Man vs. Mouse: Ron DeSantis Finds Taking On Disney Is a Dicey Business (2023)

Man vs. Mouse: Ron DeSantis Finds Taking On Disney Is a Dicey Business (1)

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Republicans are increasingly taking on corporations they denounce as “woke.” The Florida governor is just the latest to find that it isn’t easy.

The Walt Disney Company is one of the most formidable superpowers of American culture and commerce. Credit...Lawren Simmons for The New York Times

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By Charles Homans

When Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida went to war against Disney over what he labels its “woke” corporate sensibility and its criticism of state policies, Tim Wildmon was cheering from the sidelines.

Mr. Wildmon, the president of the American Family Association, a right-wing religious organization, has more experience in this area than most: In 1995, his organization, which is known for its opposition to L.G.B.T.Q. rights, rallied a broad coalition of evangelical groups to boycott Disney after it extended family benefits to gay employees.

But since then, Mr. Wildmon has learned to temper his expectations. After an early wave of international media attention, the boycott receded from the headlines, and by the time Mr. Wildmon officially pulled the plug on it a decade later, it had had little discernible impact on Disney’s policies or revenues.

“It was very difficult to sustain for more than three or four years,” he said. “People move on. They lose interest. Things change.”

And some things stay the same. Almost 20 years later, Mr. DeSantis is trying to turn Americans against The Walt Disney Company, one of the most formidable superpowers of American popular culture and commerce. He has also joined the pile-on of another corporate-cultural behemoth, Anheuser-Busch InBev, which incurred a wave of outrage on the right this month over a Bud Light marketing campaign promoting a transgender influencer.

“I’d rather be governed by we the people rather than woke companies, so I believe pushback is in order across the board,” the governor said in a recent interview with Benny Johnson, a right-wing media personality.


Man vs. Mouse: Ron DeSantis Finds Taking On Disney Is a Dicey Business (3)

Coming as he prepares to run for president, Mr. DeSantis’s moves are testing whether changes in Republican politics and in boardrooms have rewritten the rules for anti-corporate campaigns. American businesses are increasingly engaging in social debates, responding to consumer and employee demand. In the Republican Party, meanwhile, the party’s Trump-era populist rhetorical turn and hardening position on gender politics have combined to make corporate America an appealing battlefield for culture warriors.

But taking on Mickey Mouse remains a tricky business. As Mr. Wildmon and others can attest, brands of the scale and cultural footprint of Disney have emerged from past boycotts without much of a scratch. And corporations that might have been leery of such fights a generation ago are now more likely to see them as inevitable, and in some cases even a source of market advantage.

In Florida, Disney has proved a wily political foil for Mr. DeSantis. After the company criticized a Republican bill in the State Legislature limiting schools’ instruction on gender and sexuality last year, Mr. DeSantis tried to strip Disney of the unusual self-governance arrangement it has enjoyed for decades in the state. But his administration appeared to be outmaneuvered when Disney’s representatives found a workaround.

This month, the governor escalated the dispute by threatening a list of possible punishments. On Wednesday, after a board voted to void agreements that give the company control over expansion at its resort complex, Disney sued in federal court, claiming “a targeted campaign of government retaliation.”

Bryan Griffin, Mr. DeSantis’s press secretary, has described the company’s moves as “an attempt to subvert the will of the people of Florida.” Disney, one of the largest employers in the state, has repeatedly described its actions as compliant with state law. Its chief executive, Robert A. Iger, has criticized Mr. DeSantis’s actions as “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”

Polls suggest Mr. DeSantis’s political success in the debate may hinge on whether he’s viewed as a populist reining in big business or a culture warrior. A Harvard-Harris poll this month found a majority of registered voters nationwide — and a vast majority of Republicans — siding with Mr. DeSantis in the showdown. The survey described Mr. DeSantis as attempting “to limit Disney’s autonomy” and remove “special tax status.”

But another poll, this one conducted this week by Reuters/Ipsos, found less than half of Republicans had a more favorable view of the governor because of his fight with Disney. And majorities of Democrats and Republicans said they were less likely to support a candidate who supported laws intended to punish companies for their positions on cultural issues.

The episode has been viewed as a weakness by his prospective rivals in the 2024 presidential primary field, in which polls show Mr. DeSantis has slipped. On his Truth Social platform, Donald J. Trump mocked Mr. DeSantis for being “absolutely destroyed by Disney.”

