Disney Reveals Plans for Imagineering’s New Campus in Lake Nona, Florida
The corporate campus for Walt Disney Imagineering and other employees in the Parks & Resorts division will soon start to take shape. Thanks to newly-released plans, we now know that the move from California to Florida will proceed as planned, with details about the buildings and design of Disney’s Lake Nona campus coming to light.
Let’s start with a quick recap of the Lake Nona relocation “saga” thus far. Back in July 2021, the Walt Disney Company announced that a new regional hub in Orlando’s Lake Nona community would become home to more than 2,000 professional jobs relocating from California. At the time, the average wage for the positions was reported to be $120,000 annually.
The Lake Nona campus would become the main campus for Walt Disney Imagineering and others in the Disney Parks, Experiences and Products (DPEP) division. Initially, most of the DPEP positions based in Southern California that were not fully dedicated to Disneyland Resort or the international theme parks would be relocated to Florida.
Even with most white collar employees from Disney Parks & Resorts relocating, that would still only represent under 5% of Disney’s total jobs in California. That’s largely because the bulk of Disney’s Southern California workforce is frontline Cast Members at Disneyland Resort, with other white collar campuses for the corporate headquarters and Walt Disney Animation in Burbank, plus Pixar and Lucasfilm in Northern California, among other non-parks divisions in the state.
As of Summer 2021, the Lake Nona move was then expected to take place over the course of 18 months. The new campus would begin to open by December 2022, and be totally completed by 2023. Disney’s Lake Nona campus reportedly had been in the works since 2019. It is currently early 2023, and the “construction” site is still dirt.
“With Disney’s move and large investment in our community, we are delighted to welcome one of the world’s most recognized brands to Lake Nona. By choosing to build a new regional campus in Lake Nona, Disney will become part of this smart city where cutting-edge ideas turn into realities,” said Nick Beucher, President of Tavistock Development Company, the owner and developer of Lake Nona at the time of Disney’s original announcement.
“As someone who has moved with my family from California to Florida and back again, I understand that relocation is a big change, not only for the employee, but also for their families,” DPEP Chairman Josh D’Amaro wrote in a letter to employees. “Therefore, moving these roles to Central Florida will take place throughout the next 18 months, providing flexibility in timing to accommodate individual situations and needs.”
“This new project will create a dynamic environment to support our expanding business — a brand-new regional campus which will be built in the vibrant Lake Nona community of Orlando, Florida,” D’Amaro said in the letter. “With more than 60,000 Cast Members, Imagineers and employees, Central Florida has long been home to many of our businesses including the Walt Disney World Resort and most of our Disney Signature Experiences team.”
Lake Nona is a master-planned community developed by the aforementioned Tavistock Co., and is located southeast of Orlando International Airport. It is home to facilities like Nemours Children’s Hospital and University of Central Florida’s College of Medicine. For the Californians reading this, the closest comparison is probably Irvine and its eponymous real estate development company.
An up-and-coming area of Central Florida, Lake Nona is already home to a respected roster of companies including Beep Mobility Solutions, Chopra Global, Cisco, GE, GuideWell, Hitachi, Johnson & Johnson, KPMG, leAD, Limitless Minds, Lilium, Nemours, Signet, Siemens, Signature Flight Support/BBA Aviation, SimCom, U.S. Tennis Association, Veterans Affairs Administration, Verizon, and more.
According to public records in Orange County, the Disney-controlled Dynamic Campus LLC purchased real estate from Lake Nona Land Co. LLC, which is connected to Lake Nona developer Tavistock Development Co. for $46.4 million, or approximately $766,666 per acre back in Fall 2021.
Disney has projected it could spend up to $864 million to build the campus, but it would be eligible to claim more than $570 million in tax breaks over 20 years for the project from the state of Florida.
Site prep work began shortly thereafter in Late 2021, as Disney shifted its plans into high gear in order to meet its own (at the time) self-imposed 18 month timeline. Simultaneous to that, Imagineers and other employees were asked to inform the company as to whether they’d make the move.
If you follow any Imagineers on social media, you probably saw the ‘farewell’ posts as many opted to leave Imagineering rather than relocate to Florida. At least some of the undercurrent of hostility by creatives towards former CEO Bob Chapek stemmed from the way this relocation announcement was originally handled.
