Disney Delays Relocation of Walt Disney Imagineering to Orlando Until 2026

Within the last few years, Disney higher-ups made a decision to move a number of Walt Disney Imagineering positions from Glendale, California to a new location at Lake Nona in Orlando, Florida. As the Orlando Sentinel reports, it seems Disney is pausing that move, amid a feud with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

What’s Happening:

  • Disney had planned to move 2,000 high paying jobs from Glendale to Lake Nona by December 2022, but that goal has now been pushed back to 2026.
  • Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said Wednesday the expected opening date for the Lake Nona campus was pushed to 2026 to “give people more time” and accommodate the construction timeline for the new offices.
  • However the public statements may not be all there is to the decision, as State Rep. Anna Eskamani, (a Democrat from Orlando), attributed the decision to Disney’s battle with Florida leaders over what is officially called the Parental Rights in Education legislation — but often referred to as the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill among opponents — saying “these culture wars have an economic cost.”
  • Wahler did not comment when asked if the battle between Disney and DeSantis had caused the delay.
  • Notably, in response to Disney’s statement in opposition to the bill, DeSantis spearheaded an effort to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, with that bill later passing the Florida Legislature. If nothing changes, Reedy Creek would be dissolved in June 2023.
  • One of the main reasons for moving Imagineering across the country was the potential of tax breaks totalling over $750 million.
  • The company is positioned to invest up to $864 million in building the regional hub in Lake Nona.
  • Current employees with jobs slated for relocation to Florida were informed on a rolling basis last year, with the final group notified by November 1st. They had three months to decide whether to move, and Disney said it would provide relocation assistance to affected employees.
  • But employees, especially those within Imagineering, appeared to be resistant to the cross-country trek. Disney stood to lose a “large number” of affected employees, especially veteran Imagineers with longstanding ties to California, amid low worker morale.
  • Theme park industry experts appear hopeful that the Lake Nona campus opening will offer more jobs to graduates of local theme park design and management programs and attract international talent to Orlando.