DeSantis Officially Enters the ‘Find Out’ Phase of His War With Disney
If there’s one rule that all Floridians live by, one credo that everyone in the Sunshine State must follow, it is this: Don’t fuck with the Mouse. (Also, something about alligators. But mostly, don’t fuck with the Mouse.)
When Gov. Ron DeSantis started his aggressive campaign against the Disney company following its criticism of an education law nicknamed “Don’t Say Gay,” pretty much everyone except Ron DeSantis knew it would end badly. Disney, which is Florida’s largest taxpayer, has enormous sway in the state, employing millions of residents and driving the majority of the state’s tourism with its Orlando-based theme park Disney World.
Now, DeSantis is about to find out exactly what a bad idea it was to antagonize Disney. Following a protracted, DeSantis-led battle over the company being stripped of its self-governing status in the area surrounding its 25,000-acre resort, Disney has officially canceled a $1 billion planned construction project in Orlando, which would have reportedly brought more than 2,000 jobs to the area, according to numbers reported by The New York Times.
In a memo to Disney employees, theme parks and consumer products head Josh D’Amaro announced the company would be putting the kibosh on the project, which would have been located next to the Lake Nona Town Center. The planned 1.8 million square foot complex outside of Orlando, which was internally controversial for a number of reasons when it was announced in 2021, would have involved the relocation of many employees from California to Florida, with D’Amaro citing Florida’s “business-friendly climate” as the reason for the change.
Apparently, however, the Disney company no longer deems Florida sufficiently “business-friendly.” In the memo sent Thursday, D’Amaro said he would be canceling the project due to “changing business conditions” in the state, though he “remain[ed] optimistic” about the evolution of Walt Disney World in general.
Disney’s abrupt cancellation of the project marks the latest in a series of antagonistic gestures between the company and the state government since DeSantis initially championed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill last spring, which effectively bans discussion of LGBTQ issues between kindergarten and third grade. Following internal pressure within the company, then-Disney CEO Bob Chapek came out against the bill, pledging $5 million toward LGBTQ rights organizations and stating the company was “committed to supporting the [LGBTQ] community going forward.”
DeSantis retaliated against Chapek’s statement by targeting the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the self-governing district established by Disney to control Disney World and the surrounding area, installing his own appointees onto its board. Disney responded by filing suit against DeSantis last April, alleging he was waging a politically motivated war against the company.
Correction Thurs., May 18, 2023, 5:42 pm: An earlier version of this story said Disney’s planned business complex would have been the Lake Nona Town Center. The Lake Nona community is unaffiliated with Disney and the planned complex would have been located right next to the Town Center.