Would you like to live in this Disney-themed California subdivision?

In the era of Disney-themed weddings and Disney hotel weekends that can cost $6,000, the House of Mouse has come up with another strategy to shake up its devoted fans. They licensed the Disney name to Arizona DMB developmentwhich will build and sell 1,700 homes in a Disney-branded planned community in Southern California.

A 618-acre development in Rancho Mirage near Palm Springs, Cotino will feature a large lake as its focal point with a waterfront clubhouse and community association that would be operated by Disney-trained staff. It is the first of several communities branded “Storyliving By Disney”, although Disney will not develop, build or sell the homes.

The exact involvement of Disney talent in this first of several residential communities remains unclear. To the fans, Disney highlighted their “imaginers” have input into the design. However, local reports Remark that DMB had already planned a development for this California desert town. Mentions of Disney entertainment and experiences (like “cooking classes”) are basically boilerplate marketing at this point.

But who are they targeting? DeWayne Hamby, an Orlando-area-based entertainment writer, cites Golden Oak — a secluded, upscale Disney-owned subdivision just a few hundred yards from the Magic Kingdom and its iconic castle — as a potential model for this project. . Houses in Chêne Doré are priced 2 to 10 million dollars.

“It’s for the elite,” Hamby said in a phone interview. “If you go to the parks all the time and then come home where you live in a Disney neighborhood with a house full of Disney memorabilia, I’d say he’s a pretty extreme Disney fanatic.”

With Cotino’s development in Southern California only recently beginning, the developer could take three or four years before announcing specific pricing. What they can do is hype things up using Disney’s famous heritage. For example, their promotional website mentions that Walt and Lillian Disney often visited their vacation home in the Palm Springs area.

Selling goods and experiences using idealized past memories has become the default spin cycle of American culture, and no company has perfected it better than Disney. Hamby, raising three daughters in the Orlando area, admits “nostalgia mixed with fun” is part of the reason he and his wife enjoy visiting Walt Disney World. “Really, it’s being able to experience it through the eyes of our children.”

When Disney targets childless adults for its cradle-to-grave lifestyle, it raises questions.

Disney Living dreams have become nightmares

Several steps up from the usual real estate brochures, the Cotino concept art showcases the amenities the project is zoned for, but not in the immediate plans. Common spaces look inviting, framed by mountain views. Restaurants and even a large hotel reveal a flourishing creative design.

However, the development’s 24-acre central blue lagoon – with beachfront areas and a water park in the works – has drawn criticism from some locals.

“I don’t know if Palm Springs, the desert, is the right place for Disney,” noted Alan Long, managing director of a Los Angeles-based real estate brokerage firm. “We are in a drought right now. Disney is going to have real challenges to overcome.

Likewise, local resident Lucinda Crosby called Disney’s planned lagoon development, an “aquatic playground in a historic drought”.

Disney has yet to cast its PR magic to fix the bad press. Perhaps they have learned from past residence life attempts to take an independent approach.

The town of Celebration, Florida, near Orlando, began as a planned community that carved out some of that prized Walt Disney World real estate, with renowned neoclassical architects designing Main Street landmarks like a movie theater and l ‘city Hall. It opened in 1996, following a highly publicized Disney fan lottery eager to enter.

Disney marketed Celebration as a throwback to 1950s Central America, but with pastel-colored houses and palm trees. But the costs were prohibitive for most families, with seemingly high demands on owners to maintain a certain aesthetic. Businesses that have moved to their downtown have faced many broken promises over the years.

Several problems reflected poor management. Several car crashes have occurred around the idyllic town’s retaining pond, with guardrails eventually installed. A series of unrelated murders rocked the community. Less than a decade after founding the town, Disney divested of its management of the town in 2004, though it still owns most of Celebration’s landmarks and several office buildings where the white-collar staff of Celebration work. Disney in finance and other departments.

With Golden Oak also tied to their Orlando theme park, Disney dropped the charade that they were targeting middle-class families. Starting in 2011, the company began selling these few dozen homes at exorbitant prices. Great views of nighttime fireworks, if you can afford it.

Longtime Disney fans will also point out that EPCOT – an acronym for Experimental Prototype Community Of Tomorrow – was considered by Walt Disney as a futuristic residential community. After Walt died in 1966, the company spent a decade struggling with various sketches and concepts to make their big idea work. They finally opened it as a theme park.

Cotino and other Storyliving by Disney residential communities will likely have more in common with the walled-garden Golden Oak than with the mimicking open-plan small-town celebration.

When the Disney Obsession Gets Unhealthy

For new Disney CEO Bob Chapek, this Storyliving venture is among his biggest moves. It started in their home video division in the 90s when Disney produced live-to-video cheap like “The Fox and the Dog 2”. So Chapek’s moves so far – for raise theme park ticket prices, opening an overpriced Star Wars hotel and move Imagineering’s creative team (long-based near Disneyland in Anaheim) in Florida for cost reasons — perhaps not surprisingly.

Hamby, the Orlando-area writer who is also a pastor, says he “doesn’t judge” when his family sees a group of adults decked out in Mickey Mouse ears at Walt Disney World. “I don’t know what they’re going through,” he said. “It’s very possible that they have lost their family and are using Disney as an escape, to return to their childhood and help them cope.”

But he suggests two indicators of an “unhealthy obsession” with Disney and its alluring nostalgic brands. When theme park tickets, collectibles — and maybe a Disney-branded home — start “destroying your personal finances” and making it hard to pay bills, the monorail’s fixation disappeared, Hamby said. .

Then there’s another attitude he says he sees “all the time in a few theme park Facebook groups” he participates in. “They’re like, ‘Couldn’t we have a day where the kids don’t go to Disney and it’s just adults? That way we don’t have to trip over it. Really? Do you want to exclude those for whom this experiment was intended?”

Hamby adds, “There’s probably a much deeper conversation to be had about adults not letting go of things that are really meant for kids. They kind of miss the whole point of it.

Will these anti-child attitudes be present in Storyliving by Disney communities? Either way, observers like University of Georgia real estate expert Sonia Hirt see Disney, that once-great American brand, boiling down to one attribute: escapism.

“If you just create a community that’s aesthetically pleasing, (will) other things go away?” she demand. “There’s always this desire to make a utopian tomorrow today, but so many times, tomorrow doesn’t quite come.”


Josh Shepherd covers culture, faith and public policy for several outlets, including The Stream. His articles have appeared in Christianity Today, Religion & Politics, Faithfully Magazine, Religion News Service and Providence Magazine. A graduate of the University of Colorado, he previously worked on staff at The Heritage Foundation and Focus on the Family. Josh and his wife live in the Washington, DC area with their two children.

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