Chris Christie, the former governor of New Jersey, questioned whether Mr. DeSantis’s heavy-handed use of state power against the company undermined his claims of conservatism.

“Where are we headed here now that, if you express disagreement in this country, the government is now going to punish you?” Mr. Christie said at an event last week.

In the campaign against Anheuser-Busch, a more conventional boycott without the political complications of government intervention, the backlash has had a clearer impact. In recent days, amid reports of tumbling sales, the company announced that the marketing executives responsible for the promotional partnership with the influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, were on leave.

Other companies that have incurred the anger of consumers on the right and left, however, have generally found the ire to be short-lived. Nike was vilified by President Trump and others over its 2018 promotional campaign featuring the former N.F.L. quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who had faced outrage on the right for kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police shootings of unarmed Black people. Nike’s stock fell 3 percent after the company released its first Kaepernick ad, but within weeks it had rebounded to a record high.

Nike’s campaign was a signal moment in the shifting politics of corporate America, which has long made common cause with the Republican Party on issues like taxes and regulation but has been drawn into increasingly regular conflict with the party over social issues.


In part this is because corporations have become more socially liberal in their own policies, reflecting broader trends in public opinion on many issues. When the Human Rights Campaign, a prominent L.G.B.T.Q.-rights organization, published its first Corporate Equality Index in 2002, only 13 companies received the top score for L.G.B.T.Q.-friendliness. In 2022, 842 companies did.

“I think it’s something that’s important to their employees, to their customers and to their investors,” said Eric Bloem, the organization’s senior director for programs and corporate advocacy. “It’s all interrelated.”

In the 2010s, when newly Republican-controlled state legislatures began aggressively pursuing legislation targeting L.G.B.T.Q. rights, corporations’ new social politics came into direct conflict with their old Chamber of Commerce allegiances, and often outweighed them. Companies like PayPal, Deutsche Bank, Disney and Walmart canceled expansion plans, threatened boycotts and lobbied political leaders in several states over the new laws.

The business community’s shift accelerated after the police murder of George Floyd in 2020, which sent corporations as varied as Citigroup and McDonald’s scrambling to signal their solidarity with the emerging wave of racial justice protests.

Brands that have performed outreach to right-leaning Americans have been an exception rather than the rule, and they have been mostly smaller enterprises. But for Republican politicians like Mr. DeSantis, the party base’s discontent with the new corporate value-signaling has proved an opportunity. Last year, the communications firm Edelman found in its annual Trust Barometer survey that for the first time, a majority of Republican respondents — and more Republicans than Democrats — said they did not trust business.

“The Republican Party was all about promoting the virtues of capitalism,” said Vivek Ramaswamy, an entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate who has centered a criticism of corporate America’s social liberalism in his campaign.

As recently as a few years ago, he said, campaigning against big business was an awkward fit for the party. Now, he said, “we can understand what’s happened a little better.”


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Why is Disney suing Florida? ›

The Disney vs DeSantis feud, explained

Disney is suing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) for violating its free speech as a company, a major escalation in a year-long battle between the GOP leader and big business.

What is going on with Disney and DeSantis? ›

The latest face-off between Disney and DeSantis began when Disney filed an initial claim against DeSantis in Tallahassee federal court in April. In the suit, Disney said it opposed a bill banning school instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through the fourth grade.

Is Disney moving out of Florida? ›

While Disney could pick up and move some of its businesses from Orlando to another state, Disney World and its other theme parks aren't going anywhere. Moving all the infrastructure, including hotels, restaurants and shops as well as transportation to move guests around, just wouldn't be feasible.

Is Ron DeSantis running for president? ›

Is Ron DeSantis running for president in 2024? The short answer is “Yes.” Insiders say he's privately discussed his campaign plans “without any caveats that would suggest he's still deciding.”

How much of Florida is owned by Disney? ›

They can have their own lake with the amenities of a getaway spot.” While there's no official confirmation, it's estimated that Disney owns roughly 30,000 acres in Central Florida.

How much does Florida rely on Disney? ›

In fact, when you add it all up, the Orlando tourism economy, of which Disney sits at the center, has a gigantic impact on the Florida economy. A 2019 study by Oxford Economics found that Orlando-area tourism generated $75.2 billion in economic impact for central Florida — about $1,000 for every tourist.

