The Walt Disney Co. didn’t share new updates for its ambitious DisneylandForward theme park expansion project at the D23 Expo held earlier this month, but that doesn’t mean the Burbank-based media firm isn’t keeping Anaheim top of mind in its near-term expansion plans.
Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro, who previously oversaw the $1 billion development of the Star Wars-themed Galaxy’s Edge park at Disneyland, told a crowd of about 7,000 fans at the returning Anaheim event about notable projects in the works at the company’s 12 theme parks around the world. Included in those plans were new announcements and updates for the 500-acre Anaheim resort district, which includes theme parks Disneyland and Disney California Adventure, three hotels, the Downtown Disney shopping district and parking structures.
See pages 20 and 25 for details on six of those projects, whose total cost the Business Journal estimates to be several hundred million dollars. See page 20 for more on the return of the D23 event to Anaheim this year.
Pacific Wharf Reimagining
Pacific Wharf, the waterfront boardwalk-theme stretch of land that opened along with Disney California Adventure in 2001, is getting a new theme.
Modeled after the modern city in Disney’s 2014 animated feature film “Big Hero 6,” the area will be named San Fransokyo, blending the two iconic cities in a region described as “where East meets West, and where tech meets tradition,” Josh D’Amaro said.
Paradise Pier Plans Revealed
Following news earlier this year that the Paradise Pier Hotel has kicked
off a multimillion-dollar renovation, Josh D’Amaro announced the new name for the 481-room property: Pixar Place Hotel. “It will feel like walking right into a Pixar art gallery,” D’Amaro said.
A timeline for the renovation of OC’s 15th-largest hotel by room count has not been announced.
New Ride, Characters for Avengers Campus
Among the new announcements at the D23 Expo were several new additions for the Avengers Campus, the 6-acre themed land at Disney California Adventure that opened last year.
After exploring several different concepts, Disney executives appear to have come to a decision on plans for a third ride at the land.
“We’ve been talking about a third ride for Avenger’s Campus since the beginning, but the introduction of the Multiverse sent us back to the drawing board for what it could mean for the land,” Disney’s Josh D’Amaro told the audience, referring to the multi-universe concept introduced in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and television shows in recent years.
Once envisioned as an “Ant-Man”-themed ride, a vacant building currently used for live action shows in the center of the campus is now expected to make way for a Multiverse-themed ride, with a storyline revolving around a variant version of Marvel villain Thanos, with the Avengers teaming up to defeat him.
“Joining in battle with the Avengers means facing foes from anywhere and everywhere, including a new threat, King Thanos, a Multiverse variant designed specifically for Avengers Campus,” the company said in a release.
An opening date for the ride has yet to be announced.
As of last week, another fan-favorite character is expected to join the league of Marvel individuals that roam around Avenger’s Campus: Hulk.
Sweet Upgrades at Downtown Disney
Several tenants—including a second OC location for Din Tai Fung—have already been announced as part of the renovation of the Downtown Disney shopping district.
Josh D’Amaro added to those reveals last week when he announced Porto’s Bakery & Café—the Burbank-based baked goods and treats company with a local location in Buena Park—would open a new outpost at the district.
The multiyear renovation project will see several retailers and the former AMC Theater replaced by a new entry portal and retail structures.
Other announced tenants include a new concept by Michelin-starred Chef Carlos Gaytán.
Disney’s Toontown: Reopening with a Bang
In Disneyland, renovations are underway at Mickey’s Toontown to add new attractions, including Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.
The trackless dark ride first opened in Florida’s Walt Disney World in 2020 and is expected to debut in Anaheim early next year. “We are entering a new era of inclusive experiences for families of all ages,” Josh D’Amaro said.
Tiana’s Bayou Adventure
At Disneyland, plans are well underway to convert the Splash Mountain log ride attraction into Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
The refurbished ride will be based off the 2009 Walt Disney Animations Studios’ film “The Princess and the Frog,” set during a Mardi Gras celebration in 1920s New Orleans, Louisiana. The original log ride opened at the Anaheim park in July 1989.
Imagineers Ted Robledo, Carmen Smith and Charita Carter met with Josh D’Amaro on stage last week to give more details on the ride and its backstory.
The ride picks up at the end of the film, “when Tiana realizes her lifelong dream and opens Tiana’s Place,” Walt Disney Imagineer Art Director Robledo said.
“She’s hosting a party for the people of New Orleans, but the party is missing a special ingredient, and she needs our help to go find it.”
The attraction is a “love letter to New Orleans,” according to Vice President of Creative Development Smith, who noted the research that went into “approaching the story in an authentic way.”
“For those who have been to New Orleans, we want it to feel like coming home. And for those who have never been, we want it to make you want to go.”
The ride is expected to open by late 2024.