“Disney was not accountable to anyone,” observed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in his announcement kicking off his presidential campaign. “You know, it’s human nature: If there’s no accountability over any individual or entity, of course they’re going to behave differently than if you have normal accountability.” The truth of DeSantis’ words is perfectly demonstrated by Disney’s recent treatment of guests at Shades of Green, a military-owned hotel at Walt Disney World. Disney’s actions say a lot about how a company — one that used to be notable for its patriotism in the days of Walt — now regards U.S. Armed Forces families and veterans.
The U.S. Army bought the Shades of Green hotel, then called the Disney Inn, from Disney in 1996. Guests of Shades of Green, the flagship military recreational property in the contiguous U.S., are military personnel, their families, and veterans. According to Steve Bell, who runs the main website for military visitors to Disney parks, the hotel is self-sustaining — it’s funded through guests’ payments for rooms and meals, not through annual appropriations.
As a property, Shades of Green’s primary allure is its close proximity to the original — and still most popular — section of Walt Disney World, the area including the Magic Kingdom and the monorail encircling Seven Seas Lagoon. Shades of Green enjoys a prime location just across the street from Disney’s Polynesian Resort. From the Polynesian, Shades of Green guests can easily ride the monorail to the Magic Kingdom, board the boats that travel across Seven Seas Lagoon, or take the path around the lagoon to the park’s entrance.
Now, abruptly, Disney has barred Shades of Green guests from walking off the hotel’s grounds and crossing the street to the Polynesian, thereby cutting off their pedestrian access to the monorail, the boats, and the Magic Kingdom itself. Why has Disney done this? Because it can.
The Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), the entity through which Disney has been granted largely unequaled powers of self-government — and which has been a focus of DeSantis’ fight with the corporation — approved funding for construction to widen the road between the Polynesian and Shades of Green. In light of this road project, Disney decided the existing crosswalk would no longer suffice for pedestrian traffic. But rather than building a bridge or putting in a stoplight, Disney decided it would simply ban Shades of Green guests from crossing that street, thereby shutting down pedestrian access from the hotel to the rest of Walt Disney World. This is access that had been available for 50 years, according to Bell, long before the Army bought the hotel 27 years ago. (Read more from “Disney Proves DeSantis’ Point by Going After Military Guests” HERE)
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