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The Walt Disney Corporation's latest venture will either result in The Happiest Place On Earth or a total nightmare, depending on who you ask.
On Wednesday, the House of Mouse announced plans for "Storyliving by Disney," a series of meticulously manicured and Disney-branded communities that fans and families won't just visit, but actually live in full-time.
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The new venture will fall under the company's theme parks division, though "theme town" or "theme life" is probably a more apt description. And only one location has been announced so far: "Cotino," a 1,900 housing unit community surrounding a 24-acre "grand oasis" to be constructed in Rancho Mirage, California, a small city just southwest of Palm Springs.
There are no prices announced yet, and, no, Mickey Mouse himself will not be collecting rent checks or selling the actual real estate. At Cotino, third-party luxury community developer DMD Development will construct, own, and sell the homes. So what exactly should prospective residents expect? So far, it's not exactly clear:
- Disney is promising decidedly normal amenities, like shopping, dining, and entertainment, as well as a "beachfront" hotel and a clubhouse featuring Disney programming, entertainment, and activities year-round.
- Most importantly– and perhaps most dubiously– Disney says Cotino is all about "expanding storytelling into storyliving," and will engage residents as active participants in said stories, whatever that means.
Tale As Old As Time: Storyliving isn't Disney's first foray into master-planning communities. Walt Disney himself originally intended Disney World's EPCOT to be a utopian "City of the Future," but settled for a theme park expansion. In 1996, Disney opened Celebration, Florida, a planned community near its Orlando resort with a population of about 10,000. And in 2011, it opened Golden Oak Resort, another Florida planned community with house prices that start in the $2 million range– just slightly more expensive than the price of a Disneyland Churro.