaluate the space the Disneyland Resort and Downtown Disney District sit upon. According to the official DisneylandForward webpage, the project will enable Disney “to meaningfully invest in Anaheim for years to come and meet the future demands in entertainment” by updating “existing development approvals.”

Does it include Disneyland and Disney California Adventure expansions?

Many Guests are curious to know what Disney Parks’ plans are for its two existing theme parks at the Anaheim Resort within this expansion. Of course, Disney has already begun efforts to renew and revitalize both Disneyland Park and its second gate through the introduction of recent areas like Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, which invites Guests into the completely original planetary world of Batuu, and Avengers Campus, along with older projects such as Cars Land, Pixar Pier, and Buena Vista Street.

In fact, the last time Disney lobbied for this type of approval, those specific infrastructure plans led to the creation of Disney California Adventure Park, as well as Downtown Disney, luxury hotel experiences, the new Convention Center, and the evolution of the City of Anaheim into “the Anaheim Resort.” Even so, as Disney states: it struggles to “add new attractions and immersive experiences” without affecting existing Disney Park elements due to a lack of space and “inflexible” district/zoning procedures.

Disney California Adventure Food & Wine Festival

Credit: Disney

This means it’s probably more likely that once approved, Disney will focus on adding a third gate with new experiences rather than continuing to expand existing Parks at the expense of current attractions, based on what the zoning around Disney property currently allows.

So, what is included in the project?

From a “West Coast” Disney Springs to a fantasy or steampunk Park inspired by elements of Tokyo DisneySea, DisneylandForward has the potential to elevate the Resort’s future offerings on a greater scale. Ken Potrock, President of the Disneyland Resort, notes that today’s Guests desire “diverse, integrated experiences” which combine hotel, theme Park, retail, and dining.

Presumably, this also plays into the smaller scale of Disneyland compared to the massive sprawl of Walt Disney World Resort: ie. Disneyland has the most available space for new projects within the area currently allocated to Downtown Disney rather than within its two existing theme park layouts. As a result, the former approvals in place that limited what type of expansion can occur in various “zones,” separating the theme park districts from those of retail, hotel, and parking, complicate plans for something such as the introduction of a themed hotel experience like the Starcruiser, or a third gate at the end of the retail pathways.

disneyland partners statue

Credit: Disney

How will DisneylandForward affect Disneyland Resort?

Is a third Theme Park coming to Disneyland?

Furthermore, with all the recent talk of removing elements of Downtown Disney to make space for a new entertainment experience of some kind, will Walt Disney Imagineering build another Park in California? Certainly, the thought of Park Hopping between three theme parks, one of which will be filled with all-new, state-of-the-art attractions of the same caliber as Shanghai Disneyland, is a magical one!

Per Disney’s own statement, however, even with the “developmental rights,” it cannot begin to work on “innovative attractions and immersive experiences” while limited by a lack of space due to Anaheim zoning regulations and outdated permit approvals.

DisneylandForward – New Investment Possibilities Soon

Credit: DisneylandForward

Then, is Disneyland building a new hotel?

Initially, rumors floated around that Disneyland would shutter parts of Downtown Disney, such as the AMC Theater, to construct a third hotel Resort or theme Park. Currently, Disney can only construct new hotels within the approved Hotel District, while Parks must remain within the separate Theme Park District.

In contrast, Disneyland is seeking to update Anaheim’s existing approvals to integrate these zones and allow for less segregated development, including possible themed hotel experiences or luxury Resorts which comprise both theme park elements and host Guests for overnight stays. What’s more, DisneylandForward claims the project does not desire “additional square footage or hotel rooms beyond what is currently approved and allowed,” which makes introducing a future hotel seem more unlikely.

With more space being used for theme parks, where will Disney put all the cars?

The DisneylandForward website expresses a dedication to “transportation, parking, transit, and pedestrian safety measures” by investing in a completely new parking lot on the Anaheim Resort’s east side. Allegedly, this would address any issues created by Disneyland utilizing existing parking space for theme parks or hotels and even add “upgraded entrance accessibility for hotels and businesses located along Harbor Boulevard” via a pedestrian bridge. Moreover, it notes an increased interest in encouraging Guests and Cast Members to take advantage of ride-share and public transit options to further reduce the number of cars.


Credit: Disney

When is the Disneyland expansion going to be built?

Will they ever expand Disneyland?

Yes, because the Disneyland Resort is fully committed to providing “new entertainment and experiences to loyal fans and new audiences for generations to come.” Whether or not that happens by the end of the 2020s or much further down the line remains to be seen.

When will we know more about DisneylandForward?

Despite DisneylandForward essentially being a meticulous proposal for Anaheim city officials, it sounds like Disney has already thought ahead to future plans, which can begin once they approve Park expansion. Unfortunately, as Disneyland has said, this project is in extremely early development, we likely won’t hear any new concepts or deadlines officially announced until Anaheim officially renegotiates to remove all limitations.

How can I get involved?

Disney Parks encourages Anaheim and Los Angeles residents to participate actively in this project. To receive updates on future information meetings about DisneylandForward, click here.

Wondrous Journeys

Credit: Disney

While it feels like every other Park in the world, from the Magic Kingdom to Disneyland Paris, is getting new and exciting updates, it’s quite possible we’ll see big things from the Disneyland Resort soon!

About Spencer Beck

Spencer is a lifelong lover of theme parks, princesses, and Disney history that recently relocated to Northern California. She completed her undergraduate studies at UCLA, where she was the founder and first president of the campus Disney Club. A former Cast Member still mourning the loss of the Disney Store, she now haunts the halls of the Walt Disney Family Museum, and shares her opinions with anyone who will listen @pinknpurble everywhere.