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Despite his battle with Governor Ron DeSantis, disney remains attached to the State of Florida.
The media and theme park juggernaut is set to invest $17 billion in Central Florida’s Walt Disney World resort over the next decade, which includes the potential creation of 13,000 jobs.
Those numbers have been repeated by CEO Bob Iger and Parks Chief Josh D’Amaro in recent months as tensions between Disney and Florida lawmakers have continued to mount. The fight has taken on even more significance now that DeSantis is officially running for president.
In April, the company filed a lawsuit accusing DeSantis and his special district’s newest board members of waging a political retaliatory campaign against the entertainment giant.
DeSantis has targeted Disney’s special neighborhood, formerly called the Reedy Creek Improvement District, after the company publicly criticized a controversial Florida bill – dubbed “Don’t Say Gay” by critics – that limits discussion of the sexual orientation and gender identity in classrooms.
“We never wanted, and certainly never expected, to have to defend our business interests in federal court, especially having such a formidable relationship with the state that we have had for over 50 years,” said Iger. during the company’s earnings call earlier this month.
Disney recently scrapped plans to open a new employee campus in Lake Nona, Florida, citing “changing business conditions.” This means the company will also no longer require more than 2,000 California-based employees to move to Florida. This location was not part of Disney’s $17 billion investment plan.
D’Amaro, who heads Disney’s parks, experiences and consumer products division, echoed Iger’s sentiments earlier this week at the JP Morgan Global Technology, Media and Communications conference. He told members of the public that the $17 billion investment “gives you an idea of how aggressive we are at Walt Disney World.”
“And that includes things like Epcot’s transformation,” he explained. “That includes things like there’s a new Star Tours attraction coming, we have a new Tiana attraction coming. So we’re thinking pretty aggressively about where we can take things to Florida.”
Epcot already opened Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in the France pavilion in late October, and last year also unveiled Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind, a roller coaster in the Wonders of Xandar pavilion, based on the fictional planet from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. . The park also has a new restaurant called Space 220.
Still to come to the park is the “Moana” theme park area called The Journey of Water, a self-guided outdoor trail where guests can play and interact with water. The opening is scheduled for the end of 2023.
At Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, as well as Disneyland and Disneyland Paris in California, the company is set to add more stories and characters to its Star Tours attraction. Additionally, it updates Splash Mountain at both national stations with a “Princess and the Frog” theme.
The company is also updating several of its hotels and resorts in Florida.
D’Amaro added that the $17 billion figure for Florida also includes some of the “blue sky” ideas the company showcased last year at its D23 Expo in Anaheim, California. These projects are still in their infancy and may not see the light of day.
During this presentation last September, D’Amaro talked about the possibility of revamping Dino Land at Animal Kingdom in Orlando. Initial ideas for the space include the possibility of bringing “Zootopia” to the park, including its variety of neighborhoods and animal species, or even “Moana.”
At the Magic Kingdom, Disney asks the question, “What’s behind Big Thunder Mountain?” The company announced that an area based on “Coco” could be in this location or “Encanto”. Maybe both.
D’Amaro even hinted at the possibility of bringing to life an area of Magic Kingdom overrun by Disney villains.
Prices will vary for these projects, should they come to fruition, but for reference, the two lands of Star Wars: Galaxy Edge at Disneyland and Disney World would have cost $1 billion each.
Disney’s theme parks have been a beacon of hope for the company as visitor numbers rebounded significantly in the months following the pandemic closures. The parks, experiences and product divisions saw revenue grow 17% year-over-year to $7.7 billion in the latest quarter.
About $5.5 billion of that revenue came from its theme parks. The company said customers spent more time and money in the quarter visiting its parks, hotels and cruises, both domestically and abroad. Its cruise business, in particular, saw an increase in passenger cruise days.
“We view this business as a key growth engine for the business,” Iger said on Disney’s recent earnings call.