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One Year Later: Ron DeSantis is STILL Fighting with Disney

desantis disney world changes
Credit: Disney, Piers Morgan Show

On the one-year anniversary of a milestone in his fight with Disney, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis took to social media to mark the occasion, and this writer took a quick look at some of the major events and occurrences in this long saga over the last year.

The feud between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company is one that has gone on for years now. However, February 28 marked the anniversary of a notable milestone in this battle. On February 28, 2023, Gov. DeSantis officially dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District, ending a long legacy of Disney’s self-governing status.

On February 28, 2024, the Florida Governor took to X, formerly known as Twitter, to celebrate one year of the official dissolution of Disney’s Reedy Creek, writing,

One year ago, I signed legislation ending what an independent audit found to be one of the worst examples of cronyism in modern U.S. history: Reedy Creek, a local government controlled by a single company; Disney.

While so many claimed ending the cronyism would be bad for Florida, the result has been transparency and accountability, including a reduction of taxes and local businesses being allowed to compete for projects, saving the district millions of dollars.

The federal lawsuit filed by Disney has been dismissed and the new state board continues to initiate positive reforms.

Ron DeSantis

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis / Credit: Gage Skidmore, Flickr

How Did This Situation Start?

This entire situation began back in February of 2022 when former Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against the Parental Rights in Education Act, known more colloquially as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by the opposition and popular press.

The act was set forth by Florida Gov. DeSantis (per the legislation) in order to allow parents more say in what their children were learning at school and protect them from being “indoctrinated” by specific ideas.

Of course, many took issue with this legislation as they read it as being incredibly anti-LGBTQ+, and Disney, too, after facing a lot of backlash for not speaking out about it, took the step and went against the Florida Governor’s actions.

In what, by many, was read as retaliation on the part of the Florida Governor, DeSantis took Disney to task for opposing the law and set to work to begin dismantling the Reedy Creek Improvement District: a special taxing district that allowed the Walt Disney World Resort self-governing status.

Of course, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis refuted the claims that this was retaliation, instead calling it the end of one of the “worst examples of cronyism” in the United States.

Bob Iger and Bob Chapek torn apart

Disney CEO Bob Iger and former Disney CEO Bob Chapek / Credit: Disney

What was that Special Taxing District, and Why Was it Set Up?

So what exactly was this special district, and why was it set up at all?

The primary reason for the creation of the special district known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District was the creation of EPCOT.

As reported by Slate, EPCOT, when it was first posited by Walt Disney, was “an experimental planned city, a utopian company town that would serve as a ‘blueprint for the future,’ where residents would test out new products, no one would be unemployed, and the city’s climate-controlled center would cater to pedestrians who could be ferried about by monorail. ”

Of course, EPCOT became a theme park when plans changed, but in order to properly allow the existence of a utopic, experimental, planned city, Reedy Creek needed to have a special status.

(Devoted Disney fans would know that some believe Disney never planned to build EPCOT as a city at all, but that’s a whole other argument.)

partners statue magic kingdom disney world cinderella castle

Partners Statue, Magic Kingdom Park, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Becky Burkett/Canva

The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board

Fast forward to February 28, 2023, Florida Governor DeSantis officially dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District and replaced it with his own Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and board, with his own specially selected group of board members at its helm, led by district administrator Glen Gilzean.

Whether the board has been successful or not is up for debate, and many believe that it’s not done the job it was set up to do. Many Reedy Creek business owners have expressed frustration with the board time and again, and equally importantly, many employees within the district have actually chosen to leave their employment under its current leadership.

Even the Disney firefighters, who were some of the most vocal supporters of the change, have expressed distinct unhappiness with many of the board’s actions.

bob iger and Disney

Disney CEO Bob Iger / Credit: Disney

Florida Governor DeSantis Intensifies Battle with Disney

In the midst of all of these changes, the battle between Disney and DeSantis intensified. DeSantis and Disney have both introduced lawsuits against the other (although, as DeSantis took special note to point out, a federal judge recently dismissed Disney’s lawsuit, something the company promised to pursue action against).

Many news reports and headlines have been written about the situation, and while DeSantis has now dropped out of the presidential race, while he was still in the running, his fight with Disney took center stage in his campaign and in the arguments rivals used to discredit his campaign.

Ultimately, for now, the dissolution of Reedy Creek has begun a new chapter in the relationship between the Mouse House and the Sunshine State, and sensationalist action aside, it remains to be seen how this whole battle will play out.

The Tree of Life at Disney's Animal Kingdom

The Tree of Life at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Theme Park, Walt Disney World Resort / Credit: Disney

What Recent Actions Did Disney Take?

Most recently, Disney has vowed to continue working on their suit against the Florida Governor’s special board and the state of Florida despite the lawsuit being dismissed by a federal judge.

This dismissal is one that Governor DeSantis has noted fairly gleefully multiple times, calling it a sign of clear victory for his actions and his views.

This said, it’s impossible to predict the future and only time will tell what is coming for both the Sunshine State and the company that made it a hotbed of tourism with the opening of one of the most singular theme parks in the world.

About Priyanka Kumar

Priyanka is a writer, artist, avid reader, and travel enthusiast based in Chicago. In her free time, she is probably walking by the lake, catching up on the latest releases on TV, or spending inordinate amounts of time rewatching Moana, Encanto, and her Disney Channel life-long favorites Zack and Cody wreak havoc on the Tipton.

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