Discerning Disney Parks fans are known to critique and analyze all aspects of the parks they love: their style, their stories, their smarts... But what about their size? From miniscule to massive, Disney Parks come in all shapes and sizes... but does size matter?
On our cross-continental tour today, we'll stop by each of the 12 Disney Parks on Earth to take their measurements. Sometimes, Disney's official numbers don't quite add up... That's why we've used simple acreage calculator maps when we need to to get closer to the real figures about just how big (or not) these parks are. Our ultimate agreement? We measure the simplest shape of a park – including its showbuildings and behind-the-scenes facilities – but excluding parking lots and empty expansion pads (which you'd think Disney would exclude, too, but they don't always).
Along the way, it might be interesting to pull up Theme Park Tourist's must-read Ride Count Countdown (counting down Disney and Universal parks by the sometimes-surprising number of rides they fit) to see if a park's size and ride-count correlate...
Is bigger better? We'll let you be the judge.
12. Walt Disney Studios Park
Location: Disneyland Paris
Size: 44 acres
For Disney Parks fans, it won't come as much surprise that Walt Disney Studios is dead last on our list. The underdeveloped and unfunded second gate at Disneyland Paris, this itty bitty movie park was outdated before it opened thanks to its reliance on tired '90s "studio" aesthetics in 2002. In fact, we took a tour through the disastrous park as it appeared in its early days in a standalone, in-depth feature – Declassified Disasters: Walt Disney Studios Park.
Despite its miniscule size, the park still manages to cram in 10 rides – the same number as Epcot, and more than either Disney's Hollywood Studios or Animal Kingdom – though only three of them would be considered E-Tickets. To the park's credit, it's the only place to ride the Modern Marvel: Ratatouille: L'Aventure... for now. But expect Walt Disney Studios to quickly rise up this list in the coming decade when it adds new lands themed to Marvel, Star Wars, and Frozen, centered around a new World-Showcase-style lagoon.
11. Disney California Adventure
Location: Disneyland Resort
Size: 72 acres
Similarly sad is the story of Disney California Adventure, the infamous second gate at the original Disneyland in California, opened in 2001 (filling the large rectangular plot of land that had been Disneyland's parking lot since 1955). Opened during the same penny-pinching era that produced Paris' movie park, this "celebration" of California didn't exactly leave visitors pleased. The good news is, Disney did something about it, as we chronicled in Disney's California (Mis)adventure: Part I and Part II.
Nearly 20 years and about two billion dollars later, the park has expanded to 72 acres (thanks, in large part, to the massive, 12-acre Cars Land and its signature ride, the Modern Marvel: Radiator Springs Racers). Yet another growth spurt is planned when Marvel makes its way to the park in 2020.
Location: Disneyland Resort
Size: 98 acres
The smallest "castle" park in Disney's collection is the original. But if you ask many Disney Parks fans, that's exactly what makes it special. In the early 1950s, Walt and his original designers were literally making up the rules as they went when they developed Disneyland, and it shows! That's why fans tend to use words like "cozy," "intimate," and "charming" when describing the park's narrow paths, comfortable courtyards, and storybook-scaled architecture – never designed with crushing global crowds in mind!
But designers have taken the tiny, cramped confines of Disneyland and done some spectacular things. For example, Disneyland topped our must-read Ride Count Countdown. Yes, this tiny fantasy park has more rides than any other Disney or Universal park, period. And when it came time to add the new Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge rides to the land-locked resort, Disney simply relocated behind-the-scenes support structures and shortened the Rivers of America so that the 14-acre land could squeeze in between Frontierland and Critter Country... which is why, with Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge open, the park expanded to just under 100 acres - a massive jump from its 60 acre origin.
9. Shanghai Disneyland
Location: Shanghai Disneyland
Size: 100 acres
While news reports giddily labeled Shanghai Disneyland the "biggest Disneyland on Earth" at 960 acres, that's like saying Magic Kingdom is the size of San Franscisco. In other words, that calculation covers the entire, sprawling, and largely-undeveloped resort, not the theme park itself. In reality, Shanghai Disneyland is pretty typical of "castle" parks – about 100 acres, give or take a showbuilding or two.
In fact, our Walkthrough Shanghai Disneyland noted that the groundbreaking park really only has 13 rides. Of course, many of those rides are one-of-a-kind, new-age, technological attractions like Soarin' Around the World (which debuted there before it was exported back to the U.S. parks) and the Modern Marvel: TRON Lightcycle Power Run. When Shanghai does copy classics, it innovates upon them (see its unique versions of Peter Pan's Flight, Buzz Lightyear's Planet Rescue, or Pirates of the Caribbean). So while Shanghai Disneyland isn't as massive as the media portrays, it's still a big deal for Disney Parks fans.
8. Disney's Hollywood Studios
Location: Walt Disney World
Size: 103 acres
A half-day park no more...
When Disney's cinematic third gate opened in 1989, the park was purposefully sparse. Built with two distinct halves – a historic Hollywood and a "working" studio – the park likewise had just two rides: the Lost Legends: Great Movie Ride and Backstage Studio Tour, respectively, each meant to headline half of the park with in-depth, lengthy, informative attractions. Pretty quickly, it became clear that the park needed more to do. The backlot was opened up to foot traffic and Sunset Blvd. was quickly greenlit, expanding the park's footprint.
But of course, the park's next evolution will be its biggest. With the addition of 2018's Toy Story Land and 2019's Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge, the once-underbuilt park will suddenly be rocketed into superstardom, with those two lands alone adding 30 acres to the park's footprint... Before they opened, Disney's Hollywood Studios would've been only larger than its European sister studio park.
7. Magic Kingdom
Location: Walt Disney World
Size: 105 acres
When given the chance to start with the fresh slate of Florida, designers working on Magic Kingdom were able to correct some of the... well... "coziness" of Disneyland. In Magic Kingdom, narrow paths are replaced by wide walkways; tiny courtyards with massive plazas. From the start, Magic Kingdom was built with throngs of international tourists in mind, designed to be "The Vacation Kingdom of the World." It shows in the park's efficient dispensing and moving of crowds.
The most recent acre-bolstering projects have been a long-awaited New Fantasyland, re-activating a large parcel of the park that had been more or less unused since the closure of the Lost Legend: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in the 1990s. In fact, Imagineers fit no less than three attractions and a restaurant on the plot that once contained the submarine voyage. Up next is a copy of Shanghai's Modern Marvel: TRON Lightcycle Power Run due to beam users into the Grid in 2021, kicking off an expansion of Tomorrowland.
Meanwhile, the six largest Disney Parks await on the next page...