Florida Governor Ron DeSantis tried to take away control of Walt Disney World lands from the Walt Disney Company. It’s not going well.

Last year, Walt Disney World Resort became embroiled in a political controversy with Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. This was due to the former CEO Bob Chapek‘s criticism of The Parental Rights in Education Act, popularly known as the “Don’t Say Gay” law. The act prohibits discussing sexuality and gender with children and allows teachers to reveal such information to parents. After receiving backlash from Disney fans and Cast Members, Chapek spoke out against the conservative bill and vowed to suspend political contributions to lawmakers who supported it.

In retaliation, Governor DeSantis passed legislation dissolving Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. The legislative privilege was previously held by The Walt Disney Company since 1967. The governor established a board, The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, to take over the municipal district. The hand-selected board officially took control last month.

However, The Walt Disney Company may have had the last laugh.

According to the board, Disney quietly implemented restrictive covenants before their takeover, rendering the board powerless for decades to come. The board believes that this action circumvents their authority to govern, and they plan to seek legal counsel and potentially take action against Disney. In contrast, The Walt Disney Company defended its actions, stating that all agreements signed between the company and the district were appropriate and discussed and approved in public forums, in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law. Everything they did was done out in the open where anybody who cared to look could see it. The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District may be able to go to court to debate this detail or that, but is unlikely to overturn the Reedy Creek Improvement District’s covenants.

Moreover, Disney’s attorney’s made sure they had a backup plan in case the covenant itself wasn’t enough. There’s a clause in it that says it remains valid until “21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, king of England.” Considering that the most recent in the bloodline is Princess Lilibet of Sussex, Harry’s youngest, was born 4 June 2021, and there is a whole crop of her cousins in the lineage as well, the limit of the terms is not to infinity and beyond, but might as well be. Disney World and its lands are protected from interference from the Florida government for at least the next 100 years, assuming none of the heirs of King Charles III have their own offspring. Board member Ron Peri commented that the covenant essentially makes Disney the government, as the board loses the majority of its ability to do anything beyond maintaining roads and basic infrastructure. More transparently, the covenant simply preserves what Disney already had.

On February 8, before the Florida House of Representatives approved the government takeover, the Reedy Creek Improvement District passed these changes. The restrictive covenant prohibits the district from using the Disney name or “fanciful characters such as Mickey Mouse” without permission. This removes the new board’s ability to take any action that could be perceived as being done by Disney themselves; they will not speak with Disney’s voice, probably ever.

Reedy Creek’s dissolution by the state legislature might also contravene Florida statutory law, which mandates that such a move “must be approved by a majority of the resident electors of the district.” Orange County Commissioner Christine Moore was on record stating that she was “pretty confident” that this statute would sufficiently protect Reedy Creek in court.  


Gene Turnbow
Gene Turnbow

President of Krypton Media Group, Inc., radio personality and station manager of SCIFI.radio. Part writer, part animator, part musician, part illustrator, part programmer, part entrepreneur – all geek.