How many Gators have been removed from Disney? ›

250 Gators Removed From Walt Disney World Properties Since Boy Died In 2016 Attack. ORLANDO (CBSMiami/AP) - In the five years since a two-year-old Nebraska boy was killed by an alligator at Walt Disney World's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, 250 gators have been removed from the Disney properties.

How many Disney employees are moving to Florida? ›

Construction and opening will be phased to allow for Disney employees to relocate on their own timeline. The company anticipates adding 2,000 employees to this new Florida campus.

Are Disney employees moving to Florida? ›

Theme parks are getting updated, Disney+ was launched back in 2019, and leadership has switched back and forth a few times. But one of the biggest changes coming for the company is that they're moving 2000 jobs from California to Central Florida.

What will happen to Disney World in 2023? ›

New rides, restaurants, spaces, and services are on the way as the Walt Disney Company celebrates its 100th Anniversary. In 2023, many of the larger Disney construction projects are set to be complete, and Disney staffing levels and crowds should begin to normalize.

What is Disney closing in 2023? ›

Disney has just revealed that one of its major theme parks located in Orlando, Florida, will be closing very soon.

What is Disney moving from California to Florida? ›

It's been a while, but we haven't forgotten about Disney's big move to Central Florida. In 2021, Disney bought nearly 60 acres of land in Lake Nona near Orlando to create a new campus for employees.

Who is predicted to be president in 2024? ›

Top 5 Candidates, 2024 US Presidential Election
1️⃣ Joe Biden+15040.0% ↓
2️⃣ Donald Trump+25028.6%
3️⃣ Ron DeSantis+60014.3%
4️⃣ Robert F. Kennedy Jr.+20004.8% ↑
5️⃣ Kamala Harris+20004.8%
May 4, 2023

Can DeSantis run for governor in 2026? ›

Incumbent Governor Ron DeSantis will be term limited through the state's constitution and cannot run for reelection to a third term.

Who becomes governor in Florida if the governor resigns? ›

Official duties dictated to the lieutenant governor under the present Florida Constitution are to serve as the acting governor in the absence of the governor from the state or the disability of the governor, or to become governor in the event of the governor's death, resignation or removal from office via impeachment.

What company owns most of Disney? ›

Disney is owned by many shareholders, as it's a publicly traded company. According to CNN Business News, the Vanguard Group, Inc. is the largest shareholder of Walt Disney Co. with a 7.49% stake.

Who owns the majority of Disney World? ›

The top shareholders of Disney are Robert A. Iger, Christine M. McCarthy, Alan N. Braverman, Vanguard Group Inc., BlackRock Inc.

Who owns the biggest percentage of Disney? ›

Investors should note that institutions actually own more than half the company, so they can collectively wield significant power. We note that hedge funds don't have a meaningful investment in Walt Disney. Looking at our data, we can see that the largest shareholder is The Vanguard Group, Inc.

Do Florida residents pay less at Disney? ›

Enjoy an action packed visit to Walt Disney World Resort! Florida Residents can save 40% on 4-Day Tickets and 30% on 3-Day Tickets compared to the non-Florida Resident price of a 3-Day or 4-Day Ticket. Want to visit for a day? One-day, one-park tickets start at $109, depending on the date and the theme park.

What would happen to Florida economy if Disney left? ›

If it did, the state's economy would be very close to collapse. Between the billions of dollars in bond, and tax revenue lost, there would be about 80,000 people added to unemployment, food stamps, medicaid, and other social programs.

What percentage of Florida's GDP comes from Disney? ›

(Disney World outperforms California's Disneyland). Disney World does wonders for the Florida economy. According to a 2011 report, “The $18.2 billion in annual economic activity generated locally by Walt Disney Parks and Resorts accounts for 2.5 percent of Florida's gross domestic product.”

What did Disney do for the Graves family? ›

After the incident, Disney created a lighthouse sculpture to honor Lane.

Are alligators a problem at Disney World? ›

Disney World is home to a number of alligators. Since 2016, there have been over 200 reported alligator sightings in the park. Alligators have, unfortunately, been responsible for several attacks and deaths in Disney World.

What's the biggest gators caught in Florida? ›

The size of the alligator is unclear but for those who might wonder: The longest alligator recorded in Florida measured 14 feet, 3-1/2 inches; the weight record (involving a different gator) is 1,043 pounds.

