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Disney Builds Mickey Mouse Villages

Laura Puttkamer

Two hours away from Los Angeles, the Disney Group wants to build a first village with a thousand residential units. The Mickey Mouse Village is to exude the typical Disney charm and attract young people, tourists, and senior citizens. Read all about the project – which is to be just the first of many – here.

Photo: Capricorn song / Unsplash

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The Storyliving Villages by Disney

In February 2022, Disney announced “Storyliving”, residential neighbourhoods intended to allow fans to “look for new ways to make Disney a bigger part of their lives”. These new neighbourhoods across America are master-planned communities. As a result they will feature “distinctively designed spaces, unique amenities, and Disney’s brand of world-renowned service”. The first location will be in Rancho Mirage, California. This is the place where company founder Walt Disney used to live.

Josh D’Amaro, head of Disney’s Parks, Experiences and Products department, said that it is only logical to create communities in the style of a theme park: “For nearly a hundred years, Disney has touched the hearts of people everywhere with its stories and characters,” he said. “As we prepare for the next century of our existence, we want to develop new and exciting offerings to bring the magic of Disney to people – turning stories into real lives.”

First renders of the Storyliving communities show places that look very idyllic and holiday-like. German newspaper “Der Spiegel” has described them as eternal cruises and real-life fairy-tale-worlds. Residents will benefit from countless activities such as yoga and cooking classes as well as a diverse wellness offer.

Disney for Grown-ups

The target group for the Storyliving villages are grown-up fans looking for a harmonious Disneyland atmosphere. Those aged 55 and above have strong ties to Disney, looking back on older movies and first visits to the Disneyland parks. The first park opened in Anaheim, California, in July 1955. Consequently Disney World in Bay Lake, Orlando, followed in October 1971.

In 1996, the Company founded the town of Celebration in Florida, a community in Osceola County. Celebration features walkable streets, many neighbourhood parks, convenient shopping options, and traditional home designs. It is an example of “New Urbanism”, showing how houses looked in earlier times. The city is not located on the Disney resort itself, but it lies in the vicinity of the park. Disneyland fans could win the first houses in a prize raffle. Today, however, Celebration’s properties are all privately owned.

Groundbreaking in April 2022

Disney will call its first Storyliving community in Rancho Mirage Cotino. Groundbreaking was on April 26, 2022, in a private ceremony. The site is currently undergoing mass grading, which could take as long as twelve months.

Cotino will house a residential community, a 24-acre swimmable lagoon, and a resort hotel. Residential options will likely consist of estates, condominiums, and single-family houses. They arrange around a large oasis with man-made beaches. The Storyliving community will be organised as a community association run by Disney employees. Consequently Disney-themed events and entertainment will take place in the community throughout the year.

Gabe Codding, city spokesperson of Rancho Mirage, said that there is no building permit for Cotino yet. This means that construction might take a long time. While the specific plan for the land of the site has been approved, the community will have to undergo an application and approval process. This includes presentations to the city’s Architectural Review Board, the Planning Commission, and the City Council. They will need to consider public opinions as well as considerations and issues raised by professionals.

Disney has announced that it plans to construct Storyliving communities all over the United States. However, it will be at least a few years until the first communities are ready to be inhabited – Mickey Mouse has to wait for a bit.

Critical Voices

In the United States of America, there is a common complaint that Disney “owns everything”, from TV channels to movie production companies, and newspapers. Disney even owns a part of GoPro. More than 210,000 people work at the company, which the Disney family does not own anymore. Instead, the largest shareholder in Disney is the Vanguard Group Inc.

As a titan in the world of theme parks, television, and movies, Disney is now branching out into developing residential neighbourhoods. This has brought on much criticism on social media, for instanve calling Storyliving a “gated community for Disney Adults”. The idea of a company owning a town is unusual even in the United States.

At the same time, Disney has faced criticism for underpaying its staff, causing Twitter users to tweet things like “Kinda sick that Disney is making housing for the rich while a good percentage of their employees are actually homeless and living in their cars, but that’s Mouse Capitalism for you”. At the same time, the company has announced plans to build 1,300 affordable housing units near the Orlando theme park.

 

Also interesting: Disney’s Office for Wellbeing in Buenos Aires.

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