A group of anonymous Disney employees with conservative beliefs are slamming their coworkers for creating an ‘environment of fear’ and calling on the entertainment company to remain ‘politically neutral’ in the face of protests against Florida’s so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill.
‘The Walt Disney Company has come to be an increasingly uncomfortable place to work for those of us whose political and religious views are not explicitly progressive,’ workers said in an unsigned letter published Monday.
‘We watch quietly as our beliefs come under attack from our own employer, and we frequently see those who share our opinions condemned as villains by our own leadership.’
The statement comes as a number of the Disney’s high-profile stars have criticized the company – with the actress Raven-Symoné and the staff of her show, ‘Raven’s Home,’ joining an employee walkout Wednesday.
The longtime Disney star, 36, posted a video on Instagram showing the cast of her show walking out in support of the demonstrations.
‘We don’t like it. We’re walking out. It’s stupid,’ she said.
Amid these protests, the group of anonymous employees also accused their liberal colleagues of calling them ‘bigots’ – and criticized CEO Bob Chapek’s ‘evolving response’ after he walked back comments saying that corporate statements do nothing but divide a company and its customers.
The letter was released just one day before Disney workers staged walkouts in Los Angeles over the company’s slow response to the legislation, which is officially called the ‘Parental Rights in Education’ bill. It is expected to go into effect in July and would ban classroom lessons on sexuality, gender identity and sexual orientation ‘in a manner that is not age appropriate.’
Critics say the open-ended language, which also prevents ‘classroom discussion’ of the topics, would prevent children from confiding in teachers if they feel unsafe because of their identity.
Gov. Ron DeSantis, however, says the bill’s aim is to ’empower parents’ in their children’s education, and make teachers recognize the distinction between ‘instruction’ and ‘discussion.’
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Actress Raven-Symone and the cast of the Disney show ‘Raven’s Home’ walked out on Tuesday in protest of Disney’s response to Florida’s ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill
The cast walked out on the same day that about 60 employees gathered at Griffith Park in Glendale, California
Disney’s conservative employees blasted their colleagues for creating an ‘increasingly uncomfortable’ environment that punishes those who go against the ‘progressive orthodoxy’
Amid the staff protest, Simone revealed that even the Raven’s Home executive producers joined the show’s demonstration Wednesday.
‘What’s up, we’re the cast of Raven’s Home and the EPs and we are walking out today in support of this ridiculous bill,’ she said. We love everyone and support, support, support. We out! We walking out.’
In a caption, she added: ‘In today’s world, it is imperative that we take stands, show support, and move forward not backwards. Every family every person and every child deserves to be recognized no matter their race, gender, or sexual orientation. Education that reflects the truth and the world we live in is something we must fight for.’
Raven is one of a handful of celebrities who have worked with Disney, or subsidiaries like ESPN and ABC, who have spoken out about the Florida bill. Others include Mark Ruffalo, Gabrielle Union and Kerry Washington, who starred in ABC’s Scandal.
Chapek, Disney’s CEO, initially resisted calls to get more involved after some of the company’s employees asked the media behemoth to take a stand against the bill.
About 100 employees marched outside of the Roy E. Disney Animation Building in Burbank, California on Tuesday. Conservative employees say ‘Disney shouldn’t be a vehicle for one demographic’s political activism’
Workers are accusing Disney CEO Bob Chapek of backtracking his initial statements that public stances ‘do very little to change outcomes or minds.’ He’s since announced a task force to include more LGBTQ content for children
‘Simply put, [public stances] can be counterproductive and undermine more effective ways to achieve change,’ he said, adding that they ‘do very little to change outcomes or minds’ and are ‘often weaponized by one side or the other to further divide and inflame.’
But Chapek backtracked on the statement as pressure grew.
On Monday, he said it was a ‘mistake’ to not take a stand against the bill earlier.
He also promised to put together a task force – overseen by film executive Paul Roeder and Disney Parks marketing executive Lisa Becket – to create more LGBTQ content for children.
What is the Parental Rights in Education bill?
HB 1557 was introduced by two Republican members of the Florida Legislature – Representative Joe Harding and Senator Dennis Baxley.