Who is the largest employer in Florida Disney? ›

Walt Disney World is not only the most visited amusement park in the world, it is also the largest single-site employer in the world. As of 2021, a staggering 75,000 employees work for Disney in Central Florida, more people than work anywhere else on the face of the earth.

Who is the biggest employer in Florida? ›

DPWN Holdings (USA), Inc. (Jobs) Jabil (Jobs) Darden Restaurants (Jobs)
Detailed List Of The 100 Biggest Companies In Florida.
CompanyDPWN Holdings (USA), Inc.
89 more columns
Apr 14, 2023

How many Disney employees were laid off? ›

As I shared with you in February, we have made the difficult decision to reduce our overall workforce by approximately 7,000 jobs as part of a strategic realignment of the company, including important cost-saving measures necessary for creating a more effective, coordinated and streamlined approach to our business.

What is the living wage for Disney employees? ›

A coalition of workers and unions in Southern California have come together to propose a ballot measure that will raise wages for workers of hospitality businesses like Disney to $18 an hour by 2022.

Is Disney understaffed? ›

The significant staff shortages were felt by guests since parks reopened. Understaffing has been the reported cause of a number of standards-related concerns, associated with everything from ride and park maintenance, customer support, and dining and resort experiences.

Does Disney have a staffing shortage? ›

The staffing crisis that has gripped the nation has hit Disney World especially hard as the theme park struggles to find Cast Members to fill open roles. The once prestigious entertainment department has been among the most impacted by the labor shortage, particularly in the character performer roles.

What are the new Disney rules for 2023? ›

Walt Disney World announces 3 new changes coming in 2023 to benefit guests
  • Free self-parking when staying at a Disney Resort hotel. ...
  • Park reservation requirements relaxed for annual pass holders. ...
  • Attraction photo downloads will be included with Disney Genie+
Jan 11, 2023

Is Disney building a new park in Texas? ›

As of 2022, Disney has no plans to build a theme park in Texas.

What year will Disney World be 100? ›

While the party continues at the Disneyland Resort, the celebration will also come to life at Walt Disney World Resort later in 2023. New features and surprises will be available at international Disney Parks locations all year long, leading up to the company's 100th anniversary on October 16.

Is Disney closing Animal Kingdom? ›

No, Animal Kingdom is not closing in 2024. Nor is there any major park closure in store for Disney World in the foreseeable future. The TikTok video, which can be viewed here, is just another viral hit from a new Disney-themed parody site called The Mouse Trap.

What is closing permanently at Disney World? ›

Disney Dining recently covered that Tree of Life Nighttime Awakenings in Disney's Animal Kingdom had seemingly closed forever. Now, it's been confirmed by the Disney website that the attraction won't be returning.

What transportation is Disney getting rid of? ›

Disney World Gets Rid of Free Airport Transportation — and Replaces It With These Paid Options. Companies like Mears Connect, Sunshine Flyer, and rideshares are available. Alison Fox is a Travel + Leisure contributor.

Is Disney cheaper in Florida or California? ›

There are some similarities between Disneyland tickets and Disney World tickets. At both resorts, theme park ticket prices vary based on park and date, but Disneyland's are almost always slightly cheaper. The average price for a one-day Disneyland ticket for entry between April and August 2023 is $154.

Which Disney land is better Florida or California? ›

If you've got 4 or 5 days or more to devote to Disney, I'd choose Florida as there are more parks there and overall there's more to do. Overall, the parks in Florida have many more attractions and rides that are not duplicated at Disneyland/California Adventure than the other way around.

Who are the next 3 people in line to be president? ›

Current order of succession
1Vice PresidentDemocratic
2Speaker of the House of RepresentativesRepublican
3President pro tempore of the SenateDemocratic
4Secretary of StateDemocratic
14 more rows

What are the 5 requirements to be president? ›

Candidates for president must:
  • Be a natural-born citizen of the United States.
  • Be at least 35 years old.
  • Have been a resident of the United States for 14 years.
Apr 6, 2023

Who became president 4 times? ›

At the 1924 Democratic Convention he dramatically appeared on crutches to nominate Alfred E. Smith as “the Happy Warrior.” In 1928 Roosevelt became Governor of New York. He was elected President in November 1932, to the first of four terms.

Can a governor serve 3 terms in Florida? ›

How long does the Governor serve and can he or she serve more than one term? The governor holds the office for four years and can choose to run for reelection. The Governor is not eligible to serve more than eight years in any twelve-year period.

