Let’s Talk about the New Disney World Development Plan

On June 12th, 2024, a multi-year feud suddenly came to a shocking conclusion when the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD) and The Walt Disney Company agreed to terms on a new development plan. This contract settled a disagreement between Disney and various political officials who had stripped Walt Disney World of control of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. 

Now, Disney fans have clear skies and sunny days ahead. The 15-year agreement guarantees that plenty of expansion is coming to Walt Disney World. Here’s what the new developer agreement means for DVC members. 

How Did Disney Get a Deal Done?

As a business, Disney has entered the expansion phase. The company made an SEC filing that ensured it would spend $60 billion on theme park development over the next decade. 

Executives have since clarified that 70 percent of that will go toward improving Disney Experiences. That’s $42 billion Disney will spend improving its various theme parks and Disney Cruise Line. 

CEO Bob Iger and his team have suggested that this expansion will benefit every Disney theme park. So, the entire project can be considered a second Disney Decade.  

However, Disney must negotiate specific expansion agreements at the various theme parks, something I recently discussed with the DisneylandForward agreement. In Anaheim, Disney officials spent three years negotiating with town planners and the city council. 

Eventually, Disney and Anaheim agreed to terms on a decades-long plan, with the company promising to spend a minimum of $1.9 billion on expansion. Notably, that deal proved the blueprint for what just happened in Orlando. 

Before the CFTOD existed, Disney could have given itself permission to do whatever it wanted in terms of development. Currently, Disney must negotiate with the CFTOD, which had previously consisted of many people unfriendly to Disney. 

Then, in an unexpected turn of events, the CFTOD hired Stephanie Kopelousos to replace Glen Gilzean as its District Administrator. As recently as 2021, Kopelousos had worked with Disney lobbyists to provide the company with favorable legal loopholes. 

With a friend in charge of the CFTOD, the temperature cooled, allowing Disney and the Florida government to get back to business. By using the DisneylandForward deal as a framework, Kopelousos and Disney quickly found common ground for a long-term agreement. 

What Is the Agreement?

The new Walt Disney World development plan will last 15 years. So, it’ll cover the Orlando campus until 2040, give or take a few months. 

The crux of the deal is that Disney promises to spend $8 billion on expansion at Disney World over the next decade. As a reminder, the DisneylandForward deal guaranteed $1.9 billion, with an underlying promise of $2.5 billion in expenditures. Disney must pay a modest fee to the Anaheim government if it doesn’t reach that upper total. 

In Orlando, Disney will spend arguably four times as much on development over the same time frame. You can understand why the Florida government agreed to that deal, as it’s exceptional for tourism. 

Disney promises to spend an average of $800 million annually on Disney World expansion over the next decade. In addition, Disney could spend as much as $15 billion over the next 20 years, indicating that expansion won’t stop after a decade. Since the development plan only lasts for 15 years, some of this is theoretical rather than contractually guaranteed, though. 

The other part of the development plan gives Disney something it clearly wants: the right to build a fifth theme park. During the final days of Reedy Creek, officials introduced a new development plan that gave Disney that ability. 

When the Florida government negated that plan, everybody sued everybody. I’m happy to report that Disney has withdrawn the last such lawsuit from federal court as of last week. It did so because the new development plan once again empowers Disney to build a fifth gate. 

Is Disney certain to do that? No. However, with Universal Epic Universe opening next year, the timing makes sense. Disney could steal Universal’s thunder by announcing a new theme park. Also, after 26 years, it’s time for a new park. 

What Can We Expect during Expansion?

What could Disney build with $8 billion in a decade or $15 billion over the next 15-20 years? The honest answer is “anything Disney wants.” 

We can look back to Shanghai Disneyland as proof. When that park opened in 2016, financial reporters stated that the entire theme park cost the equivalent of $5.5 billion. In 2024 dollars, that’s $7.3 billion. 

Importantly, Imagineers started from scratch at Shanghai Disneyland. Development at Walt Disney World would require less overhead since park officials have spent decades laying the groundwork for new infrastructure. Thus, a fifth theme park is financially and logistically viable should Disney adopt that approach.

During the 21st century, Disney has favored modular development, though. The most recent example is the overhaul of the former Future World at EPCOT, a project that technically started in 2017 but didn’t finish until the opening of CommuniCore Hall & Plaza last week.

Disney's Pandora at Animal Kingdom

Circling back a decade, in the early 2010s, Disney improved Magic Kingdom with New Fantasyland and Disney California Adventure with Cars Land. A few years later, Disney’s Animal Kingdom added Pandora – The World of Avatar, while Disney’s Hollywood Studios gained Toy Story Land and Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. 

The Star Wars themed land provides a strong blueprint for pricing expectations. According to Brady McDonald, Disney only budgeted $55.7 million for Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run and $77.9 million for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance. Even if we account for overages, those rides are more affordable than you’d probably thought.

Overall, Disney built the entire themed land for $1 billion! So, the idea of the company spending $8 billion in a decade at Walt Disney World is tantalizing. Oh, and new DVC hotels are a given!

Access all available Disney Vacation Club resale listings, or learn more about buying and selling with DVC Resale Market.


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