You can watch thousands of Disney shows and movies, go on vacation at any Disney park around the world, visit an exorbitantly expensive Star Wars “galactic cruise,” and generally enmesh yourself in subsidiary properties for as long as you’d like. But until today, Disney superfans were missing one thing; the ability to live in a Disney community 24/7.
That’s all changed with the reveal that the entertainment behemoth is launching a series of master-planned intentional communities across the United States. Dubbed Storyliving By Disney, the new development will include offshoots solely for those over 55—and the project is more than theoretical, as Disney also revealed that they had already selected the site of the first project.
Called Cotino (or Cotino, a Storyliving by Disney community), the first development is set to rise in the Coachella Valley in Rancho Mirage, California, close to the former home of Walt and Lillian Disney. More than just homes, a pitch video from Disney promised that Cotino will contain hotels, retail, dining, and entertainment opportunities. Despite the arid desert environs, the community will center around an artificial lake that the company promises will be kept permanently turquoise thanks to “crystal lagoons technology.”
Although Cotino is a planned community that residents will already have to buy into, it will cost extra for a membership to the high-design clubhouse at the heart of the lagoon and access to a club-only beach with water activities.
A town square will anchor what appears to be low-slung, walkable neighborhoods with plenty of palm trees and parks (all maintained, Disney promises), but the biggest selling point to fans is that the company will have a direct hand in the community’s operations. According to the blog post today, “Disney cast members trained in the company’s legendary guest service will operate the community association,” ensuring that each development will maintain a cohesive atmosphere. Unfortunately “cast members” are just what Disney calls its rank-and-file staff; it’s unlikely there will be costumed characters walking around and enforcing the law.
Of course, for those well versed in Disney’s history, this isn’t the first time the micromanaging company has tried to dip its toes into planned communities. The tightly regulated town of Celebration, Florida, was developed by the House of Mouse (Cooper Robertson and Robert A.M. Stern designed the town master plan) in 1995 as a sleepy throwback to the idealized 1950s, but has grappled with segregation, foreclosures, and in 2004, the project’s downtown neighborhood was sold to private equity firm Lexin Capital. Things only went downhill from there.
Before Celebration though, Walt Disney himself pitched plans for the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT) in 1966, a utopia that would serve as a proto-New Urbanist model for town development across the rest of the United States. Although plans fell apart, in no small part due to Walt Disney’s death, the YouTube channel Defunctland has put together a comprehensive documentary on how the project came together and whether it would have even worked:
No architect has been announced for the first Storyliving project, but Disney said that it will work with local developers, designers, builders, and home sellers for each of its communities, and draw upon contextual architecture in the area. At the time of writing, the size of the plot, number of homes and expected residents, nor costs or a potential groundbreaking date, have been made public yet.