What Went WRONG With Disney’s Employee Relocation to Florida

In 2021, The Walt Disney Company purchased land in the Lake Nona area of Orlando with plans to relocate thousands of employees from California.

©Lake Nona

The project was expected to bring more than 2,000 jobs to Central Florida, and would have been a $1 billion investment into the local economy. There were a few bumps in the road, but it seemed as though it was still moving forward. That is, up until recently, when Disney announced that the project had been officially canceled altogether.

With Disney recently making the announcement that they will not be moving forward with relocating thousands of employees from California to Lake Nona near Orlando, Florida, we can’t help but wonder what really went wrong. It certainly wasn’t smooth sailing from the beginning, and it’s likely that multiple factors played into Disney’s decision — but first, we need to go back to the beginning.

Magic Kingdom!

Back in 2021, Disney purchased land in Lake Nona and hoped to move thousands of employees from California to Florida. The project was expected to bring more than 2,000 jobs to Central Florida.

Those jobs were expected to boost the economy, with an estimated $120,000 average salary for employees on campus, per The New York Times.


At the time, Josh D’Amaro, chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences and Products, cited “Florida’s business-friendly climate, lower cost of living and lack of a state income tax along with the region’s culture of hospitality and active lifestyles” as reasons for the relocation.

Disney World Magic Kingdom

Many employees who were slated to move to Lake Nona from California weren’t exactly in favor of the change, either. The Orlando Sentinel reported that “worker morale was low after the transition was announced” and Disney stood to lose employees who didn’t want to make the move.

Burbank Disney Company Headquarters ©️LA Times

Originally, the campus was expected to open in December 2022, though as the date approached it became clear that wasn’t going to happen. In June 2022, Disney delayed the projected opening of the Lake Nona campus by more than 3 years, to 2026. A Disney spokeswoman said that the delay was “to give people more time and accommodate the construction timeline for the new offices.”

©The Orlando Sentinel

However, it was speculated that Disney had actually delayed the move due to growing tensions with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani “attributed the decision to Disney’s battle with Florida leaders,” saying, “These culture wars have an economic cost.”

Disney didn’t confirm whether the delay was due to political controversy or not, but it seemed like the project was still a go.


Then, in November 2022, when then-CEO Bob Chapek was replaced with Bob Iger, more speculation swirled about whether or not the move would continue. At first, Iger said he knew about the delay but hadn’t made a decision on anything just yet. And so, we were left waiting.

That is, until March 2023, when records from the City of Orlando showed that Disney sought a specific parcel master plan for the development of an approximately 1.8 million-square-foot office complex with office and flex space in Lake Nona. Even as recently as a couple of months ago, Disney was still working on potentially relocating thousands of employees.


In the meantime, the conflict between Disney and DeSantis only escalated. In response to comments by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Disney filed a federal lawsuit against the governor and his allies, calling the defendant’s actions a “relentless campaign to weaponize government power over the company.” 

©Orlando Business Journal

Later, at a company earnings call in May 2023, Disney CEO Bob Iger asked, “Does the state want us to invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes, or not?” Then, in an email to Disney employees, Josh D’Amaro noted “changing business conditions” as a reason for canceling the project.

Bob Iger | ©Apple TV+

While we may never actually know the reasons Disney chose to cancel this $1 billion project, we do know that change is on the horizon for the company. Keep in mind that $17 billion is expected to be invested in construction at Disney World over the next decade, and the investment will reportedly bring about 13,000 jobs to the area.

One thing is for certain, we’ll be keeping up with it all here at AllEars, so stay tuned for the latest Disney news and more.

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5 Replies to “What Went WRONG With Disney’s Employee Relocation to Florida”

  1. I guess my first comment wasn’t approved, so I will water it down. Disney is loosing money because it is obsessed with producing Woke Content and traditional family values fans/subscribers are not going along with it.

    The parks remain strong, but if they continue to refuse to produce family-friendly (traditional family friendly) content again, the losses will continue. I have cancelled my Disney+ subscription, and won’t go see any new movies. I have recently visited and may continue to visit DWR and DLR with my children/spouse for nostalgia reasons. But Disney, the Brand, is pushing people like me away.

  2. Disney has announced many projects over the years that have been canceled. Currently, Disney is bleeding money and has announced more grand plans over the next ten years.
    Disney will never admit the reason for any of the cancelations and die-hard Disney fans will take whatever Disney says without question.
    There are two sides to every story, it’s your choice which one to accept.

  3. When my company, that I loved, decided to relocate an additional 26 miles to a very congested city that would have doubled my commute, I changed jobs at a reduced salary. I can’t imagine being asked to move across the country. The political stunts by Ron Desantis to launch his presidential campaign seems antithetical to the conservative virtues he claims to espouse. He had no problem with Disney during his first four years in office. I’m sure he is aware that prior to 1973, central Florida was flyover country.

  4. the disney company is laying off 2,500 people this week.
    the end of the ride has been coming for this company for a long time.

    good luck to all those that still hold disney stock.

    1. Reap what you sow Disney. Glad I never was a stockholder, can’t support their foolishness, just stick to traditional family friendly entertainment.