Life Politics

Settlement Reached in Disney-DeSantis Lawsuit: A Comprehensive Overview

Settlement Reached in Disney-DeSantis Lawsuit: A Comprehensive Overview March 27, 2024Leave a comment

Walt disney world signage

Allies of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Disney corporation reached a settlement agreement on Wednesday, resolving a lawsuit over the control of Walt Disney World’s governing district, the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The settlement was approved by the members of the board of the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, marking the end of nearly two years of intense litigation.

The Origin of the Dispute

Florida governor Ron DeSantis

The disagreement between both parties was sparked by DeSantis’ takeover of the Reedy Creek Improvement district from the Disney corporation following the company’s opposition to Florida’s so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law. This law, passed in 2022, bans classroom lessons on sexual orientation and gender identity in early grades and has been spoken about frequently by both parties. DeSantis, who championed the law, used Disney as a punching bag in speeches until he suspended campaign for the presidential election earlier this year. 

The Takeover and Its Aftermath

Website for Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District

In retaliation for Disney’s opposition to the law, DeSantis took over the governing district of the Disney parks through legislation passed by the Republican-controlled Florida Legislature and appointed a new board of supervisors. This greatly disrupted the Disney World business, as the governing district is utilized to conduct business matters for the sprawling theme parks that consist of 25,000 acres. 

Disney sued DeSantis and his appointees, claiming the company’s free speech rights were violated for speaking out against the legislation. However, a federal judge dismissed that lawsuit in January and the dispute has been ongoing.

The Controversial Agreements

Florida governor Ron DeSantis at a presidential campaign event

Before control of the district changed hands from Disney allies to DeSantis appointees early last year, Disney supporters on its board signed agreements with Disney shifting control over design and construction at Disney World to the company, effectively giving the company controlling power of their governing district.

This was seen as an unorthodox move to outsiders, and many thought that this gave the company too much power in their overall operations. The new DeSantis appointees claimed these “eleventh-hour deals” neutered their powers and the district sued the company in state court in Orlando to have the contracts voided.

Disney’s Counterclaims

Disney logo behing a magnifying glass

In response to the lawsuit, Disney filed counterclaims that include asking the state court to declare the previous agreements valid and enforceable. This move marked another significant turn in the ongoing legal battle between the entertainment giant and the Florida governor. But as DeSantis stepped down from the presidential campaign, he started committing more time to this fight with Disney.

The settlement agreement marks the end of a contentious period in the relationship between Disney and the Florida government. It remains to be seen how this resolution will impact the future operations of Walt Disney World and its relationship with the state government. DeSantis still has two years left on his term as governor, giving him plenty of time to retaliate again. As the dust settles, all eyes will be on the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District for future actions.

Abigail Disney Voices Her Opinions on Walt's Legacy

Filmaker and activist Abigail Disney at an event

Filmmaker and activist Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Roy Disney (Walt Disney’s brother and co-founder of the multi-billion dollar company), has been pretty vocal lately on her grand-uncle’s legacy. She has been upfront and direct with her views on income, social inequality and even the working conditions for Disney's theme park employees. Today, the heiress has become known as the "woke Disney Princess.”

Abigail Disney Took a Visit to "The Happiest Place on Earth"

Disneyland tea cups ride

Disney Parks are renowned for being the happiest places on Earth. However, according to the company’s employees, this is not the case as workers struggle to make ends meet. Abigail Disney wasn't aware of this before she made her most recent trip to the Anaheim park, and her visit changed how she viewed her great-uncle Walt's legacy forever.

She Heard a Call For Help

Abigail Disney in an interview with CNBC
YouTube / CNBC

Abigail Disney checked up on Disney’s employees and its working conditions following a Facebook message from one of their workers. According to the Disney heiress, this message was followed by a number of similar messages by various others employees. What she would discover would force her to call out Disney and its working conditions. 

Disney Employees Are Anything But Happy

Parade performer at Disney World in festive makeup

In an interview with Yahoo in July 2019, Abigail Disney explained how one of the messages wrote, “I don’t know how I can maintain this face of joy and warmth when I have to go home and forage for food in other people’s garbage.”

She Left Disneyland Livid

Abigail Disney giving an interview with Yahoo! News
YouTube / Yahoo! News

The grand-niece of Walt Disney himself said she left her meeting with the Disney employees “livid” because of the lack of respect and support the workers were getting from her family’s company, which left her ultimately questioning the nature of Walt Disney’s legacy.

