Published – 6/15/22 2:00 pm EST
Updated – 6/15/22 5:50 pm EST
In an apparent continuation of its spat with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, The Walt Disney Company has decided to delay a major relocation plan to the Sunshine State until a time when DeSantis could potentially be out of office.
According to a confirmed report from CinemaBlend, Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) held an “all-hands” meeting to announce that the plan to relocate the group from Southern California to Central Florida had been delayed. What was supposed to begin in 2023 will now be delayed until 2026.
It should be noted that Disney’s official reason for the delay is unclear. It could be a number of things, including construction-related delays. The new facilities which are expected to house WDI are a part of the construction plans for a brand new campus near Lake Nona, Florida.
Since this article’s original publication, further confirmation of this situation was provided by the Orlando Sentinel, which reported that Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler explained that the decision to push until 2026 was to “give people more time” along with accommodations for construction. The Sentinel further stated that Disney paid over $46 million for the 60 acres near Lake Nona’s Medical City where Disney is set to invest $864 million in developing 1.8 million square feet set to hold over 2,000 jobs. 90% of those jobs were expected to be in Imagineering. Disney is also poised to take advantage of over $570 million in tax breaks.
However, the decision comes amid an ongoing battle between the Disney leadership in Burbank and Florida’s state leadership in Tallahassee that began when Disney “crossed the line” in announcing its decision to actively work to overturn Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Legislation and was last left with the state legislature’s deciding to terminate the special district set up by Walt Disney and his brother Roy Disney over 50 years ago, the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Within that timeframe, Governor DeSantis also signed a bill called the “Stop Wrongs Against Our Kids and Employees Act”(or “Stop W.O.K.E. Act for short), which could threaten Disney corporate leadership from implementing its “Reimagine Tomorrow” employee training initiatives at the Florida sites.
2022 marks the end of Governor DeSantis’ first term, and the Republican goes into the November elections as a clear favorite. But even with re-election and the murmuring speculation he will run for President in 2024, the 2026 start time still puts the relocation towards the very end of his term, suggesting that the powers that be want to wait until he is out of office before Disney gives Florida more of what Michael Eisner called “The Crown Jewel” of the company. The State of Florida allows its Governors to hold the position for three consecutive terms.
Founded by Walt in the 1950s as W.E.D. Enterprises, Walt Disney Imagineering is the Theme Park and Resort building and cruise ship designing division of the Walt Disney Company. From “Pirates” to “Pandora,” they are the ones who bring the magic of Disney into the physical form. Their latest accomplishment in Florida to date was the new indoor rollercoaster at EPCOT, Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind.
Imagineering projects are still underway and uninterrupted at Walt Disney World, but it seems that the Sunshine State will have to wait for a larger permanent presence to arrive.
We at Disney Fanatic will continue to monitor this and other Disney news stories, and we will update our readers as more developments come to light.