There has been an ongoing feud between the Walt Disney Company and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis since summer 2022 when Disney spoke out against state legislation HB 1557 titled the “Parental Rights in Education” and more widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” by critics. The Disney vs. DeSantis tensions recently escalated when Disney sued Governor DeSantis, accusing the governor of targeted retaliation.
Guests planning a vacation to Walt Disney World, where these tensions have been focused, may be wondering about potential impacts on upcoming trips. We’ll dive into whether this legal battle and the ongoing State of Florida legislative changes will have an impact on Walt Disney World and your trip.
Disney vs DeSantis Impacts to Disney World Travel
The Reedy Creek District has been a pretty unremarkable entity until it was recently brought into the spotlight during this feud with DeSantis. Reedy Creek is a local government entity that was created to support economic development and tourism within its district boundaries. The boundaries of Reedy Creek encompass the entire Walt Disney World resort area. By having Disney run this district, they essentially pay for and manage all the public services like fire and emergency services, water treatment, etc. for Walt Disney World. Reedy Creek also manages all the public roadways inside the district.
Reedy Creek has been the main focus of the Disney vs. DeSantis feud which is the reason why many guests are wondering if we will see potential impacts on Walt Disney World as it resides inside the district. Without going too far down the rabbit hole of events, the Florida governor recently replaced the Disney-run board of supervisors that managed this district with his own appointed members. We do go fully down the rabbit hole in an explainer on Reedy Creek and Disney’s legal battle here.
During this feud, Florida Governor DeSantis has mentioned a range of possibilities with the state managing this district varying from building a state prison next to the resort to outlawing any future COVID-19 measures Walt Disney World might consider. Rather than trying to parse out these what-ifs, below I go through the more immediate concerns guests may be worrying about based on actions.
Changes to Florida Transportation- Targeting Disney’s Monorail and Skyliner?
Update: the proposed amendment discussed below has successfully passed.
Aside from the back and forth regarding the Reedy Creek Improvement District, one real way we could see an impact on Walt Disney World operations is due to the new changes to the Florida transportation bill.
This new bill is a general transportation bill but a proposed amendment to the bill includes language that is specifically targeting Disney’s monorail system. This amendment would grant the Department of Transportation oversight of any transportation systems “located within an independent special district created by a local act which has boundaries within two contiguous counties.” So by this definition, that includes Reedy Creek which includes land in both Orange and Osceola counties which is also where the Walt Disney World Resort is located. This amendment gives the state authority to shut down any of these transportation systems during inspections. While the bill doesn’t specifically call out Disney by name, the Florida Governor mentioned this new amendment would impose state inspections over the monorail at a recent news conference. Though not directly mentioned by the Governor, the wording also implies that the State has the right to inspect other transportation systems on Disney property such as the Disney Skyliner. The bill could also give the state oversight of transportation such as buses though buses and the Skyliner have not been mentioned explicitly anywhere we have seen from the governor.
In other words, this amendment would give the state of Florida free reign to inspect both Disney’s monorail and Skyliner on a whim plus the authority to shut them down entirely during these inspections. This would have a drastic impact on guests visiting Walt Disney World if these transportation systems were shut down for long periods of time. As it is now, Disney does their own refurbishments to the monorail and Skyliner as needed which are strategically planned to avoid major guest disruptions.
This amendment was introduced just before Disney announced their lawsuit against DeSantis on April 26th so its future is uncertain.
UPDATE: The amendment successfully passed and was signed into law. As of now, there are no expected disruptions coming to the monorail or the Skyliner from this amendment.
Long Term Impacts to Disney Expansion Projects
The Disney vs DeSantis feud could have long-term impacts when it comes to new additions to the park as there is a reason Disney prefers to have control over the land development in Reedy Creek. It allows them to make development decisions swiftly and without delay. (Although some may poke fun at how long the TRON Lightcycle/RUN attraction construction took which wasn’t necessarily swift!)
If these new development requests remain denied, this could limit Disney’s expansion efforts which were hinted at during a panel at the most recent D23 Convention in Anaheim, CA. Among some of those teased concepts was expanding an area in Magic Kingdom into a potential Villain’s Land and incorporating Zootopia and Moana into Animal Kingdom. You can read more about these teased plans in our guide to new attractions at Walt Disney World.
This is all speculation but according to Disney, the development contracts that were denied “laid the foundation for billions of Disney’s investment dollars and thousands of jobs.” How many billions exactly? Well, Disney stated their plans are to invest $17 billion in Walt Disney World over the next decade resulting in an estimated 13,000 new jobs. These numbers were shared during the shareholder meeting which means that they aren’t just fluff and are under the regulation of the SEC meaning that Disney actually has to be anticipating spending this much. The moves by Florida could easily drive Disney to invest more in new rides at Disneyland and its other resorts.
So while in the short term, guests will not see an impact of this Disney vs. DeSantis feud, there is a question of if these complications could hinder potential new Walt Disney World projects down the line. And of course, much of this depends on the outcome of the lawsuit between Disney and DeSantis.
Overall, at this point I do not feel guests should worry when planning their Walt Disney World trip especially now that we’re about to see this lawsuit take place. You can visit the Most Magical Place on Earth with ease and put all this political back and forth out of your mind.
Plan Your Disney World Vacation!
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