Comparing EPCOT, Celebration & Golden Oak to Storyliving by Disney’s: Cotino

Comparing EPCOT, Celebration & Golden Oak to Storyliving by Disney’s: Cotino

This week Disney announces a new business segment to their Disney Signature Experience. Called Storyliving by Disney, and it is a set of planned communities with a Disney-designed aesthetic and customer service experience. Bloggers and others are referring to it in the same way Epcot was initially thought conceived by Walt himself, which it is not–nor does Disney draw that comparison. It is also being compared to Celebration and Golden Oak, which does have some shared similarities. In truth the relationship here is more like Arvida, a company Disney purchased in the 1980’s, and whose organization eventually evolved into the Disney Development Company. We’ll walk through all of this, and then explore what is Cotino, the first of these master-planned communities being built in the Coachella Valley area, near Palm Springs. We’ll look at its amenities and features. Will you visit and perhaps live in Cotino? Let’s find out on this next Disney at Play podcast.

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  • Epcot came from Walt as a way to address the challenges in transportation, congestion, pollution, blight and other problems facing cities in America.
  • Epcot was not just a residential or resort community. It was a city, and at least one time, Walt interchangeably used City instead of Community to outline Epcot
  • Epcot addressed entire issues around transportation, communications, municipal services and even governance.
  • Epcot had residential areas, but also schools, churches, shopping, parks, downtown offices, high-rises and other aspects not connected to a project like this.
  • Cotino has little or nothing to do with Epcot. It is not experimental, nor represents a futuristic approach to how a community faces many urban challenges. It is a master-planned community, but it is not Epcot. And Disney also does not draw that parallel.


From Arvida came a time when Disney was under seize, and to fend off wolves on Wall Street, the company purchased the real estate entity so as to minimize the percentage of stock shares those wolves were holding. Arvida was founded in 1958 by industrialist Arthur Vining Davis, who used the first two letters of his names to create the company name. Over the years, Arvida developed more than 60 communities with more than 40,000 homes and 30 golf courses in Florida, Georgia, Texas, California, South Carolina and North Carolina.

In time Arvida became DDC or Disney Development Company. Disney Development Company is Disney subsidiary, formed in September 1984, responsible for master planning, development, and asset management of the company’s non-theme park real estate assets, including hotels, company office buildings, and the town of Celebration. It merged with Walt Disney Imagineering in May 1996.


Celebration has always been controversial:

  • Everyone loves the proximity to the parks
  • The concept of a pre-WWII look and feel with big porches and nearby parks is promising
  • The community puts on big celebrations for the holidays
  • The nearby hospital is world-class
  • The community was poorly constructed in many ways, as was evidenced when hurricanes came and many suffered damage
  • The community highly regulates what you can and can’t do to your property from how many shrubs to how often you must replace your roof
  • The community is not gated
  • The community has struggled with embracing the public school system
  • Value of homes has continually risen over the years
  • While Disney still owns the property, it distanced itself from running it or having any association with it
  • Many came to Celebration looking for an idyllic experience, only to leave it a few years later.

Golden Oak

Golden Oak has pluses and minuses:

  • Unlike Celebration, this is a gated community
  • Homes are perhaps closer than just about any to the Disney parks
  • In truth, it’s a community sandwiched between a campground and Disney’s warehouse district
  • It really is not targeting primary home owners, but rather high income owners looking for a second home investment
  • At times you wonder how many people are really staying there.
  • The way to see the property is to have a reservation at Four Seasons–which models a living mausoleum


Here is my initial take on Disney’s first Storyliving experience, Cotino:

  • It’s Cotino, not Covina or West Covina.
  • While they are exploring a number of locations, they have announced only one. But the developer has done other similar in Scottsdale and Hawaii
  • There is a clear market of aging Disney fan baby boomers who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles
  • It is expected to host a hotel
  • Cotino offers a very cool mid-20th century architectural aesthetic
  • It is unclear if this is a replicable experience
  • The centerpiece is a lake-size pool. Crystal Lagoons is a brand of lake-size pools. Several are planned for Florida, including one a few miles away from Disney’s Animal Kingdom.
  • “With the purchase of a day pass, the public could relax and rejuvenate in this beautiful oasis”
  • Voluntary club membership offering “access to a waterfront clubhouse, a club-only beach area and recreational water activities, as well as Disney entertainment and activities throughout the year at an additional fee” suggests that the opportunity to enjoy the amenities will be very expensive. Remember that Disney Institute programs failed because it was cheaper to do those activities back at your home library.
  • “The Disney Touch” really suggests that the development company can use “Managed by Disney Cast Members who will deliver world-class service, and of course, fun.”

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