There were other issues even relatively early on. Rumblings from within the company suggested that certain positions would be exempted from the relocation, in particular those where the company has a tougher time acquiring talent and competing with other industries. (Originally, the relocation was rumored to be more targeted, rather than an across-the-board move of the core Imagineering campus from Glendale to Lake Nona.)
Following that, job postings on the Disney Careers website indicated that roles currently based in Southern California would be relocating to Orlando by late 2024. Those postings were quickly deleted or modified, but suggested the move would not be completed within the year.
Fast forward about 11 months after the initial announcement and the timeline was officially pushed back. At that time, Disney spokeswoman Jacquee Wahler said that the expected opening date for the Lake Nona campus was pushed back to 2026 in order to “give people more time” and accommodate the construction timeline for the new offices.
Disney specifically stated that the standoff with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Reedy Creek Improvement District dissolution controversy had nothing to do with the delay. Now, I’m no math whizz, but if the initial timeline is 18 months and the revised timeline is at least 3 years after the project was originally slated to be completed…something is up beyond just routine delays. (They knew employees would need time to relocate–that wasn’t some shocking revelation last year.)
Now, we have the first major update since last June. The plan below comes courtesy of a report in GrowthSpotter, which reveals that Tavistock submitted an application for a framework master plan on behalf of Disney. Per this, Global architecture firm HOK is leading the design work for the project, alongside Harris Civil Engineers. The application was filed in time to get on the March 9 agenda for the city’s new Development Review Committee.
HOK has created corporate campuses for some of the world’s largest corporations, including Honeywell, LG and Norfolk Southern, and specializes in sustainable design. For the LG North America headquarters in New Jersey, the 350,000-square-foot headquarters office achieved Platinum LEED certification.
Construction of the Disney’s Lake Nona campus will be phased. Upon completion, it will consist of six office buildings, two flex buildings, three parking garages, a central plant, and a surface parking lot for visitors. While the zoning allows for a maximum height of 10 stories, the initial plan calls for buildings to range in height from four to seven stories. Each of the parking garages will have six levels.
The bulk of the built environment, 1.46 million square feet, is defined as general offices, while the remaining 346,000 square feet will be flex office/industrial. The offices featured 60,000 square feet of solar panels plus 2 acres of green roofs to meet the commitment to be carbon net-zero.
Access to the Lake Nona campus will be restricted. The site plan shows three entrances, each of which have a guard station. Once inside the campus, employees and visitors will be able to travel via an internal loop road.
This isn’t much different than Disney’s corporate campuses in California. You can’t simply show up and wander around–there are guard stations and only employees and visitors who have a reason to be there are allowed entry. (Come to think of it, not that much different than driving to resorts at Walt Disney World these days!)
Turning to commentary, I have mixed thoughts about this. The Lake Nona relocation is not a topic we’ve covered previously, save for offhand comments here and there. In large part, that’s because of the human side of the story–while Florida-based DPEP employees are undoubtedly excited to have more of their colleagues close to them, California-based ones have had to make tough decisions.
It’s also because I honestly didn’t think the relocation would happen, especially after the showdown between Chapek and DeSantis last spring and summer. Another hesitation is an offshoot of that, as this relocation has become yet another flashpoint in the culture wars, representing the “battle” of Florida v. California for some people.
Having lived in both Central Florida and Southern California–and the respective Orange Counties that Disney’s theme parks call home–our view is that this is unreasonably reductive and not necessarily reflective of reality. To be sure, there are differences between the two, but no state is monolithic–especially ones as large and diverse as Florida and California.
As noted above, a fair comparison for Lake Nona is Irvine, California (albeit on a smaller scale). It’s not like this up-and-coming section of Central Florida is the same as the Villages or some rural part of the panhandle. This isn’t to say that there are not material differences between the two–there absolutely are–just that family, schools, friends, and other ways people establish roots are likely the more significant, overriding considerations.
Rather than turning this into another topic on corporate governance, we’re going to look at this from a guest perspective–or more specifically, the viewpoint of Walt Disney World fans. Even if you’re a Florida-centric fan, it must be acknowledged that there’s a ton of history in Glendale for Walt Disney Imagineering, and it’ll be sad to lose that. It may seem insignificant to newer fans, but the creatives walking halls and using the offices of the early greats of WED had to have been inspiring and important and reflected in the work product.
