With Latest Round of Announcements and Developments, The Disneyland Resort Continues Its Return to Normalcy

This Saturday will mark the one year anniversary since Disneyland reopened after being closed for 412 days. To celebrate how far they have come, Disneyland Resort president Ken Potrock held a “State of the Resort” presentation for community leaders last night. Ahead of that, he held a media briefing to preview his remarks and share his excitement for the future of the Disneyland Resort.

A year in, it is clear that the Disneyland Resort believes they are at a pivot point in their comeback. With the recent return of nighttime spectaculars and up-close character interactions, part of what has been missing from the Disneyland experience has been restored. But Disneyland still faces challenges that don't have a quick switch like an Electrical Parade float. While Potrock is cognizant of ongoing challenges, his optimism for the future is helping him see past the short-term difficulties. He went through several updates that ranged from community engagement to newly announced offerings, all of which were focused on building a better Disneyland and community for the future.

Currently, the Disneyland Resort has about 30,000 cast members working. About one-third of the current cast base are new to the Disneyland Resort. As Disneyland continues to seek out new cast members and wants to draw new ones in, Potrock is recommitting to creating an environment where people want to work. Some of it is through appreciation events such as service celebrations and sneak peeks of new and returning offerings. Another way Disneyland engages their cast is through the Disney Aspire education program. This program pays for hourly cast members’ education. Potrock announced that Disney is working to add in-person education options  from Cal State Fullerton and Fullerton College. This enhancement came from cast feedback that they wished they had the opportunity for face-to-face learning.

Potrock also mentioned his focus on community engagement with Anaheim and Orange County. Recently, the Disneyland Resort revealed that they have given $4 million to workforce development programs in Orange County and have impacted 10,000 lives. It was announced that Disneyland will be committing another million dollars to these types of programs throughout Southern California.

Shifting to the Disneyland Resort experience, Potrock mentioned all of the storytelling that Disneyland can pull from to bring into the park rapidly across the Disney ecosystem. They are bringing those stories to the parks in rapid ways as can be seen with the character experiences at Avengers Campus or the Encanto projection on “it’s a small world.” But they also want to make the returning experiences feel special such as the modifications they made to the Main Street Electrical Parade for the 50th anniversary. Potrock did say that they are looking at finding ways to make Fantasmic! feel new and special when it returns for its 30th anniversary at the end of May.

In the shadow of Potrock’s office is the construction of the new ToonTown. This project goes beyond the unique version of Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway that is being built in that massive new show building. But ToonTown as a whole is being re-examined with a focus on young families. Attention is being paid to details such as greenspace, interactivity, navigation, and the food & beverage experience. Potrock’s enthusiasm for the project, which is set to open early next year, is contagious.

Disneyland’s other major project that was previously announced is the reinvention of Downtown Disney. Potrock was on the team that transformed Walt Disney World’s Downtown Disney into Disney Springs, so he has some experience in this area. Disneyland’s project will be done in phases and he revealed some new details of the first phase including a new mid-century modern entrance and new dining options that run the gamut from a mexican restaurant from a michelin star chef to a pop-up version of Earl of Sandwich. The goal is to offer a greater diversity of retail, dining, and entertainment offerings across a variety of price points.

On the hotel side, Disneyland is looking at elevating the experience so the benefits of staying on-site goes beyond the convenience of their proximity to the parks. Many benefits such as early entry and package pick-up are returning. Even the Paradise Pier entrance to Disney California is being reconstructed. Other new benefits will be rolled out over time. Speaking of the Paradise Pier Hotel, it is being reimagined to a Pixar theme that celebrates many of the movies in the Pixar library. In fact, the hotel will have modular elements so as new films are released, they will be able to be incorporated into the hotel experience. The previously announced Disney Vacation Club tower at the Disneyland Hotel has an official name. While “The Villas at Disneyland Hotel,” may be pretty obvious, the touches of the tower that pays tribute to  Disney Animated Classics is less so.

Whether it is through cast and community engagement, new and returning experiences in the parks, the ongoing reinvention of Downtown Disney, or a renewed focus into the three hotels at the Disneyland Resort, it is starting to feel like Disneyland is returning to normal. While there are still many challenges the optimist is looking forward to an even more beautiful tomorrow. Or as Potrock put it, “The happiest place on earth is in the happy business once again, and it is going to be a very exciting time ahead."

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