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Bob Chapek Makes First Public Appearance Since Disney and Florida Feud

It’s been a wild ride for the Walt Disney World Resort this week.

The Florida House of Representatives yesterday, April 21, passed a controversial bill that would dissolve Disney’s special treatment ruling in the state.

Amid a political boycott of The Walt Disney Company, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ revenge plot against Disney is close to deleting Walt Disney World’s bubble – the Reedy Creek Improvement District.

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Credit: ABC

Disney CEO Bob Chapek has been silent on the matter, with his future in Disney leadership being brought into question. In the midst of refraining from making any public statements or media interviews, Chapek was recently spotted in his first public appearance since the DeSantis vs Disney war. 

Bob Chapek’s role as Disney CEO follows a 15-year tenure from Bob Iger, with Iger’s surprise exit in 2020 shocking Disney fans across the world. Chapek did not have it easy to begin with as CEO, starting just before the COVID-19 pandemic ahead of closures of the Walt Disney World Resort, Disneyland Resort, Disney Cruise Line, and Disney Parks across the globe, as well as a high-profile lawsuit with Scarlett Johansson.

Now, another high-profile case is part of Chapek’s legacy – the Republican government in Florida has publicly waged war on The Walt Disney Company for its stance on the new Parental Rights in Education Bill.

Twitter user @Itsallaboutjen_ shared a video yesterday, April 21, of Bob Chapek meeting Guests at Disneyland Resort in Anaheim:

With Disneyland Forever, the Main Street Electrical Parade, and World of Color all returning nighttime magic to Disneyland Park and Disney California Adventure tonight, April 22, it seems fitting that Chapek would be celebrating in the Anaheim theme parks.

But after lawmakers in the Florida state House voted to approve a bill that, starting in June 2023, would revoke the special self-governing privileges afforded to the Walt Disney World Resort, it seems interesting that Bob Chapek has not made any comments regarding the issue.

Perhaps, seeing as the move from DeSantis came as retaliation for Disney CEO Bob Chapek’s critical stance on Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill passed last month, Chapek is strategically staying silent. Disney initially shied away from making a public statement regarding Florida’s new bill, dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, which many people believe targets the LGBTQ+ community and restricts conversations about gender and LGBTQ+ identities in schools.

Disney’s eventual aggressive stance caused a war with Florida’s governing body. And now, after the House vote, Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista might be losing its special tax treatment after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis criticized Disney, saying, “They do not run this state. They do not control this state.”

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Credit: Reedy Creek Fire Department

The controversial bill now heads to Republican Florida Governor Ron DeSantis for his signature. According to Florida state statute 189.072, a majority of the Reedy Creek residents would have to vote in favor of dissolving the district. It, therefore, looks unlikely that the bill will come to fruition amid this political stunt by Republicans.

The bill wants to dissolve Walt Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District in Lake Buena Vista. Since 1967, Walt Disney World has been able to reside in Florida unregulated, acting as its own “government” in a way. The act involved creating a special taxing district that acts with the same authority as a county government. Local taxpayers – residents of Orange County and Osceola County – do not have to pay for building or maintaining Disney’s essential services like water, electricity, fire protection, and emergency medical services.

By law, local government entities have to pick up the debt of special districts that are dissolved. The Reedy Creek Improvement District has a long-term bonded debt of nearly a billion dollars, which would add $2,200 to a family in Orange County or Osceola County’s tax bill.

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Credit: Disney Tips

Walt Disney World’s 38-mile-long Resort featuring 4 theme parks (Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom), water parks, Resort Hotels, Disney Springs, and more produces $5.8 billion in state tax revenue from $75 billion in activity – and supports 463,000 jobs.

We’ll have to see if Chapek heads to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, or Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme parks next. Disney Tips will keep you posted on this developing story.

About Melissa Cannioto

Melissa is an author, adventurer, and chatterbox, who loves to enjoy Disney's theme parks with a Mickey Premium Bar in hand! A British native, she has traveled the world seeking new experiences, and now resides in Florida with her Air Force pilot husband. Find her children's book at @thebearandthehug_book