Of course, it’s the people and not the buildings that give institutions meaning, so the bigger blow is to the creative culture. Part of this is likely already playing out by virtue of blows to morale. Again, this has played out in public view on social media, as departing Imagineers and others who opted against relocating have expressed animosity and anger with the company. Some went from being stewards of WED’s rich legacy to downright disillusioned and resentful.
Beyond broader employee morale, there’s also the likelihood of losing tenured creatives with decades of experience and knowledge. As with the recent return-to-office mandate from CEO Bob Iger, this Lake Nona move also functions as a layoff in disguise. Given that older employees tend to be those with stronger ties to a place and less to gain by a late career move, it’s likely they were disproportionate departures from Disney.
Walt Disney Imagineering was hit hard even before this in 2020, and it’s impossible to say how many of the recent high-profile retirements have actually been “retirements” (with heavy air quotes). Joe Rohde and Bob Weis quickly getting new jobs after leaving Disney strongly suggests that those were “retirements.”
Already, the negative ramifications of losing older employees has been evident at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. The loss of institutional knowledge has resulted in perplexing decisions, from the use of non-durable materials in designs to maintenance woes (and probably a lot more of which we are unaware). This is not just an Imagineering issue–it’s been a struggle for the parks since reopening, and it’ll take years to rebuild certain departments that relied on the knowledge and skills of employees who had honed their craft over the course of decades with Disney.
From the outside looking in, I’d imagine that there are other negative consequences of Imagineering not being near Disney’s corporate headquarters. I won’t pretend to know how regularly those from the c-suite drop in on the Imagineering R&D labs, enter the Dish, or otherwise poke around–but I’m guessing it’ll happen far less when it requires a cross-country flight instead of a ~15 minute drive.
Having a creative campus near the Disney headquarters likely served not only as a reminder of the corporate ethos, but also a good way to excite executives about cool projects–and maybe even get things greenlit. That’s entirely speculative on my part, so file this one under “things that make sense to me but might not actually be accurate.”
There’s also likely upside in Imagineering moving to Florida for fans. Central Florida is gradually becoming the epicenter of the themed design world, with a ton of contractors and vendors being based in the area. It’s hard to see that shift reversing course, especially as major new parks (Epic Universe) and independent projects (AREA15) become increasingly common.
From a development perspective, Southern California is largely built-out whereas Central Florida is upstart and booming. There’s potential for even more to come in and around Orlando. This is definitely counterintuitive given the reputation of California as a tech hub–and there’s plenty being built in SoCal–but not on par with the explosion in Central Florida.
There’s also value in having the “home parks” of more Imagineers be Walt Disney World. Without question, Disneyland gets special treatment and attention, which is for a number of reasons from Walt’s legacy to local demographics. It’s also at least in part because Disneyland is nearer to influential individuals within the company.
Executives and Imagineers take their families there on weekends, and Disneyland Resort benefits from little pet projects as a result. Now, this isn’t to say that the tables would immediately turn and the Florida parks would have better attention to detail and so forth–as there are a lot of reasons why Disneyland does things differently–but it definitely couldn’t hurt!
It’s also difficult to deny that a lot of what gets designed for Walt Disney World comes from a very “California-centric” viewpoint. By this, I’m specifically referring to the weather. Don’t get me wrong, I love Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Even though I’m not a huge fan of Toy Story Land, I’ll admit that it has its moments.
However, both have glaring issues that are not a result of budget cuts or value engineering. These problems are conscious design choices that might’ve looked or sounded cool in theory, but clashed with the hard realities of having to exist in a working theme park subject to things like Florida weather.
Quite simply, these lands do not feel like they were designed by anyone who ever spent a full day outside in Orlando. Maybe these perplexing design decisions will persist, but this is another thing I’d file under it couldn’t hurt for Imagineers to be closer to Walt Disney World.
Ultimately, that just scratches the surface on the pros and cons of the Lake Nona move, and is admittedly coming from an outsider’s perspective. I won’t pretend that I have a complete grasp of the potential benefits and negative ramifications of such a move, and there’s undoubtedly a lot that I’m missing.
Regardless of how this ends up playing out, I don’t think it was handled well initially and couldn’t have come at a worse time back in 2021. Morale at Parks & Resorts was already bad, and this certainly has not helped. Even making the very generous assumption that the company had good motivations in the move, Disney could have had a longer timeline from the outset or approached the move in a more methodical manner. Instead, this was hamfisted and unorganized from the outset, with an overly aggressive timeline that probably was not viable regardless of the intervening controversies.
