Disney Reveals Why It's Suing Florida Governor

By Savannah Sanders Updated:
Ron DeSantis, Disney logo and Disney castle

It appears that Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are set to continue their battle in court. 

For months, Disney and the Florida Governor have been at odds over a 25,000-acre special district that happens to be home to Walt Disney World Resort. 

The Reedy Creek Improvement District, as its known, was created in 1967 and gave Disney control over land use, building codes, utilities, roads, and more within its borders. 

However, Disney's district was not exempt from property taxes, of which the company is one of Central Florida's largest taxpayers.  

But after more than 50 years of Disney operating Reed Creek, Governor DeSantis' launched a mission to curb Disney's autonomy, prompting the entertainment conglomerate to respond. 

Why Disney Is Suing Florida Governor

After Governor Ron DeSantis' appointed board to oversee Disney's self-governing powers in Florida voted to nullify agreements, Disney sued the governor, the five-member board, and other state officials in a federal court within the Sunshine State.

The case is titled Walt Disney Parks and Resorts v. DeSantis, 23-cv-00163, US District Court, Northern District of Florida. 

Disney stated its reasons for the lawsuit in a statement shared via Bloomberg, referring to DeSantis' action as a "punishment for Disney's protected speech:"

“A targeted campaign of government retaliation—orchestrated at every step by Governor DeSantis as punishment for Disney’s protected speech—now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region, and violates its constitutional rights." 

In addition, Disney claimed DeSantis' threat to "void" contracts “was patently retaliatory, patently anti-business, and patently unconstitutional.”

The company also requested a court order to declare the governor's actions unlawful. 

The issues between the Walt Disney Company and Florida began after Disney criticized Florida's now-labeled "Don't Say Gay" education law last year. 

However, things have changed considerably for both parties since then. 

DeSantis is currently pursuing a 2024 presidential bid and the Walt Disney Company's former CEO Bob Iger has returned to his original position, following the removal of Bob Chapek under whom Disney's Florida fight began. 

Iger actually echoed Disney's reasons for its lawsuit at the company's annual shareholders' meeting, suggesting Florida's actions are "anti-business" while also stating the company "has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals."

According to DeSantis' communications director, Florida is "unaware of any legal right that a company has to operate its own government."

How Disney Used Royalty To Fight Florida

Disney filing a lawsuit against Florida's DeSantis is only the latest example of the company's responses to this drawn-out drama. 

Before DeSantis appointed Reedy Creek Improvement District's oversight board in February, Disney pushed through the previously referenced agreements, giving the company freedom as well as the ability to continue Walt Disney World expansion.

Despite the agreements being passed in a public forum - and which were advertised in The Orlando Sentinel - DeSantis's selected board was shocked to later discover the details of the agreements as they gave power back to Disney in a binding declaration. 

In fact, the declaration states Disney's power doesn't expire until "21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England."

DeSantis' responded with a vow to undo Disney's changes and whose actions and threats led to the company's flight to court.

Just how this case plays out for all parties involved may prove to be as compelling as any Disney film itself.

- About The Author: Savannah Sanders
Savannah Sanders joined The Direct as a writer in 2020. In addition to writing for The Direct's Star Wars, Marvel, and DC teams, Savannah specializes in the relationship between Disney's blockbuster franchises and the Disney Parks.