Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

Trillions - 19FortyFive

Could Ron DeSantis Destroy Disney World? 

Ron DeSantis
Governor Ron DeSantis speaking with attendees at the 2021 Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Tampa Convention Center in Tampa, Florida.

Could Ron DeSantis Destroy Disney World? – At the forefront of the governor’s culture wars has been his battle with Disney, which culminated in a state takeover of Walt Disney World’s business district. Now, the likely future presidential candidate has nominated a donor to the district’s board. 

Ron DeSantis vs. Disney

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, since last year, has been at war with the Walt Disney Company, one of the largest employers in the state.

It began when DeSantis signed the bill that opponents call the “Don’t Say Gay” law, and Disney, which had at first been neutral, came forward in opposition to the bill. 

Disney Skyliner

Disney Skyliner service. The image was taken outside of Epcot in August 2022. 19FortyFive image.

DeSantis then retaliated against Disney, which culminated in the passage this week of a bill that effectively gives state control to the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a business district that has given Disney unusual control of its surrounding area ever since Walt Disney World was built in the 1960s. 

“Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said at a press conference Monday, near Disney World. “There’s a new sheriff in town and accountability will be the order of the day.”

The bill also gave DeSantis the right to appoint a new board for the district. Announced board members include attorney and DeSantis donor Martin Garcia and Bridget Ziegler, head of the conservative group Moms of Liberty.

Also on the board are another attorney and DeSantis donor, Mike Sasso, attorney Brian Aungst Jr., and minister Ron Peri. 

The board is subject to confirmation by Florida’s State Senate. 

“Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” DeSantis said Monday, per The Daily Beast. “There’s a new sheriff in town, and accountability will be the order of the day.”

What is Ron Doing to Disney? 

Per CNN, the new board will be “in charge of the district’s long-standing powers to tax, build and borrow money for projects and services around Disney’s vast footprint in Orange and Osceola counties,” while also restricting the board’s ability to use eminent domain.

The previous rules “could have allowed Disney to build its own airport or a nuclear plant,” according to the report, although Disney is not believed to have ever moved to do either. 

The moves will likely be touted by Ron DeSantis if he runs for president, although some of his possible opponents, led by former Vice President Mike Pence, have characterized such moves as government overreach

Ron DeSantis said something else in the press conference, according to The Daily Beast: That the new board “might push for a say in Disney’s content if the corporation wants its tax-friendly home base to remain as is.”

“When you lose your way, you gotta have people that are going to tell you the truth,” the governor said. “All these board members very much would like to see the type of entertainment that all families can appreciate.”

Does this mean that a government body would act as an official censor for which rides, attractions, or other material might be featured at Walt Disney World? 

The First Amendment implications of that are significant, as are the numerous modern-day debates about “cancel culture” which, rarely if ever, center on the sort of top-down enforcement by the government of content standards that DeSantis is now threatening.

Disney's Grand Floridian Hotel August 2022

Disney’s Grand Floridian Hotel August 2022. Image Credit: 19FortyFive.

There is also the possibility that it’s an empty threat. 

There’s a meta-debate, among those who discuss movies on social media, over the supposed possible return of the Hays Code, the mandated censorship regime that existed in Hollywood between the 1930s and 1950s. However, that’s not really any type of real-life organized movement to revive that, although now a governor is talking about a state government leaning on the owner of a movie studio over certain content. 

Most of the recent culture war battles surrounding Disney have concerned the company’s movies and streaming shows, which are not produced in Florida and therefore out of Disney’s purview. People who hate “wokeness” in entertainment tend to object to, say, the prevalence of gay characters and racial diversity in “Star Wars” or Marvel movies. 

That said, there’s a massive community of Disney fans who pay extremely close attention to what goes on with the company’s theme park attractions, those people vote — and not necessarily for any one political party — and they might not take kindly to a politician trying to dictate what gets featured at Walt Disney World.

Disney Orlando Magic Kingdom

19FortyFive was on the ground at the Magic Kingdom. The image was taken on 8/15/2022.

And if that politician runs for president, getting on the wrong side of the Disney fandom might turn out to have been a mistake. 

MORE: Are We Watching the End of Donald Trump? 

MORE: Liz Cheney: Could She Join the Democratic Party?

MORE: Liz Cheney: The Next President of the United States?

Expertise and Experience: Stephen Silver is a Senior Editor for 19FortyFive. He is an award-winning journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.

Written By

Stephen Silver is a journalist, essayist, and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review, and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.