Could Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his new Reedy Creek Board reverse the Disney Parks’ removal of Splash Mountain?
In recent news, Disney has received hate from conservative groups who do not approve of its recent theatrical releases (2023’s The Little Mermaid and the newly teased Peter Pan & Wendy) or controversial Park decisions, such as the removal of Splash Mountain for the construction of Tiana’s Bayou Adventure debuting in 2024. In alignment with the Company’s newest fifth Key, the standard of inclusion, the classic drop ride will be changed to uplift diverse character storylines rather than a film criticized for its racist caricatures and misaligned historical representations.
At the same time, Governor Ron DeSantis began appointing new members of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, as per the passing of House Bill 9B, which allowed him to assume control of Disney’s former Reedy Creek Improvement District and replace its advisory board. The decision comes in the wake of the Walt Disney Company’s vocal opposition to the governor’s Parental Rights in Education Act or “Don’t Say Gay Bill” by then CEO Bob Chapek and now CEO Bob Iger.
However, DeSantis supporters report that the legal official recently called this pushback from the Southern California company “only a mild annoyance” compared to its injection of “a lot of this sexuality into the programming for young kids,” according to CNN. In fact, Governor DeSantis seemed to think Disney’s more inclusive and diverse storylines, such as that of Strange World (2022) or Disney Channel’s The Owl House, necessitate the Oversight Board stepping in to strongarm Disney into a return to more censored content “that all families can appreciate.”
Moreover, these vocalized intentions raised suspicion that board members, many of whom have personal ties to DeSantis’ political platform and/or publically share his beliefs, could utilize their newfound powers to control Disney Park decisions in the near future as a way of forcing Disney’s hand. For example, State Representative Rita Harris proposed a controversial take while officials debated DeSantis’ initial special district proposal:
Are we going to see board members vetoing projects that are considered to go against any governor? For instance, Walt Disney just changed Splash Mountain. They made it Tiana’s Bayou. What if the governor didn’t like that? Would the board then be able to push a company into changing their business model just so that they don’t misalign (with) them?”
Furthermore, Stephen Colbert explored an over-exaggerated version of this concept with a skit on The Late Show this week after DeSantis claimed that his board might influence Disney’s business decisions to create a theme park discount for residents of the state of Florida. At this point, it’s certainly possible that the new board will hold considerable sway over Company operations, at least as they relate to the Walt Disney World Resort land now under DeSantis’ jurisdiction.