It’s a great time to be a Disney fan. Last September, during an investor summit in Orlando, Disney announced plans to “accelerate and expand investment” in its theme parks, cruise line and other vacation experiences — to the tune of $60 billion over the next decade.
“We have an ambitious growth story that is supported by a proven track record and a bold vision for the future of our Parks business,” Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro said in a statement.
During Wednesday’s first-quarter earnings call, Disney dropped a few more hints on what’s to come for its theme parks across the globe, after reporting that every one of its parks was profitable during the first quarter of Disney’s 2024 fiscal year.
Disney’s new Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston revealed the company is earmarking approximately 70% of that $60 billion — or around $42 billion — for “incremental capacity-expanding investments around the globe.”
The company is “already hard at work determining where we’re going to place our new investments and what they will be,” Disney CEO Bog Iger further explained. “You can pretty much conclude that they’ll be all over — meaning every single one of our locations will be the beneficiary of increased investment and thus increased capacity, including on the high seas, where we’re currently building three more ships,” he continued.
In terms of timing, Iger said, “I’m not going to really give you much more of a sense of timing except that, you know, we’re hard at work at getting these things basically conceived and built. We’ve got a menu of things that will basically start opening in 2025, and there’ll be a cadence every year of additional investment and increased capacity.”
Though details are scarce, up until a few years ago, Disney was even more tight-lipped about upcoming projects in its theme parks. Only since D’Amaro stepped into the role of chairman of Disney Experiences has Disney given guests a peek behind the curtain at what it is dreaming up next.
“I’m as much of a fan as I am the leader of Disney Experiences. I get a chance to be with the Imagineers every single day and see what they’re working on, whether it’s a model or a sketch or just someone discussing an idea. And it’s fabulous; if I could spend every waking moment there, I would,” D’Amaro told TPG during a panel interview at the grand opening of Hong Kong Disneyland’s World of Frozen. “In my first year in this role, I said, ‘We should be sharing this with the world,'” he added.
Reward your inbox with the TPG Daily newsletter
Join over 700,000 readers for breaking news, in-depth guides and exclusive deals from TPG’s experts
During 2022’s annual D23 Expo fan convention in Anaheim, California, D’Amaro, along with Chris Beatty, senior creative executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, and Jennifer Lee, chief creative officer of Disney Animation, shared a treasure trove of “blue sky” ideas for the Disney parks.
During a presentation called “A Boundless Future,” Beatty shared concept art and ideas that answered the question, “What if you could travel to the other side of Big Thunder Mountain?” The team then unveiled concept art for lands themed to “Coco,” “Encanto” and Disney villains.
Disney shared additional blue sky concepts during 2023’s Destination D23 event held at Walt Disney World, this time revealing possibilities for a “reimagined” Dinoland U.S.A. at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The proposed land would be set in the “tropical Americas” region of South and Central America, with experiences inspired by “Encanto” and the “Indiana Jones” franchise.
These ideas, which may or may not come to fruition in the iterations Disney shared, acknowledge what Disney is capable of, but, more importantly, they demonstrate Disney’s commitment to bringing fan-favorite stories to life in new and exciting ways.
Disney is already demonstrating this with the recent openings of World of Frozen in Hong Kong and Zootopia at Shanghai Disney Resort. With the worldwide popularity of “Frozen” — and the third and fourth installments of the franchise confirmed — we also know Disney isn’t done bringing Anna, Elsa and Olaf to its theme parks just yet.
“While I’m not going to give you any new information today, what I am gonna tell you is that I love “Frozen” in the property … You know we have a lot of space and very high ambitions … all I can say is, ‘Stay tuned, there’s a lot more coming,'” D’Amaro said in the interview at Hong Kong Disneyland.
In addition to “Frozen”- and “Zootopia”-themed lands, Disney parks have quite a few projects in the works. There’s a new “Zootopia” attraction replacing “It’s Tough to be a Bug!” at Animal Kingdom later this year, Tiana’s Bayou Adventure will open at Disney World and Disneyland sometime this year, and a new attraction is being planned for Avengers Campus in Disneyland, to name a few.
This may sound like a lot, but Disney has plenty of room to grow in its existing parks. “We stand alone when it comes to scale,” D’Amaro said in 2023’s expansion announcement. “And while our scale is impressive, we have no shortage of space or regions of the world in which to tell new stories.”
In fact, Disney has more than 1,000 acres of land — about the size of seven Disneyland parks — for possible future development to expand capacity across its existing theme parks.
If you’ve always wanted to step into the world of your favorite Disney film, you may just have your chance within the next few years. “Over the next decade, we’re going to have more projects underway than at any point in our history,” D’Amaro said. “Our sole purpose is to give you more and more of what you love about a Disney experience. And then surprise and delight you with things you never dreamed possible.”