I doubt many people internal or external would’ve argued against two large-scale creative campuses–one in Glendale and one in Lake Nona–and letting employees choose where they wanted to work. Like so many announcements executed under the Chapek regime, Disney instead took a “worst of both worlds” approach instead of trying to thread the needle and turn the Lake Nona campus into a positive for the company and Walt Disney Imagineering.
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What do you think about Imagineering and the rest of DPEP’s relocation to Lake Nona, Florida? Think this will be a positive or negative–or a mixture of both–for Imagineering and Disney fans? Thoughts on this being a layoff in disguise? Agree with our takes about the good and bad of move? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Feel free to share your perspective, but keep the comments civil. This is not the place for politically-charged arguing, culture wars, antagonism, personal attacks, or cheap shots. We will be heavy-handed in deleting any comments that cross the line, irrespective of viewpoint.
I do wonder how much this will backfire on them. Immediate resignations aside, putting Imagineering in the same general area as all of these other booming attraction companies (Universal, Area 51, etc) means that it’ll be easier in the future for employees to job hop over to a better paying (or more innovative) company. After all, having to move cross-country won’t be an issue any more!
@Lauren I see that as a potential benefit to us fans (and stockholders) as more incentive for Disney to push new technologies and do some real Imagineering again versus doing crappy overlays that ruin awesome rides, or mediocre nighttime shows (Harmonious and the short-lived one at AK).
I just feel sorry for any LGBTQIA+ Imagineers who are now faced with either quitting or moving to a state that is openly politically hostile toward their existence. Granted, being in the Disney bubble feels great as a gay man because I feel perfectly fine being who I am, but when I visit WDW, I don’t have to leave that bubble. Anyone living in Central Florida will not have that luxury.
@Fred that’s an interesting point that many of us might not consider. I do think that aspect has been way overplayed in the media, having lived in FL twice, just like most everything these days is. Ole Cap’n Ron was grandstanding on that stuff, as politicians change tune about every three minutes like the radio to pander to the next group. I do not foresee much if any significant changes to RCID as a result. DIsney continues to drive the local economy there and brings billions in revenue to the state. This new office complex will increase that.
I worked at MK in the DCP and at 20K we had only males (submarine ride) there, including two openly gay guys. In the summer, one of my roommates was gay and not trying to hide it, and neither situation caused any issues for any of us. We all just got along, as people. It was pretty typical that cast members treated each other well. Aside from the typical obnoxious individuals that are everywhere and seem opposed to any kind of minority or group they aren’t a member of, Florida was a great place to live. But we all have different experiences, and I would hope you and any potential new-to-FL folks haven’t had any bad experiences in FL because of who they are.
@MrNico I wish that were true. I’m sure there’s a range of people there just like everywhere else, but I have friends who are school librarians in Florida. I’ve heard endlessly about how that latest bill is making their jobs very frustrating. Anecdotally, I know a handful of educators who have chosen to switch careers or move because of it.
@Lauren, well there are a LOT of bad things going on in schools to make teachers quit. It’s been going that way for over 20 years but has gotten worse in the last decade. My parents are both retired public school teachers at the high school level, and my Dad was an Assistant Principal and retired as a Deputy Supt. So yeah, I’ve heard so, so many stories from them and lots of their friends. Any little thing now that happens is just the last straw for many teachers. When administrators stopped supporting teachers and the parents quit doing their jobs and started blaming teachers for their childrens’ lack of performance, and then teachers’ time wasted on many newer initiatives, endless meetings, etc. it no longer was an enjoyable job for them. Too many lazy, illiterate students go through and when they are allowed to slide through the early years without being held back or held to any standard, by high school it’s too late to help many of them. I know I couldn’t do that job these days, but I wouldn’t be a cop either.
The insane push to send every kid to college irrespective of their interests, let alone ability to graduate, has driven tuition to absurd levels and lead to a massive shortage in the trades.
Not that my opinion matters, but I’m in the “this could be a good thing” camp. The economic outlook in CA as a whole is dismal with no perceived chance of improvement over the the next decade at least. It may be “just” a $570M tax break right now but I’m betting that that savings is just the beginning. We all know that WDW is in a perpetual need of cash as it attempts to compete with newer and more exciting entertainment offerings and can’t afford to pay the ever increasing, and crazy, CA penalties that the state foists onto successful businesses.