She Called Out Disney's CEO

Disney CEO Bob Iger standing next to Mickey Mouse at a red carpet event

A filmmaker herself and a human rights activist, Abigail Disney assertively called out Disney CEO Bob Iger, demanding that he needed to fix the damaging wage gap between his salary and that of an average employee at Disney. 

She Tweeted Her Criticisms of the Disney Company

Abigail Disney and a tweet she wrote that reads "What on earth would be wrong with shifting some of the profits—the fruits of these employees' labor— to some folks other than those at the top? I'm not saying iger doesn't deserve a bonus. He most certainly does. He is brilliant and has led the company brilliantly"
Getty Images / Twitter

In April 2019, Abigail Disney tweeted several times criticizing CEO Bob Iger’s compensation of $66 million in 2018 and another $35 million in the first quarter of 2019 while his employees struggled to feed themselves.

She Said the CEO is "Paid Far Too Much"

Disney CEO Bob Iger in a tuxedo

One month before she called out the Disney corporation on Twitter, Abigail Disney affirmed that CEOs are generally “paid far too much” and that “there is nobody on Earth worth 500 times his median workers’ pay.”

The Disney Bosses Justified Their Extreme Wealth

Bob Iger speaking at a Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony next to Minnie Mouse

In a statement following Abigail Disney’s tweets, the Disney franchise defended Bob Iger’s compensation saying that he had “delivered exceptional value for shareholders,” thereby justifying his extreme wealth at the hands of his struggling employees. 

Abigail Disney Herself Has a Net Worth of $100 Million

Abigail Disney walking on a red carpet at a press event

Although she argues against Disney's executive moguls and other billion dollar companies, Abigail Disney herself has a staggering net worth of $100 million. However, Disney believes that she and more of America’s richest people should be taxed more because of their wealth.

She Wants to Be Taxed More

Abigail Disney speaking during an appearance on CNN

In an open letter to the 2020 Presidential Candidates, 18 of America’s richest people wrote to "call on all candidates for President, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, to support a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest 1/10 of the richest 1% of Americans - on us.” Abigail Disney told CNN that she is one of the 18 people who wants to be taxed more.

Disney Says She Is Not Paying Her Fair Share

Abigail Disney speaking at a public event
Youtube / Yale Athletics

In an interview with CNN in June 2019, Disney explained how she and other wealthy Americans are not paying their fair share of taxes and haven’t been for a long time. Disney asserts that she doesn’t want any more tax benefits and wants to see a more healthy society. 

She Renounced Her Share of Disney Profits

Ahava body care products

In 2012, Abigail Disney gave up her portion of profits from a Disney family investment in Ahava cometic company. Disney stated, “I cannot in good conscience profit from what is technically the ‘plunder’ and ‘pillage’ of occupied natural resources.”

Income and Equality Are Game Changers In Her Eyes

Abigail Disney speaking during an appearance on CNN

Abigail Disney spoke on CNN about Disney’s CEO receiving a salary 1,424 times higher than the average Disney worker. According to the Disney heiress, wealthier groups are creating a social class far above the vast majority of people, citing that 47% of American people struggle to cope with a $400 emergency. 

'The Rich Live on a Different Planet'

Abigail Disney holding an award
Twitter: abigaildisney

In her interview on CNN, the human rights activist spoke about how rich people don’t share the same reality as everybody else and subsequently "don't share the same planet." She pointed her finger directly at the money hungry moguls at Disney when discussing unequal pay and living conditions in America, asserting that they cannot begin to understand what it means to not have $400 for an emergency; calling it “couch cushion money” for them. 

The Paths to the American Dream Are Eroding

A statue of Walt Disney holding hands with Mickey Mouse in front of Sleeping Beauty's castle in Disneyland

Abigail Disney believes that the paths to the American dream of opportunity and solidarity that her grandfather and grand-uncle took have been “eroded” by the extreme wealth and extreme poverty in America. She sees this even in her family’s own company and Walt Disney’s legacy.

