Recently The Spectator sent me undercover inside Ron DeSantis’s Disney World. Allow me to explain.

Back in April, Florida lawmakers voted to dissolve the so-called Reedy Creek Improvement District. Reedy Creek, for those unfamiliar with the seamy world of crony capitalism, was a self-governing enclave within Orlando, Florida, run by the Disney corporation. It had been set up to allow Disney World to effectively function as its own nation-state, setting its own rules, levying its own taxes, even administering its own public services.

Reedy Creek was established in 1967. It was part of Walt Disney’s original vision...

Recently The Spectator sent me undercover inside Ron DeSantis’s Disney World. Allow me to explain.

Back in April, Florida lawmakers voted to dissolve the so-called Reedy Creek Improvement District. Reedy Creek, for those unfamiliar with the seamy world of crony capitalism, was a self-governing enclave within Orlando, Florida, run by the Disney corporation. It had been set up to allow Disney World to effectively function as its own nation-state, setting its own rules, levying its own taxes, even administering its own public services.

Reedy Creek was established in 1967. It was part of Walt Disney’s original vision for his parks, which was exceedingly ambitious, seeing, for example, EPCOT Center as growing into its own autonomous futuristic city. Yet fifty-five years later that vision has not held up. EPCOT now smacks less of the future than of what the Eighties thought the Nineties might look like. And Walt’s cheery capitalism has been replaced by a new creed: wokeness.

So it was that earlier this year, Disney issued a statement attacking a new Florida law that prohibits the teaching of LGBTQ sexuality to kindergartners. For Governor Ron DeSantis and other Sunshine State Republicans, it was the last straw — they retaliated by ending Reedy Creek’s special status.

Put in those terms, the move might seem like a reasonable measure to rein in an increasingly ideological mega-corporation. But was there more to the story? Was the end of Reedy Creek really a proportionate response to woke capitalism, or was it something more sinister? Regime change, perhaps. Was Disney World now under Republican occupation? As a journalist so intrepid I sometimes use both Twitter and Facebook at the same time, I was just the man to find out what was really happening inside the happiest place on earth.

My undercover reporting began on Main Street USA, the little avenue that leads into Disney’s Magic Kingdom theme park. I decided to pop into a local shop, the Emporium, where I immediately spotted that most obvious sign of Republican influence: price-gouging. Want to buy a cute Minnie Mouse doll for your daughter? That will be $28, please. A tote bag was marked up to $40 while a Disney board game was a whopping $50.

Just like what Republican CEOs are doing to our gas prices, I thought.

“Can I help you, sir?” asked a salesman wearing an unreasonable number of pins. “No, I’m good,” I said, and headed for the door.

I headed back out into the Florida sun before suddenly stopping in shock. Looming at the end of Main Street USA was a castle. It was painted white (doesn’t that just figure) with Gothic spires that stretched toward the sky like a million middle fingers to the dis-enfranchised. The thing was almost too awful to behold. Republicans had been in charge for only a month and already they’d brought back feudalism. Wait until my readers hear about this, I thought.

I set out toward the castle, determined to seek out those who had been made into serfs by this arrangement. It didn’t take long. From out of nowhere emerged what had to be the most unfortunate creatures I had ever seen. They were about my height, sporting white beards and — this is always a red flag — made almost entirely of latex, yet they were also stunted somehow, miniaturized. There were seven of them and they kept waving at everyone as though under surveillance. They maintained their composure, though one of them looked a bit… grumpy.

“Blink if you need help,” I whispered to him.

He put his hands on his hips, shook his finger at me, and walked away.

Elsewhere in the Magic Kingdom, I found further evidence of Republican authoritarianism. A check of a map showed that the park had been redlined, carved up into districts with strange names, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland. In Fantasyland, I watched a performance of “It’s a Small World,” little more than a minstrel show. In Adventureland, right-wing profiteering was so rampant that some Caribbeans had turned to piracy.

Approaching a kiosk, I hoped to gather more information about where the DeSantis junta was getting its funding. No doubt right-wing billionaires like Peter Thiel were involved, though surely the Russian government wasn’t innocent in all this.

“Actually we get most of our money from ticket sales,” said a woman in a blue apron, who gave her name as “Belle” — clearly an alias. “I can direct you to the transportation and ticket center if you’d like to join us for another magical day!”

“All right, cut the kompromat bullshit,” I snarled. “I want to know more about these so-called tickets.”

“Belle” then proceeded to tell me that the price for an admission ticket when Disney World had first opened in 1971 was $3.50; today, they cost a whopping $109. Between 2004 and 2022 alone, the price of a single ticket had doubled, well outpacing inflation. This was no coincidence: Disney, “Belle” told me, was increasingly abandoning the middle class as a customer base, turning instead to the superrich and wealthy tourists from overseas.

That meant Disney World, the very picture of a good old-fashioned American vacation, was becoming a playground for the jet set. And it wasn’t just the ticket prices. The FastPass system, which previously allowed visitors to reserve spots in line for rides, had been replaced by something called Genie+. Genie+ cost even more money, and even then you couldn’t access all the rides. Some attractions had their own so-called virtual lines, which cost even more, and those virtual lines had their own surge pricing, which cost even more.

That was before you got to the eye-watering prices at on-site hotels, the rolling back of various guest perks, Disney’s long history of underpaying its employees. While Disney claimed to stand with the marginalized, it apparently couldn’t even resist throttling its own customers and workers. Clearly this was all Ron DeSantis’s fault. Then it occurred to me: the Republicans must have been running Disney World for longer than I could have imagined.

After singing an involved musical number with several pieces of talking kitchenware, I bade farewell to Belle. I was heading back toward the castle when suddenly I was grabbed by two Storm Troopers. I’d forgotten that Disney had purchased the Star Wars franchise. The pair strong-armed me away to the Magic Kingdom’s most impressive structure: Space Mountain.

We went inside, emerging into a dark room. A chair pivoted. With an unlit cigar in one hand, petting a white cat with the other, there was Governor Ron DeSantis.

I heard the door shut and lock behind me. “You see now how it all works,” he said, standing up. “All Disney ever wanted was to care for the poor and the marginalized. And we made them look like fools! We forced them to put money first and turned their woke rhetoric into hypocritical lip service.”

He threw his head back and cackled. A door then opened and a woman in a yellow ballgown walked over and put her hand on DeSantis’s shoulder. Belle.

“You know too much,” said DeSantis. “This is the end for you. Just remember: you can fight us all you like. But you’ll never stop our evil plan to not teach kink to five-year-olds.”

“I’ve just got one problem for you, Governor.”

“What’s that?”

“Disney’s rides aren’t as young as they used to be.”

The lights came on, the door slid open, and a voice said, “Attention riders: Space Mountain is experiencing technical difficulties…” I turned and ran.“After him!” DeSantis bellowed. I rushed to Main Street USA, took a monorail out of the Magic Kingdom, and sprinted through the parking lot towards my car.

Why was it, I thought, as I drove off into the Florida sun, that there’s never any virtue behind the corporate signaling? Why had we allowed big business to pose as advocates of the downtrodden even as they priced out the middle class? How could a business talk about inclusion while actively working to become more exclusive?

I glanced in my rear-view mirror and noticed that I was being tailed by a giant blinking parade float with Mickey Mouse sitting on top. The anthropomorphic Cars were keeping pace, their faces contorted in depraved grins. I floored the gas.

This article was originally published in The Spectator’s July 2022 World edition.