Also, losing experience is always hard but truth be told, with a few obvious very talented exceptions, the current crop of imagineers have given us precious little over the past 10 years that was truly groundbreaking. While some additions (looking at you Frozen ride) have been downright dismal. Maybe an injection of fresh blood is just what the patient needs.
Florida is a bit like the Wild West right now. It could be exciting to see what a new crop of “pioneers” could bring to the WDW experience.
So is this Plan D, or did Disney revert to an earlier plan?
Setting aside cost savings, I figure the best ways to try and capture the benefits of both a centrally located office of Imagineers and local offices of Imagineers is to have a larger office in one location and a smaller office in another. That way, you get both of the benefits of say, understanding the local environment and not having leadership cut off from actual people working on their projects.
Aside from the main Glendale Creative Campus with 1401 Flower (etc.), there already are permanent field offices for WDI at every resort. For certain projects, they bring in temporary trailers in addition to that. Nevertheless, there’s a lot of flying back and forth, and the problem you describe exists.
What are the odds that this triggers a larger relocation, particularly of upper-level executives? Could Disney pressure their acquired IPs (Marvel, Pixar, etc.) to relocate as well, or are the different dynamics relevant enough that they’ll leave the filmmaking side of things alone (i.e. the entertainment industry is still more based in CA, and Florida is more a place for theme parks)?
They tried to make Florida as a film hub happen back in the 90s with MGM-Hollywood Studios (it had working animation and film studios back then) and obviously that all got shifted back to California. I think too much of the film industry is based out of California, including the infrastructure of studios, crew people, etc. for it to be cost effective to move. If they were to relocate anywhere, I could see Marvel relocating to Atlanta as they already film a good number of their productions there, but even that feels like a long shot.
I have zero knowledge of the internal dynamics at Marvel and Pixar, but I have a very hard time believing that Disney would relocate its Burbank offices. At that point, the people making the decision to move would be moving themselves, and that’s not something many would want to do.
Knowing some folks affected by the move, there were a handful that left but they feel that there were a lot that were just waiting Disney out, saying they would move in the hopes it never came. Will be interesting how much more churn there is as this gets closer (what will they do if you say you’re not going to leave at the last minute, fire you?) and it may be even more painful for in flight projects at the time.
“Knowing some folks affected by the move, there were a handful that left but they feel that there were a lot that were just waiting Disney out, saying they would move in the hopes it never came.”
I’d hazard a guess that there’s a good amount of that. Even back when this was announced, that seemed like the smartest move. Between Disney’s lethargic pace at doing anything and construction delays (unrelated to Disney) at the time, it seemed likely this would be pushed back until at least 2024.
Okay, maybe I’m the only one who’s late to this party but…Joe Rohde left?!?!
When / how / why did we lose this legend?
No wonder things are falling to pieces!
“It may seem insignificant to newer fans, but the creatives walking halls and using the offices of the early greats of WED had to have been inspiring and important and reflected in the work product.” I’m sure it was inspiring for Imagineers to have walked the halls and used the offices of the early greats….but the entire creative workforce was moved out of those halls and offices years ago. They eventually got a new building, but the initial eviction was an incredible morale-buster.
Yes, and as folks who embrace the foolish re-theming of excellent attractions like to mention that many kids these days have never even seen the classic Disney films and don’t know the characters, a parallel situation must exist with newer young employees as well. Most just won’t feel any connection to the Twelve Old Men, etc.
Like so many things Disney, it could’ve been handled better but I’m excited for the potential result. My heart belongs to Disneyland but we are at Disneyworld probably 4-5 times more often and your point about designing park improvements based on the Florida parks will benefit both locations more. (Whatever works in Florida will work in So Cal.) I also have to wonder if they’re looking down the line at moving more of the corporate structure to Florida in the coming years. California seems to be waning and Florida feels like it’s on a good trajectory, a la Southern California in the 1950s. Ensconcing the creatives in Florida would be a good precursor to moving other departments out there; first as “support,” then because of a cumulative weight of a company shift. And as the relative and friend of many So Cal-to-Florida transplants, none of them have regretted the move so I would expect that if more of the relocated employees come to a similar conclusion, it becomes easier to get others onboard with that kind of change.
