Walt Disney Imagineers Urge Disney to Reverse Florida Relocation Following ‘Don’t Say Gay’ Controversy

A new exclusive piece in The Wrap detailed a concerted effort by Imagineers to reverse the forced relocation to Lake Nona, Florida, following the state’s highly controversial “Don’t Say Gay” bill passing last week.

In an open letter to CEO Bob Chapek, Disney employees demanded a number of actions to protect their LGBTQ+ employees, two of which are “stopping any efforts to move employees to Florida office locations, ensuring employee safety and employment retention” and “guaranteeing no employee will be terminated when denying relocation to FL.”

Disney is currently in the midst of a highly controversial move of the Walt Disney Imagineering division from Glendale, California, to Lake Nona, Florida. We’ve previously detailed extensively how their short-sighted actions are systematically destroying the prestigious division that is WDI.

The ranks of Imagineering have been decimated from the original 1800 before the pandemic and the move announcement. A Disney spokesperson told The Wrap:” We understand relocating is always a big decision and deeply personal one, and we have been committed to approaching this project and all who are impacted with the utmost care and compassion.” The Wrap’s sources say around 300 Imagineers have committed to move to Florida, with 900 cut by furloughs and canceled projects at the pandemic’s outset, another 411 by Disney’s massive 28,000 employee furlough in 2020, and now the move costing even more from the thinned rankings of the legendary creative department.

The move was announced in the fall of 2020, and Imagineers were given an ultimatum — move to Florida, stay and lose their job at some unknown point with severance, or quit. Decades-long storied Imagineers like Jim Shull, Joe Rohde, Frank Mezzatesta, and Kevin Lively chose to quit or retire. Many others reportedly committed to stay without any real intention to move to Florida.

Imagineering (and the Walt Disney Company itself) includes a number of LGBTQ+ individuals who believe moving to Florida is an insult to their dignity, per The Wrap. A number of prominent Imagineers are members of the LGBTQ+ community, such as Bob Gurr and Zach Riddley.

The hope is that the uproar from Chapek’s comically mishandled response to the controversial legislation will give Imagineers and other employees at Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products the backing they need to push for a reversal on the move before it’s too late.

But one Imagineer lamented, “with all of the senior employees leaving, the ‘tribal knowledge’ of Imagineering will be lost forever.”

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