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For YEARS now (literally, years) a serious battle has been going on between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Walt Disney Company (first with former CEO Bob Chapek and then with current CEO Bob Iger). But things have finally changed in a major way.

Disney vs. DeSantis

Legislation, press conferences, official statements, and MORE — this battle has involved everything from a federal lawsuit to threats of building a state prison next to Disney World. It has been one interesting ride — so what’s happened now? Well, let us get you up to speed.

A Quick Background

If you’re just jumping into this battle scene, allow us to give you a quick summary.

“Don’t Say Gay”

January 2022 — The Parental Rights in Education Bill was introduced in Florida (this is what critics often refer to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill). It was later passed and signed into law.
Throughout 2022 — Former Disney CEO Bob Chapek indicated that corporate statements do little to change people’s minds and thus Disney didn’t really issue strong statements on the bill initially. Disney was heavily criticized by some for its failure to respond to the bill. Chapek later made statements indicating that Disney opposed the bill. Disney ultimately issued a statement saying that the law should not have been passed and the Company’s goal would be for the law to be repealed or struck down.
March 2022 — DeSantis criticized Disney’s response, saying they “crossed a line.”

©Governor Ron DeSantis Website

Reedy Creek Improvement District

April 2022 — Following this, legislation was passed (and signed into law) to dissolve Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District — the special district under which they had operated for over 50 years in Orlando. Disney had a large influence over Reedy Creek as it could elect its Board of Supervisors, putting in individuals who were “friendly” to Disney’s interests.
November 2022 — Chapek was removed as Disney’s CEO and Iger returned.
February 2023 — Legislation was quickly passed (and signed into law) regarding Reedy Creek. Reedy Creek would not be dissolved but instead would continue to exist under a new name (the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District) with a board appointed by the Governor.
2023 — The Governor appointed the new board and they started to take action in the District.

Reedy Creek

The Lawsuits

March 2023 — A big battle started over some agreements made between Disney and the old Board of Supervisors of the District before the new board was appointed. The new board argued those agreements stripped them of power and weren’t entered into properly. Why were these agreements such a big deal? Well, they set forth a number of powers Disney would have in terms of developments on the property in the District within the next several years.
April 2023 — The new board declared these agreements invalid.
April 2023 — Disney sued DeSantis and the new Board of Supervisors of the District in federal court.
May 2023 — The Board filed a lawsuit of its own against Disney in state court.
May 2023 — DeSantis signed a law to invalidate the agreements at issue.
December 2023 — Further issues arise regarding the District’s production of certain documents following requests, leading Disney to file a state court lawsuit against the District.

Feeling lost? You’re probably not alone! At that point, there were 3 main lawsuits —

Federal court lawsuit — filed by Disney against the Board of Supervisors and DeSantis
State court lawsuit #1 — filed by the District against Disney
State court lawsuit #2 — filed by Disney against the District

WHEW.

©Governor Ron DeSantis Website

A Settlement Is Revealed

The battle continued until March of 2024 when a settlement between the parties was revealed.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement:

Disney agreed that the Development Agreement (as well as some other documents/plans) was null and void
The District agreed to amend the Comprehensive Plan with consultation from Disney
Both Disney and the District agreed to dismiss the state court cases

©Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board Livestream

So, the state court cases have essentially been resolved since March of 2024, but the federal case was still pending, leaving one string still loose. The parties were, however, working toward a settlement. And now that settlement has finally become a reality.

In mid-June 2024, a new Development Agreement was approved by the District. This helps to really move things forward in terms of approving the use of space within the District for the creation of future parks, etc. Soon after, the final nail was pounded into the coffin of this lengthy war. In June, Disney agreed to dismiss the federal lawsuit, and a motion was filed to make that happen. On June 18th, an order was entered to dismiss the federal appeal – marking the end of this era.

So…That’s It? What Happens Now?

Well, the battle between Disney and DeSantis is over…for now, but Disney and the District have a long road ahead of them. Ultimately, Disney must function within the District under its current format, and the District must find a way to work with its largest landowner.

Disney still needs to meet certain requirements under the new Development Agreement, and the Board of Supervisors for the District (which continues to be selected by Governor DeSantis) will keep making decisions and passing regulations that will impact Disney and its operations.

©Reedy Creek Meeting Livestream (April 19th Meeting)

But, it seems both sides are more dedicated than ever to finding solutions that’ll keep them out of the courthouse…at least for now. CNN points out that after the vote approving the new Development Agreement between Disney and the District, Brian Aungst Jr. (a member of the Board of Supervisors) said this was “the day we have all been very much looking forward to.”

Disney also expressed a sense of positivity, with the president of Walt Disney World Resort (Jeff Vahle) saying “This new development agreement paves the way for us to invest billions of dollars in Walt Disney World Resort, supporting the growth of this global destination, fueling the Florida economy, and allowing us to deliver even more memorable and extraordinary experiences for our guests.”

Magic Kingdom

In terms of big things that are still lingering around, the chair position for the Board of Supervisors of the District remains open, so it will be interesting to see who ultimately is selected for that position.

Technically, there’s also a lawsuit in Miami-Dade County, Florida regarding Reedy Creek that is “open” (2022-9114-CA-01 — EDUARDO FORONDA ET AL VS RON DESANTIS ET AL). That lawsuit, however, was filed by Florida taxpayers against DeSantis, arguing that the changes made to Reedy Creek would violate taxpayer rights. The latest action in that case was filed in December of 2023, when a request for a hearing was made on a motion to change the venue of the case. No action has been taken on that case for quite some time according to the case docket that is viewable online and Disney is not a party to the case.

EPCOT

In terms of the political world, Disney is back to making political donations so things are largely heading back to “normal” there.

And within the District, the Board will need to update the Comprehensive Plan by the third quarter of 2025 (which gives them quite a bit of time). New developments and regulations within the District could lead to new debates, but at least there’s a path forward now.

Reedy Creek Building

We’ll be keeping a close eye on all things happening within the District as they impact Disney to see how things could change in the future. You never know where the next 50 years will take us…

In the meantime, click here to read more about the new Development Agreement approved by the District, which could lead to the creation of a 5th Disney World theme park!

And stay tuned for more news!

Click here to read about 6 lands that could come to a 5th Disney World park

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The post It’s FINAL. The Disney-DeSantis Feud Is Officially Over. first appeared on the disney food blog.