Disney Brings Universal into Desperate Fight against Desantis

in Universal Orlando, Walt Disney World

Governor DeSantis smiling on the left, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse on the right

Credit: Inside the Magic

As the battle between Gov. Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company continues, a new third party has been brought into the ring.

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Credit: Inside the Magic

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This feud between The Walt Disney Company and Gov. Ron DeSantis can be traced back to early 2022 when Florida unveiled its controversial Parental Rights in Education Act, or as it was more commonly referred to, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. This piece of legislation caused immense controversy and backlash and became a defining moment in American politics in 2022. The debates regarding the bill continue to this day, with lawmakers heavily disagreeing with what Florida initiated over a year ago.

The Walt Disney Company was one of the parties in disagreement, and after an initial period of silence, it spoke out against the bill. This was done in 2022 and under the leadership of former Walt Disney Company CEO Bob Chapek, who had already made quite a name for himself prior to speaking out against Gov. DeSantis and the state of Florida.

Longtime Disney executive Bob Iger took back control of the company in late 2022 and while it’s all up to speculation, it’s possible Chapek’s untimely termination had something to do with how he led the company during this tumultuous time.

Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Current Disney CEO Bob Iger in front of a blue background saying The Walt Disney Company
Credit: Disney

This is not to say that Bob Iger has had it any easier or steered the Disney ship in the right direction. Under Iger, Disney lost one of its biggest benefits, its Reedy Creek Improvement District. This special ruling allowed the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, to act as its own form of government, with Disney being granted the ability to employ its own list of first responders and city workers.

Gov. DeSantis threatened Disney with repercussions shortly after it spoke out against his bill, and eventually, Gov. DeSantis won. Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District was taken over by the state of Florida and given a completely new name, The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD). This new district would be led by a new board, which is comprised of DeSantis-backed candidates. Disney would not go down without a fight, however, filing multiple lawsuits.

The Walt Disney Company is still coming after DeSantis and, recently, has roped in another iconic Florida theme park into this battle.

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Credit: Disney, Universal

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Universal Orlando was recently granted a special taxing district in order to help regulate the land that Epic Universe will soon occupy. Epic Universe will act as Universal Orlando’s third theme park location and is set to be an absolutely massive addition to an already incredible amusement park experience. Along with Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Epic Universe will feature several new lands and dozens of new attractions for guests to enjoy. The new park is set to open in 2025, and we could not be more excited.

Disney was quick to notice the apparent hypocrisy regarding Universal’s new taxing district, calling out Gov. Ron DeSantis in a new court filing. Gov. DeSantis has not mentioned the Universal Orlando Resort at all in his ongoing tirade against Walt Disney World, something Disney has now pointed out.

The Governor declared that the laws do not injure Disney because they simply make the company subject to the same regulatory structure applicable to all other Florida businesses, thereby creating a “level playing field.” That contention is an outright falsehood. In fact, a special district was established just this month to regulate the land encompassing Universal’s new Epic Universe theme park in Orange County—with its inaugural board of supervisors comprising only Universal employees.

Cinderella walking toward Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom
Credit: Disney

Universal was absent from all of the “Don’t Say Gay” discussion in 2022 and has yet to say anything disfavorable about the Florida Gov., something that Disney did multiple times.

Universal’s Shingle Creek Transit & Utility, Community Development District will soon be established under Florida Statute 190. According to Orlando Business Journal, the initial members of the Board of Supervisors will be only Universal employees.

What are your thoughts on this story? What do you think about Disney losing its special district?

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