It took some doing, but Disney CEO Bob Chapek finally spoke out against Florida’s disgustingly anti-LGBTQ+ “Don’t Say Gay” bill back in March, and while it was seen as too-little-too-late for a lot of the company’s LGBTQ+ employees and allies (who organized a series of virtual and in-person walkouts last month), the company’s decision to criticize the legislation has started to put a severe strain on its relationship with the state that happens to be the home of Walt Disney World.
This week, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has called for a special meeting with the state Legislature to discuss terminating the special self-governing district in Florida that allows Disney to control and expand Disney World (and associated off-shoot parks and resorts) as it sees fit. Basically, Disney is able to run its operations in Florida however it wants, with either the company itself or this special district—called Reedy Creek Improvement District—doing stuff like maintaining roads and contracting police departments and imposing building codes that the district itself comes up with, all without needing to get the state’s government involved.
Now DeSantis is threatening to end that special treatment, and while it’s hard to say what that might mean to regular people who are just Disney World fans and don’t have an active interest in Reedy Creek (like the 53 people who live there), at the very least it means that Disney wouldn’t have the freedom it has today. That could impact park expansions and new construction, but also the district’s ability to keep other businesses out of the area surrounding Disney World (something that sets World apart from Disneyland in California).
Variety says this would all be a “complex undertaking,” which is the nice way of saying that it would be a total shitshow for everyone involved—and a shitshow at least partially motivated by spite at that. For one thing, the Osceola and Orange counties that neighbor the Reedy Creek district would suddenly be responsible for maintaining its utilities. Also, knowing Disney, it probably has some contingency plan that would involve the whole Reedy Creek area rocketing up into space like the city in Avengers: Age Of Ultron. This is the company that has spent decades fighting copyright laws to stop Mickey Mouse from going into the public domain, it would secede from the union before letting some governor tell it what to do.
Or maybe it’ll back down and agree with DeSantis’ Republicans that LGBTQ people (including children) are bad, which would be… awful. Or maybe Florida will fail to shut down the district and nothing will change for anyone.