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Maggie Duckworth
Culture > News

DeSantis v. Disney: The Battle of the Mouse

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCF chapter.

Florida politics over the past few weeks have been, to put it simply, a lot. From the Heartbeat Protection Act, to flooding and gas shortages in South Florida, to the expansion of the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis have been clogging up the news cycle. The strangest story of all might be the ongoing feud between DeSantis and the Disney corporation. Here’s the ultimate timeline of what started the battle, and where we’re currently at.

2020 Election: Disney donates to Republican Candidates

For a long time, Disney has been a key player in politics in Florida, donating $4.8 million to Floridian candidates in 2020, according to Politico. Moreover, a large majority of this money went directly to the Republican Party, as well as DeSantis. 

Mar. 8, 2022: The “Don’t Say Gay” Bill is passed by the Senate

The initial bill, HB 1557, advanced past the senate to be passed up to the Governor to sign. The bill passed with 22 votes from Republicans. At this point, Disney had yet to speak up, being pressured by their employees in Florida.

Mar. 11, 2022: Chapek apologizes to Disney employees

Bob Chapek, the former Walt Disney Company CEO, formally spoke out against the bill in a correspondence to employees, stating that LGBTQ+ employees are a backbone to the company. He apologized and pledged to be “an ally” to the community going forward.

Mar. 28, 2022: The “Don’t Say Gay” Bill is signed by DeSantis and Disney speaks out

Following mass outcry from many, in the forms of walkouts in schools and from Disney employees, as well as other forms of protest, the controversial law was signed by DeSantis. This bill initially covered K-3, as stated in the Florida legislature.

Apr. 19, 2022: DeSantis calls for a special session

DeSantis released a proclamation targeting privileges that have been granted to private corporations, specifically Disney’s self-governing status, as presented in his memo regarding an upcoming legislative special session.

Jan. 25, 2023: Public Hearing at reedy creek

A public hearing was held regarding the agreements that favor Disney and limit the power of Desantis in land rights in Reedy Creek.

Feb. 6, 2023: legislature meets in special session

A new bill was introduced that would instead rename the district and allow DeSantis to appoint his own board to the area, according to CNN.

Feb. 22, 2023: HB 1069 filed

An extension of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill was filed that would expand its control up to grade 5 students’ education.

Feb. 27, 2023: Desantis signs hb 9-b

DeSantis signed a bill that ended Disney’s self-governing status, allowing DeSantis to take control over Walt Disney World.

Mar. 29, 2023: Disney Strips DeSantis’ Power with a Royal Clause

News broke of a declaration that was passed the day before the district was handed to DeSantis (Feb. 8), that essentially strips the board’s power over all things Disney, including the coveted mouse. Most interesting though, is the clause that strips the board of its powers for decades.

“[T]his Declaration shall continue in effect until twenty one (21) years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England living as of the date of this Declaration,”

– Declaration of Restrictive Covenants

Apr. 3, 2023: Disney virtual annual shareholder’s meeting

Returning CEO Bob Iger denounced DeSantis’ actions against the company, and his words against Disney, stating this is all retatiation against “the biggest taxpayer in the state.” Additionally, DeSantis initiated an investigation on previous agreements from the Reedy Creek Improvement District board.

Apr. 6, 2023: Desantis announces new punishments targeting disney

DeSantis announced that he is considering imposing taxes on hotels and tolls surrounding the district, obviously in direct repsonse to Disney’s prior moves in the legal battle.

Apr. 17, 2023: desantis plans to revoke agreements

DeSantis stated that the legislature will void the agreements that have left his appointed Reedy Creek district board almost completely powerless, with more promises to punish Disney and impose regulations, such as building a jail on Disney property. Yikes.

Apr. 19, 2023: Florida board of Education expands “Don’t say gay” bill

The new bill has expanded to cover all students from K-12 regarding lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity, amongst others, ABC News reports.

It’s clear that this legal and political battle has been a wild ride, and it’s sure to get crazier before it ends.

Eliza is a junior at the University of Central Florida, studying Biology and Criminal Justice. She hails from the land down under (Melbourne, Australia), and when she isn't at Disney, she is hanging out with her cat, her roommates and going on boba runs.