“A Big Win for Central Florida” — The DeSantis x Disney Battle Is Over.

The time has finally come.

Obtained via Click Orlando Livestream — Governor DeSantis

For a long while now, Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis have been in the middle of a battle with serious implications surrounding the way Disney functions in Orlando, and now it seems the big issues between the parties have been resolved. How did we get here? What’s going on? And what might happen next? We’ve got everything you need to know right here.

How’d We Get Here?

If just the words “Ron DeSantis” and “Reedy Creek Improvement District” make you think of the “84 Years” Titanic meme, you’re likely not alone.

The battle here has been ongoing for quite some time, so let us give you a quick recap.

It all began in 2022 with the introduction of the Parental Rights in Education bill in Florida (what critics often referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill). At first, Disney didn’t really issue a formal response to it — except to say that they weren’t going to issue a corporate statement. Then-CEO Bob Chapek suggested that corporate statements “do very little to change outcomes or minds.”

Disney then faced heavy criticism for its lack of a response to the bill. Ultimately, Chapek issued an apology to Disney employees about how the matter was handled and indicated that the Company did oppose the bill. After the bill was passed, Disney made a statement saying it should not have become law and the Company’s goal would be for the law to be repealed or struck down.

DeSantis responded by saying Disney’s statement “crossed the line.”

©Wall Street Journal

Following this, a bill was passed to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District by a certain point. What’s Reedy Creek? Well, it is the special district under which Disney had been operating in Orlando for 50+ years. The Board of Supervisors for the District (who make key decisions for things that could impact Disney’s development in the District, etc.) had been elected by Disney (as the majority landowner in the District) for all those years, giving Disney the ability to put people in power who were “friendly” to their needs and wants.

A few months after the bill was passed, Bob Chapek was removed as Disney’s CEO and Bob Iger returned to lead the Company.

Bob Iger and Bob Chapek ©Disney

Then things with Reedy Creek changed in a big way. A bill was passed that continued the existence of Reedy Creek under a new name — the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. While some of the District powers remained the same, there was one key difference. The Board of Supervisors would now be selected by the Governor (removing Disney’s previous ability to elect the Board).

Governor DeSantis appointed the new board and they started to make decisions in the District.

Reedy Creek Improvement District

The new board then started to take issue with a Development Agreement (and some other agreements) Disney entered into with the old Board of Supervisors (before the new board was appointed). The Development Agreement (and other agreements) essentially provided Disney with certain powers and abilities regarding the development of land within the District for the next several years.

The new Board argued that these agreements essentially stripped them of their power and “made Disney the government.”

©Central Florida Tourism Oversight District

Here’s a quick view of what happened next:

Essentially there were 3 main lawsuits at issue — 2 in state court (one filed by the Board, one filed by Disney) and 1 in federal court (filed by Disney).

©Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board

The battles continued until, in 2024, a settlement was reached. Under the settlement, both state court lawsuits would be dropped and other agreements were made between the parties.

At that point, the federal lawsuit was still pending, but the parties were working on a potential settlement there too. 

What Happened Recently?

June of 2024 is where the big change finally happened to close this chapter of the DeSantis-Disney saga. The Board of Supervisors for the District has now approved a new Development Agreement with Disney, which provides for over $17 billion worth of investments in Disney World over the next 10-20 years.


Essentially, the new Development Agreement paves the way for the future of Disney World, setting forth how many more hotel rooms, major theme parks, etc. Disney can build in the next several years. 

And with that finally came the end of the federal case. In mid-June, a motion was filed indicating that Disney had agreed to dismiss the federal case (now that the new Development Agreement was in place in the District), and an order was then entered to dismiss the federal case (it was on appeal so technically the federal appeal is what was dismissed).

Cinderella Castle

And so we’ve reached it…the end of a very intense battle between DeSantis, the Board of the District, and Disney…at least for now.

What’s Next?

Of course, there’s no telling where the next 5, 10, or 50 years will lead these folks, particularly as new board members, new governors, and new Disney CEOs hit the scene in the future. But, for now, it seems these parties are focused on moving developments and relationships forward outside of the courtroom.

©Disney Connect

Technically, a Miami-Dade County lawsuit remains open, but this is one that was filed by taxpayers against DeSantis concerning the Reedy Creek changes. Disney is not a party to the lawsuit and no action appears to have been taken on it since back in 2023.

In terms of other pending matters, the Board of Supervisors for the District is still missing its chair so we’ll have to watch and see who ultimately gets selected for that position and what impact they have.

Reedy Creek Building

Disney will also need to comply with certain requirements under the new Development Agreement, and the Board must update the Comprehensive Plan for the District by the third quarter of 2025.

But, spirits seem high. The President of Walt Disney World Resort (Jeff Vahle) said, “This new development agreement paves the way for us to invest billions of dollars in Walt Disney World Resort, supporting the growth of this global destination, fueling the Florida economy, and allowing us to deliver even more memorable and extraordinary experiences for our guests.” (CNN)

Animal Kingdom

In reference to the adoption of the new Development Agreement, Brian Aungst Jr. (a member of the Board) said this was “the day we have all been very much looking forward to.”

Bryan Griffin, the communications director for the Governor’s office, shared “This agreement is a big win for central Florida and will lead to numerous jobs and improved guest experiences.” (ABC News)

Port Orleans French Quarter

And Disney has resumed political contributions in Florida, another sign of a return to “normalcy.”

As things move forward, there may be battles that arise between the Board and Disney when it comes to certain decisions that will impact Disney’s operation in the District. But at least it appears that there is a path forward from here.


We’ll be closely monitoring what’s happening within the Board of Supervisors for the District and all of the happenings at Disney to keep you up-to-date on all the latest, so stay tuned!

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