The Walt Disney Company Will Not Address Abigail's Concerns

Mascots of Minnie Mouse, Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck

The Walt Disney Company responded to Abigail’s concerns by highlighting the company’s charitable works, employee benefits and profitable stock-shares. However, on CNN, Abigail Disney wondered why Disney employees are on food stamps if the company’s revenue is so great. 

She Emailed Disney's CEO But Got No Reply

Disney CEO Bob Iger

Walt Disney’s grand-niece said that she emailed the company's CEO, Bob Iger, raising her concerns for the welfare of the his employees, but was ignored. “Bob needs to understand that he is an employee just the same as the people scrubbing gum off of the sidewalk are employees, and they’re entitled to the same dignity and human rights that he is,” said the 'woke Disney princess.'

She Uses Twitter to Voice Her Opinions

Abigail Disney holding up a plaque that reads "Feminist AF"
Twitter: abigaildisney

In April 2019, the Disney heiress tweeted, “Let me be very clear. I like Bob Iger. I do NOT speak for my family but only for myself. Other than owning shares (not that many) I have no more say in what happens there than anyone else. But by any objective measure a pay ratio over a thousand is insane.”

She Publicly Defends the Rights of Disney Employees

Character actress portraying Anna from the Frozen movie series during a parade at the Disney parks
Instagram / disneyworlddust

The "woke Disney Princess" got technical on Twitter back in April when she wrote about Iger’s hefty bonus. “There are just over 200K employees at Disney. If you took half that 65 M bonus, along with half the very generous bonuses everyone else up in the C suites got, I am quite certain you could move significant resources down the line to more evenly share in the great success.”

Disney+ Came Under Fire

The Disney+ logo
The Walt Disney Company

The newly anticipated Disney streaming service, Disney+ has recently come under scrutiny for its warning message at the beginning of movies that may have an offensive nature, and Abigail Disney outspokenly supports these arguments. These messages aim to warn viewers that the movie is shown as it was originally made and “may contain outdated cultural depictions.” However, this message was considered a passive way of acknowledging racism and other offensive content.

Disney+ Disclaimers Added Fuel to the Fire

A Disney+ disclaimer that reads, "This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions."

Arguments arose that the disclaimer message on Disney+ does not warn how the content is offensive but instead uses cultural context as an excuse for the insensitivity in the movies. Disney has been compared to Warner Bros. and their usage of a more direct disclaimer message at the beginning of “Looney Tunes” explaining how their cartoons “depict some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that were commonplace in American society… [they] were wrong then and are wrong now.” This message was celebrated for its brutal honesty.

Abigail Disney Agrees Walt Was a Racist

Walt Disney wearing a fedora and suit.
Public Domain

In 2014, the modern Disney Princess wrote about her great-uncle on Facebook saying, “Anti-Semite? Check. Misogynist? OF COURSE!! Racist? C’mon he had a film (‘Jungle Book’) about how you should stay ‘with your own kind’ at the height of the fight over segregation!” She certainly doesn't mince words!

She Agreed With Meryl Streep's Criticism of Walt Disney

Meryl Streep at a press event.

In 2014, Abigail said that she loved what Meryl Streep had to say about Walt Disney being a “bigot” in her speech at the the National Board of Review. Disney agreed that although her grand-uncle was a man of his time, what her family has done is “dumb down” and “gloss over the untidy complexities of life, sometimes at a great cost to the lived experiences of many others.”

She Voiced Her Opinions on the "OK Boomer" Trend, And Agrees With Millennials

Abigail Disney's tweet that reads, "5/ It's not like you've done such a great job with the time you have had. Get over the idea that all things pass, you are old and you need to let history do what history does: move on."
Twitter: abigaildisney

Not only does she publicly voice her opinions on her great-uncle’s legacy, Disney has come into the spotlight last month for her views on the “OK Boomer” trend. In November, Disney tweeted a five part tweet knocking her generation for criticizing Millennials and Gen Zers. 

Her Tweets Have Sparked a Following— And a Conversation

Abigail Disney speaking during an appearance on CNN.

Disney’s tweets regarding Baby Boomers and Millennials got people interested in what the 'woke Disney Princess' had to say. “Millenials [are understandably resentful] towards a generation that has selfishly poisoned their water,” she tweeted in response to her own generation being 'triggered' by the 'OK Boomer' trend online (a retaliation towards Baby Boomers for criticizing younger generations). She also told Boomers to “sit down and let the kids drive.”