“And as the relative and friend of many So Cal-to-Florida transplants, none of them have regretted the move so I would expect that if more of the relocated employees come to a similar conclusion, it becomes easier to get others onboard with that kind of change.”
The second half of this is likely true. The first half seems like selection bias–you also need to talk to the ones who opted against making the move.
Unrelated to the DPEP relocation, I also know a lot of Florida transplants. I’d say the majority (75%+) are happy with the move, but most had a pretty good idea that Florida was a good fit for them prior to moving, and didn’t just make the jump blindly. It also seems like the transplant ‘satisfaction’ rate dropped in 2020-2021, as a higher number relocated based on temporary considerations and maybe didn’t make a totally informed decision about all facets of Florida life. (Again, totally anecdotal.)
Doesn’t seem like a good idea at all. They really ought to re-think this, or run two locations.
On the “special treatment” thing, I guess I worry that what will actually end up happening is that neither place will get those little details. I never really minded having some differences in the parks. I prefer WDW, but I love all the little details, different approach, and history of DL. I like that I get some higher quality editions when I visit DL. If those things come to WDW that will be great, but losing the special-ness of DL without compensation would be a shame.
“ I doubt many people internal or external would’ve argued against two large-scale creative campuses–one in Glendale and one in Lake Nona–and letting employees choose where they wanted to work”
I’m coming at this from at outsider’s perspective as well, but to me this seems like a good solution. I hope Iger and D’Amaro realize this and perhaps give employees this option. I think it would improve morale and goodwill while not wasting the investment made in the new location.
Yep. And assuming DPEP wants to shift to Florida, it would’ve allowed that to occur organically over time as people retire or leave the company of their own volition over time. New jobs could be posted disproportionately in Florida, with the CA campus shrinking gradually and consolidating in more natural fashion.
Same outcome in the long run, but different means of achieving it.
I think where you run into trouble with that is it undercuts the whole “we do better when we interact in person” ethos that’s behind the 4-day in office policy. While that is partially a layoff in disguise I think Iger and other higher ups at least partially believe that line of thought, which would make them reluctant to have bicoastal teams. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if functionally the more senior people do essentially get to choose if they move or stay put, whereas relocating to Florida is a requirement for anyone who is hired going forward.
Honestly I’m surprised they are still going through with this. I hope they have better luck finding replacements for the relocated positions than they’ve had addressing the staffing shortages at WDW, because I think a good number of people will opt to stay put/find new jobs. Political leanings will factor into that decision for some people, but the bigger deterrent will be the fact that moving anywhere sucks, and moving cross country doubly so.
It’ll be interesting to see whether this and other recent moves come back to bite them.
Tech and other companies are laying off white collar workers right now, but it is still a very different labor market now–even on the high end–than it was 3-4 years ago. As baby boomers continue to leave the workforce (voluntarily) in high numbers, this could turn out to be (another) short sighted move.
I appreciate the pros and cons, but I feel like it missed the biggest reason for the move – TAX SAVINGS.
It’s been a growing trend of businesses moving as much as possible out of high-tax states like California and IL to no-tax states like Texas and Florida. People will try to grandstand and weave politics into that as those states have contrasting politics, but in reality it is pretty simple – if Disney can manage the cons you mentioned, which are more emotional and hard to measure, they can weigh that vs the millions upon millions of payroll taxes and state taxes they will be saving by moving more of the business to FL. Even with many frontline workers staying to work in the CA parks, there are huge benefits to have a company based in a no-tax state like FL with employees operating “out of state” in CA or all over the world at the other parks. Any employees who don’t like the move should vote accordingly in the CA elections when politicians discuss the state’s budget and taxation!
That was deliberately glossed over–we did mention the $570 million tax break for the relocation.
The commentary is from an employee and guest-facing perspective. Saving money in the long-run is great for the company, but really has no bearing on this from an Imagineer or guest-facing perspective.
