Disney files amended lawsuit in long-running battle against Florida's mayor Ron DeSantis
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In Disney's history there have been great fictional battles such as Gaston versus the Beast or Scar against Simba, however the Magical Kingdom could be facing their largest feud in real life as the legal case of 'Man versus Mouse' develops after a year in the making.
Disney World has been locked in a lawsuit with Florida's mayor and potential 2024 presidential hopeful Ron DeSantis since March 2022, with the case becoming more dizzying than the Alice in Wonderland teacups as both sides continue to file further claims.
As every fairy tale story goes, it is best to start at the beginning when the story book dramatically opens to introduce the protagonists and antagonists, so PeopleWorld takes a look at the timeline of Disney versus DeSantis:
However, nearly three decades later Mr DeSantis found himself at odds with Florida’s largest employer following his Parental Rights in Education Act, dubbed the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill by critics, whereby discussion surrounding sexual orientation and gender identity was banned for pupils aged nine and under.
As the controversial legislation expanded last month with the ban applying to all grades in school, as well as separate bills passed on gender-transition treatments, bathroom use and children being banned from drag shows, Disney has been critical about the laws after coming under pressure from its staff.
It is crucial to mention that when the Parental Rights in Education Act was first declared, Disney CEO Bob Iger’s predecessor, Bob Chapek, failed to publicly slam the act and therefore came under scrutiny with people suggesting that Disney was, too, discriminatory.
Mr Chapek later stated: “You needed me to be a stronger ally in the fight for equal rights and I let you down,” as Disney came under new rule in November 2022 when they made the shock announcement they were bringing back former president and CEO Bob Iger.
Following Disney’s criticism regarding the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, Florida lawmakers voted to restructure the 25,000 acre district created half a century ago to oversee development on the land surrounding Disney World.
Mr DeSantis declared, ‘there is a new sheriff in town,’ on 9 February 2023 as he was initially handed the power to change the district’s governing board once known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District and remove authority from landowners such as Disney.
Fans of the Magical Kingdom need not worry about losing the four theme parks and Sleeping Beauty’s castle yet though, as in March of this year (12 months on from when the first hypothetical punch was thrown) Disney was able to sidestep the DeSantis board with a royal lives clause.
In a rather bizarre yet mystical revelation, the Magical Kingdom had linked itself to the United Kingdom’s royal family in an agreement made the day before the DeSantis board was approved.
The agreement said that Disney would have total power over the area’s development until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, the King of England.”
Clauses linking themselves to the lives of the royal family are not uncommon in the UK, however they are not often found in the US, which makes the 151-page agreement that much more intriguing.
While the newly instated Republican-aligned board was hiring lawyers to settle the matter, Disney released a simple statement that read:
“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums".
The ongoing dispute between Man (DeSantis) and Mouse (Mickey) has helped to raise the profile of the state’s mayor as his popularity builds for the upcoming 2024 presidential election, even though Walt Disney World has now sued him and filed a lawsuit to protect its staff, guests and local partners.
The entertainment giant ‘regretted that it had to come to this’ but believed the mayor’s actions to assert control with the new board in retaliation to their disapproval of his 2022 bill not only threatened the business but also violated its constitutional rights.
In a now amended lawsuit, Disney noted two more De-Santis backed actions that 'violated' their rights including state legislations that allow monorail inspections and a bill that ultimately cancels out a plan made by Walt Disney World to develop on land near the resort.
The teacups keep spinning in the case as DeSantis floated the ideas of implementing further taxes on the state's largest employer and tolls as well as potential plans to build a prison nearby the Magical Kingdom, all while political rivals of DeSantis such as Donald Trump claimed that the mayor had been upstaged by Disney.
Will this ongoing feud have a happy ending? Keep an eye on PeopleWorld.