A year ago last March, Disney decided to take on the entire government of Florida. The Florida Legislature passed the Parental Rights In Education Act, which prohibits classroom instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools until the age of nine. Disney, spearheaded by their CEO, Bob Chapek, publicly protested this legislation, presumably in the belief that what Disney’s shareholders want is a company that supports the teaching of gender identity ideology to children under the age of nine, as opposed to a company that will make them money. Disney would phrase this differently, of course. It believes this uber-woke stuff will make the company money as its future customers will have grown up in this environment and will want this kind of stuff embedded in movies, tv shows, parks, etc.
Unfortunately, Disney did not seem to realise that it was taking on a formidable adversary – the State of Florida. And not just any state but the one which has provided Disney with the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID). This is a massive self-governing 25,000-acre property given over to Disney 55 years ago to do with what it likes. And Disney likes theme parks in the RCID – four of them including Disney World and numerous other affiliated businesses. Taking on the state in which you are the biggest recipient of its’ largesse is a strategy that would have given General Custer pause. Especially, as with all Disney movies, there is an arch villain. Step forward Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis is a popular conservative who believes in effective limited government, and maximum individual freedom, and hates all manifestations of the woke cult, from ESG to DEI. And he will be running for President in 2024. The liberal press hates him of course; in fact, he has been compared to Genghis Khan (that last one was courtesy of Vanity Fair), Nazis, Stalin and Mussolini. And that was just in the last few weeks.
DeSantis is the face of the growing amount of ‘anti-woke’ legislation in Florida, and is always up for a fight. This is the guy who, fed up with the Biden Administration’s deliberate opening of our southern border to any and all illegal immigrants, shipped off as many illegals as it could find in Florida to self-proclaimed “sanctuary states” elsewhere, such as Martha’s Vineyard, New York City, and Washington, D.C.
In addition, the Empire struck back and passed legislation stripping Disney of its ability to run the RCID as a self-governing property. DeSantis and the Florida legislature stripped Disney of its RCID control and placed it under the control of a Board appointed by him. DeSantis then turned up on Disney’s doorstep in February in Lake Buena Vista to announce: “Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end. There’s a new sheriff in town and accountability will be the order of the day.”
Meanwhile Disney is on a heart-dropping ride so scary it should plan on making it a ride at one of its’ parks. Surprisingly, not all of this can be blamed on Big Bad Ron. The studio has also given its movie division a woke facelift, with disastrous consequences. Pixar’s Toy Story spinoff Lightyear lost $100M last year. The animated film Strange World released at the end of last year has lost nearly $150 Million. As the gay movie critic, Rob Smith, pointed out: “Disney’s Strange World cartoon, which features a gay teen in love with another boy, FLOPPED with a disastrous $18M opening on a $180M budget. Most adults have NO PROBLEM with gays. They obviously DO have a problem with LGBT propaganda in kids’ flicks.”
But that’s the tip of the iceberg. Streaming services such as Disney+ and Hulu are seriously underperforming as Disney is failing to leverage its massive Covid-era revenues from its hitherto lucrative movie franchises. The Disney Board got rid of Chapek a few months back and replaced him with former CEO Bob Iger. Iger does not seem to want to make it up with DeSantis, and instead is busy channeling Scrooge McDuck. Seven thousand Disney employees are being laid off as part of the plan to save $5.5 Billion in operating costs. Oh, and the stock price has gone all Tower Of Terror and plummeted from $190 two years ago to $98 today.
Disney tried a Hail Mary play a couple of weeks back by having the original RCID Board vote to let Disney have control over all development rights in perpetuity. Usually DeSantis has a very serious business-oriented mien, but this time he relaxed and decided to have some fun. He held a press conference at which he cited many of the things that Florida could do in retaliation. Tolls on all roads into the Disney parks was a good one, but the best suggestion he made was building a State prison on Florida-owned land next to Disney World. The liberal press does not understand jokes and so of course this became articles along the lines of “not even Hitler would think of building a prison next to the sacred site of Mickey!” More prosaically, the Florida legislature instead is busy passing more legislation to nullify Disney’s last minute maneuvering.
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