I’ve mentioned that before too. The tax savings alone justifies moving corporate to FL and saving billions in CA taxes. Disney could literally abandon some CA real estate and still save money. But as Tom mentioned, CA real estate is more scarce and valuable to some people, so Disney would do well in selling properties there. And yes, I empathize with those who do not want to move (politics aside, I’d rather be shot than move again) anywhere at all. In fact, in 2005 I resigned from one of the largest construction companies in the country because they move people every 1-3 years and I was done with that. I took a 40% pay cut in moving back to NM (most backwards state there is) but got a $3 an hour raise going from 60+ hours per week to 40. Moving to TX 5 years ago and dropping state income tax was huge, even though my employer in NM at the time offered to raise my salary to $10k above what my new job started at and add in a lot of benefits. I envision many being thrilled at the prospect of no state taxes, lower home and cost of living in FL and most importantly, much better commute and far less traffic on top of cheaper gas. Weather, well, some good and some bad FL vs CA.
Tom, I agree this was not done well and could’ve been handled so much better on many fronts. I see it as another mistake of the Chapek regime. Were I the CEO, I would’ve phased it and as mentioned, advertise almost all new non-DL positions in FL and keep a smaller office and film production centered in Burbank, etc but officially base the corporation in FL, then grow the WED shop in FL while shrinking CA presence. Disney has always moved, albeit often temporarily, WED folks around the world for construction projects.
The Hollywood entanglement is a good point, with a not-insignificant part of the industry still southern-CA based. However, if you watch the credits on almost anything these days (and who doesn’t, it’s disrespectful to the creators, right?) or look on IMDB, filming is done all over the place, with temporary sound stages set up for productions and often nothing being actually ‘filmed’ in Hollywood any more. Just like the pathetic remnants of the ‘music’ industry such as it is now. Technology has largely removed the need for being in Hollywood. As mentioned, GA has a huge chunk of the industry now, along with Vancouver and others.
Finding talent is a major problem for any professionals and I’m sure creatives too. Those who are willing to work want more, a lot more. Some insist they must work from home. My company is looking for several professional engineers, and they are hard to come by. Govt agencies are being hit especially hard. We do a lot of work for the VA and they have lost a lot to attrition as folks retire, and some who leave for other jobs. Facilities are hit hard by the loss of institutional knowledge and govt facilities are notorious for poor record keeping such as asbuilt plans, etc. With the quality of some product, it seems to me that Disney lost a lot in recent years too. See the Ruins of Maelstrom… While I still question the tenuous link of Avatar, Pandora at AK is amazing, even the highly-underrated Navi River Journey. TSL has issues as you mentioned, like no shade. Galaxy’s Edge is awesome, but maybe could’ve used more big trees too, at least in the non-spaceport sections.
Individual employees will make a decision: move or quit. Those who leave will be replaced by the thousands who would jump at the chance to work in Imagineering, regardless of the location.
The risk here is the loss of institutional knowledge…though it could be argued that had already eroded drastically in the past decade.
“Those who leave will be replaced by the thousands who would jump at the chance to work in Imagineering, regardless of the location.”
The name cachet of Imagineering is (IMO) overstated by fans who view it as their dream job. That’s true to an extent in reality, but it very much depends upon the nature of the position. Disney is notorious for offering below-market pay, and whether WDI can attract top-tier talent (let alone have tons of people competing for few positions) very much depends upon the specific positions. For some, that’s absolutely still true. For others, not so much.
I’m biased towards this not being a good thing overall for Imagineering. I’ve never lived in Florida or Southern California. That being said, I spent the equivalent of a year or so in Florida during my time in the military, and have visited Southern California more times than any other place in the country because my brother moved out there years ago.
I’ve experienced the good and bad of both locales, but based on my criteria (mainly weather and availability of fun stuff to do in nature) SoCal > Florida. My gut tells me many employees will feel the same way, and this will become a form of layoff.
For a multitude of reasons, I cannot imagine most people who have well-paying jobs and live in Glendale/Pasadena/Burbank/La Canada/etc. would prefer to live in Central Florida. Lake Nona is a nice place, but it’s not like those cities, or SoCal as a whole.
I agree with you, Tom. There’s so much more to the “whole” of Los Angeles and Southern California. Definitely more inspiration for creatives from things other than themed entertainment or master planned communities. LA is such a dynamic and inspiring place…plus, that weather and beach thing!
forging ahead with a major move to a state where the governor clearly hates your company is certainly a choice.
That’s not hate, it’s grandstanding (not that it makes it any better, but there is a big difference). Disney already helped fund his most recent inauguration, so I suspect the worst of the antagonism has already blown over.
Beyond that, this move is intended to be permanent, and politicians are temporary. There’s a more than decent chance someone else is governor by the time this move is made.