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An aerial view of Cotino, the first Storyliving by Disney community
Rendering courtesy DisneyAn aerial view of Cotino, the first Storyliving by Disney community

Disney is building a ‘master-planned community’ in California, and it looks dystopian AF

The Coachella Valley will soon be home to a residential settlement for mega-fans

Ed Cunningham
Written by
Ed Cunningham

Sure, the world can sometimes be a bit of a shitty place, but at the end of the day, we do generally think it’s better to be engaged with it than not. Cults and sects and hermits and stuff – that kind of thing rarely ends well, and total isolation from wider world is, usually, a pretty bad thing.

But Disney doesn’t necessarily agree. The much-adored entertainment and media firm has announced that it will be building a series of ‘master-planned’ communities. The projects are called ‘Storyliving By Disney’ and the first one, named Cotino, will be built in California’s Coachella Valley.

Centered around a 24-acre lagoon, the development will feature 1,900 housing units all with access to a private beach and clubhouse complex. It’ll be staffed by Disney employees, and host Disney-themed ‘programming, entertainment and activities throughout the year.’ It won’t be totally cut off from the outside world, as visitors will be able to buy tickets to visit Cotino and there will be a hotel that’s open to non-residents.

Now, some people might be a bit confused by all this. After all, why would Disney, a brand primarily known for its cartoons and theme parks, want to start building actual human towns? Well, the roots of ‘Storyliving By Disney’ go all the way back to Walt Disney himself. The firm’s founder famously desired to design and build a utopian ‘city of the future’, which he wanted to call EPCOT – Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.   

Disney has been attempting to build its own communities ever since. In 1996 it opened Celebration, and in 2011 there came the Golden Oak Resort – both residential projects in Florida. The difference between them and ‘Storyliving By Disney’ is that it appears that this new venture is a blueprint for a network of similar Disney communities, potentially all over the world.

So, is this all good or bad? Honestly, it’s difficult to say. Some might argue that it’s a bit dystopian just because it’s Disney at the helm. The masters of fantasy and commercial escapism could be seen to now be taking even more direct control of people’s lives. And what would happen if this kind of thing took off? Imagine, individual cities full of fans of MCU, DC, Pixar and more, all seeking to escape the stresses of the everyday world in communities. Put like that, it all seems pretty depressing.

On the other hand, you might argue that what Disney’s doing isn’t a million miles away from other thoroughly modern phenomena, like the metaverse or even social-media bubbles. It’s just, y’know, a physical place. And if people really want to spend loads of cash escaping the real world, who are we to judge? 

In any case, there’s a lot that is yet to be revealed about the ‘Storyliving By Disney’ communities. The houses in Cotino don’t yet have either a price tag or any kind of opening date – and it’s still unclear where further Disney communities might be built. In the meantime, you can find out more about the general project here

Here’s another wild idea: could privatising the moon be the solution to global poverty?

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