Does Florida have a 2 term limit for governor? ›

The governors of the following states and territories are limited to two consecutive terms, but are eligible to run again after four years out of office: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina, Ohio, ...

Does DeSantis have to resign to run? ›

The law currently says that “any officer who qualifies for federal public office must resign from the office he or she presently holds if the terms, or any part thereof, run concurrently with each other.”

How much does the governor of Florida make per year? ›

In Florida, the salary of the governor stood at $134,181 as of 2021, the 19th lowest among the 50 states. For additional context, the typical state governor earns between $147,000 and $150,000. Meanwhile, the overall cost of living in Florida is estimated to be about 0.7% higher than the national average.

Who is second in line to the governor? ›

The Lieutenant Governor shall become Governor upon the death, resignation, or removal from office of the Governor.

Can you be governor and president at the same time? ›

II, Sec. 1, cl. 7). However, the Constitution places no restrictions that would prevent state or local office holders from simultaneously holding office in any branch of the federal government.

Why does Disney have a lawsuit? ›

The Disney lawsuit asks a federal judge to void the governor's takeover of the theme park district, as well as the oversight board's actions, on the grounds that they were violations of company's free speech rights.

What is the Disney v Florida lawsuit? ›

Disney sued the Florida governor in a Tallahassee federal court in late April for allegedly punishing the company for exercising its first amendment freedom of expression rights by criticizing DeSantis over last year's Parental Rights in Education Act.

Why is Disney moving from California to Florida? ›

The move is meant not only to benefit from Florida's business-friendly tax incentives but also to consolidate Disney's operations in the state and improve collaboration.

Who recently sued Disney? ›

The settlement ends a back-and-forth PR battle pitting the CAA-repped star against the studio that was poised to have dramatic implications for all of Hollywood's majors.

What is the latest scandal with Disney? ›

Controversy arose again in 2022 between Disney and the state of Florida over a bill passed and widely referred to as "Don't Say Gay." Florida politicians passed the bill attempting to limit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.

Is there a lawsuit over access to Disney parks? ›

The federal lawsuit, filed on Tuesday, alleges Disney violated its contract with annual passholders by using a system that requires all guests to make a park reservation before visiting. Disney originally launched the reservation system in 2020 to control crowds during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Can you get sued for using Disney characters? ›

The Disney Group takes Disney trademark infringement seriously and has copyright and trademark registrations to protect its characters. Anyone who wants to use the characters from the Disney franchise must follow all legal requirements to avoid infringing on the company's intellectual property rights.

Did ex bp vp sues disney for pulling job offer after florida uproar? ›

BP Plc 's former senior vice president of business communications sued Walt Disney Co. for rescinding an offer to hire her following a corporate shakeup made in the wake of the company's public battle with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis .

What is the Disney Disability Pass scandal? ›

Due to abuse of Disney's Guest Assistance Program by non-disabled guests, including faking disabilities in order to rent wheelchairs, hiring disabled people to accompany them on Disney vacations in order to bypass queues, and other fraudulent activities, Disney has decided to replace the program.

Is Disney World shutting down 2023? ›

Disney World Closing Theme Park Indefinitely in 2023 - Inside the Magic.

Why is Disney Florida so expensive? ›

Disney has an advertising budget to maintain. Disney World wouldn't be the same without all the guests. In order to ensure this steady stream of visitors, Disney invests a significant amount of money into advertising — billions of dollars every year, in fact. High ticket costs help compensate for this fact.

Has anyone ever won a lawsuit against Disney? ›

But it isn't all about taxes, back in 1990 Lady and the Tramp served as a key part of one lawsuit filed against Disney. As AP News reported, back in 1990 Peggy Lee won a judgment against Disney regarding their release of a videocassette version of Lady and the Tramp.

Will Scarlett Johansson work with Disney again? ›

Scarlett Johansson Reveals She's Working with Disney Again After Settling Lawsuit. Scarlett Johansson has revealed that she aims to collaborate with Disney once again, after settling her lawsuit over Black Widow's streaming release.

How many lawyers does Disney have? ›

Chief Counsel - Disney Parks, Experiences and Products

In her role, Margaret strategically manages a talented global team (~100 lawyers, ~350 total employees) that advises on legal and risk management related matters while also facilitating growth throughout the supported businesses and protecting the Company's brand.


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