Disney has been a major part of the state of Florida since it first announced plans to build Walt Disney World back in the 1960s. As Disney World has continued to expand, the importance of Florida has only grown. This culminated in the plan to move nearly all of Walt Disney Imagineering from California to Florida, but following a very public blow-up between Disney and the state, that plan has been significantly delayed.
It's being reported, and CinemaBlend has been able to confirm, that today Walt Disney Imagineering was informed during an "all-hands" meeting that the plan to relocate by 2023 has been pushed back to 2026. It’s unclear what the reason for the delay is specifically, but it’s hard to ignore the public battle that has been waged by Florida against Disney. Following a public outcry from both Disney cast members and fans, Disney took a public stand against Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. After that, the Florida legislature took aim at the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the municipal district that was given to Disney when the Walt Disney World project first began. A bill dissolving the district was passed by the state legislature and signed by the governor.
It's possible that Disney is reconsidering the decision the move to Florida following the state's move to dissolve Disney's ability to govern itself. While it's unclear if the Reedy Creek Improvement District will actually cease to exist, it's equally unclear how big a deal that would be to The Walt Disney Company if it were to happen. This delay could be a "wait and see" move, allowing Disney to let the dust settle and see how everything plays out before making a final commitment.
However, without more information, it's equally possible that the delay was simply made because Disney realized that it wasn't going to be able to get the entire division of the company moved by next year. Walt Disney Imagineering has been in Burbank, California since the 1950s and a lot of people were going to be expected to move. The facilities that house WDI are part of a brand new Disney campus located at Lake Nona, and it could be that simply getting the construction done will take longer than anticipated.
Of course, the big question now is what this delay means to all those people. The Imagineers were mostly expected to commit to making the move already, even if they weren't going to need to actually move for a couple of years. Several major names within Imagineering have already left the organization rather than make the move, while others, like Disney's Animal Kingdom lead Joe Rohde, took somewhat suspiciously timed retirement. Many of those that had agreed to move were likely already in the process of doing so, but are now being told that maybe they didn't need to, at least not yet.
Even if this is just a delay, it's a significant one and a decision that could end up being just as big as the move itself. A lot can happen in three years, and so even if the move to Florida is expected to move forward today, that could change before it actually happens.
CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.
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