Theme Parks: What’s Going on With the Disney Parks in Florida?

Promotional photo for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. Rights go to Disney Parks and Resorts as well as photographer Matt Stroshane.

Hey! Hallie here!

If you keep up with politics at all you know that Florida isn’t the safest place to be at the moment. You’ll also know that Disney has been having issues with the new environment as well. Or rather, the governor has attempted to give Disney problems for refusing to conform to his ideals while Disney lawyers have made him look like a giant idiot. This hostile face-off continues with the news we heard recently. Disney, while in the process of opening new offices in Florida and moving a large amount of their California staff to the state, has cancelled all of their plans and is moving their staff back to California. There’s a lot to discuss around this giant move, and on top of that we have news about Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser, the immersive Star Wars hotel experience now closing permanently in September. So what does all this mean for Walt Disney World? Let’s speculate!

Disney Moving Out of Florida:

Yes, Disney’s moving their staff out of Florida. Back when Bob Chapek was still calling the shots at Disney, the decision was made to start a complete move of Imagineering to offices in Florida. This was a move worth billions of dollars that would have opened up thousands of high-paying jobs for the state. For those who don’t know, Imagineering describes the branch of Disney that works on attractions for theme parks, cruise lines, hotels, and any other location that provides entertainment to guests. So it’s easy to see that a lot of their plans surrounding the move to Florida included Walt Disney World itself and the expansions they’ve been promising in the parks. But now that Iger’s back on the scene and properly pissed off at DeSantis’ poor attempts to undermine Disney’s efforts of inclusivity, all of that’s off the table. The offices they were building to make the Imagineering base are now no longer under construction, and the cast members that were moved to Florida are being offered aid to move back to California. Luckily, a large chunk of the cast members set to move to the state have not moved yet. Construction on the Florida offices was delayed before Disney even made this move, so a lot of employees merely had their moving plans cancelled rather than finding themselves stranded in Florida. This is still stressful for many cast members and Imagineers, but the decision has been mostly praised by cast members who have voiced their displeasure at Disney World’s past refusal to stand up for their marginalized employees. But without Imagineering moving to Disney World, what will happen to their big expansions and future projects?

This is just speculation, but unless DeSantis drops the issue or leaves office all together, it’s likely we will see an indefinite hiatus on most large projects. We already heard from a Disney chairman that expansions will be put on hold. To me, that sounds like the Epcot expansion we heard about at D23 is going to be the biggest project we know of that’s going to be affected. I can’t see Disney doing the major work of clearing out and replacing the various out-of-use warehouses that have existed in Epcot for years now while DeSantis is still waging a losing war against them. Especially considering that we can expect Walt Disney World attendance to drop this summer with all of the news coming out of Florida. The major construction costs just won’t be worth it for them, nor will major changes to the parks bring the attention they want. And that’s on top of the fact that they want to give the state of Florida as little money as possible at the moment. I’m not certain this change will effect singular rides like Tiana’s Bayou Adventure since work on it is already underway, but who knows? If DeSantis continues to push his luck we could see a halt in Disney putting any major amount of money or time into Walt Disney World for the time being. Here’s to hoping that they turn all of that attention to the other Disney Parks in the meantime! I’d love to see more imagination be brought to California and the parks overseas, and they’ve already drawn up more expansion ideas for California’s parks for the city of Anaheim to view.

Galactic Starcruiser:

Now that we’ve talked about the largest Walt Disney World news, let’s talk about the major Disney fail we saw happen in Florida. While Disney has been doing nothing but winning against DeSantis, their entire treatment of the Galactic Starcruiser hotel experience has raised eyebrows since its announcement. At first the idea of an immersive hotel based around Star Wars was exciting. Star Wars has a huge fanbase that has always wanted to escape into the galaxy far, far, away, and the Galactic Starcruiser promised to give fans that feeling more than even Galaxy’s Edge. The Starcruiser, rather than being a regular hotel, instead invited guests to spend two nights as part of an original Star Wars story where they could mingle with characters, complete important tasks for either the Resistance or the First Order, participate in lightsaber training, fly the starcruiser itself, and watch dramatic scenes unfold around them. The hotel was also designed to block out the outside world and keep up every appearance of guests staying in space, with their access to the park being mostly through Galaxy’s Edge. It was a LARP hotel, or live action role play hotel, taking immersive entertainment to the next level. But the lowest cost for individuals remained around $2000, and families saw price tags closer to $7000, which for many was more expensive than an entire week at Walt Disney World. The pricing kept people away, and though those who attended enjoyed their time in the hotel, no one could rightly recommend throwing away all of your money on the experience.

Reports of the last few months confirmed that the hotel was becoming a bit of a ghost town, so it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that it’s permanent closure has now been announced for September. Statements from the Disney Parks have been framing the hotel as an exclusive experiment meant only to try out immersive entertainment tactics, but we all know that’s not entirely honest. The amount of time and money it took to bring this idea to life clearly indicates they thought this would be a rousing success and not a limited, experimental venture that would last less than two years. This closure is deserved, but there’s reason to feel cautious about it. Despite its major drawbacks, the hotel was a major step forward in terms of live entertainment. Now that it’s failed, a lot of investors will pin it on the immersive nature of the hotel and not on the giant price tag, which is a shame. Immersive entertainment pairs so well with theme parks, and brings so much enjoyment to guests, that it would be a shame to write off large immersive events like this. I’m hoping that if anything, they bring some of the ideas from the hotel to Galaxy’s Edge now that the hotel is off the table. After all, the idea of guests regularly chatting with characters and becoming a part of the story were ideas that were promised to us for Galaxy’s Edge but didn’t entirely make it into the parks. This is their opportunity to fulfill their promise, or at least bring those aspects to the parks for new projects instead of saving them for “premium boutique experiences”. But I suppose we’ll have to see where this failure takes Disney. As always, it will be money that decides their next steps.

The main take away from this post? Don’t go to Disney World for your Disney fix this summer. DeSantis has made Florida unlivable for the LGBTQ+ community and evidently for any company that wants to keep their free speech. Florida doesn’t deserve your money. But Disneyland in California is still happily accepting visitors and is soon going to hold their first Pride Night! And there’s always the other Disney parks around the world that have plenty of fun attractions to explore. Also, even though we’re celebrating Disney’s big middle finger to Florida right now, we can also celebrate the fact that they finally learned the hard way that catering their theme park experiences only to the rich doesn’t work. Let’s hope we see bigger changes come from that.

Don’t so anything fun until I get back!


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