They say the bill’s aim is to ’empower parents’ in their children’s education, and make teachers recognize the distinction between ‘instruction’ and ‘discussion.’
‘What we’re prohibiting is instructing them in a specific direction,’ Baxley said about how teachers lead students in a classroom.
‘Students can talk about whatever they want to bring up, but sometimes the right answer is, ”You really ought to talk to your parents about that.”’
The bill applies to children in kindergarten through third grade.
It states that ‘classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur.’
It also requires districts to ‘adopt procedures for notifying a student’s parent if there is a change in the student’s services or monitoring related to the student’s mental, emotional, or physical health or well-being,’ something LGBTQ advocates argue could lead to students being outed to their parents without the student’s knowledge or consent.
It was passed on March 8 in a 22-17 vote. The state House had approved the bill late last month. DeSantis has said he will sign it into law. It will come into effect on July 1.
And last week, a gay kissing scene in the upcoming ‘Toy Story’ spinoff ‘Lightyear’ was reinstated after it was allegedly removed by Disney brass.
Employees at Pixar, which is owned by Disney, published their own letter accusing the parent company of censoring any and all allusions to same-sex attraction.
‘We at Pixar have personally witnessed beautiful stories, full of diverse characters, come back from Disney corporate reviews shaved down to crumbs of what they once were,’ the Pixar workers said, according to Deadline.
‘Nearly every moment of overtly gay affection is cut at Disney’s behest, regardless of when there is protest from both the creative teams and executive leadership at Pixar. Even if creating LGBTQIA+ content was the answer to fixing the discriminatory legislation in the world, we are being barred from creating it.’
Meanwhile, Disney’s conservative employees hailed their workplace as a ‘magical’ place precisely because it stays away from lightning rod issues.
‘We love being part of creating the magic that so many people around the world enjoy. Our storytelling is second to none. It resonates with people from all walks of life across the political spectrum.
‘Our parks are the source of joy and inspiration that Walt hoped they would become. Every year, millions of guests escape an increasingly divided world to a place where they can relive fond memories of the past and savor the challenge and promise of the future. They do this alongside thousands of other guests that might not have anything in common with them other than a shared love of Disney,’ they wrote in the letter, first published by the Daily Wire.
But they’ve noticed a shift in recent weeks.
‘Over the last few weeks, we have watched as our leadership has expressed their condemnation for laws and policies we support,’ they added.
‘We have watched as our colleagues convinced that no one in the company could possibly disagree with them, grow increasingly aggressive in their demands. They insist that TWDC take a strong stance on not only this issue but other legislation and openly advocate for the punishment of employees who disagree with them.
‘TWDC has fostered an environment of fear that any employee who does not toe the line will be exposed and dismissed.
‘They call their fellow employees “bigots” and pressure TWDC to use corporate influence to further their left-wing legislative goals.
‘Furthermore, as this politicization makes its way into our content and public messaging, our more conservative customers will feel similarly unwanted. You can only preach at or vilify your audience for so long before they decide to spend their money elsewhere.’
The workers added that some of them were reluctant to respond to an internal poll that was circulated a few months ago out of fear that its results would be used to ‘target’ them for contradicting the ‘progressive orthodoxy’ at the company.
‘Disney shouldn’t be a vehicle for one demographic’s political activism. It’s so much bigger and more important than that,’ they conclude.
On Tuesday, about 100 employees marched outside of Disney’s Roy E. Disney Animation Building in Burbank, California chanting, ‘Say Gay!’ as part of a full day of walkouts across the company’s theme parks and offices, according to the Los Angeles Times.
About 60 employees gathered at Griffith Park in Glendale with signs reading, ‘#DisneySayTrans’ and ‘Disney oppose Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.’
Some Disney workers say the company has ‘fostered an environment of fear that any employee who does not toe the line will be exposed and dismissed.’ Above, Disney workers protest in Burbank on Tuesday
Disney employee Nicholas Maldonado holds a sign while protesting outside of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida on Tuesday
Outside Walt Disney World’s property near Orlando, Disney employee Nicholas Maldonado was a lone protester Tuesday, wearing a rainbow flag and holding a sign reading, ‘Trans rights are human rights’ and ‘#DisneyDoBetter.’
What do Disney protesters want?
Disney employees protesting the Mouse’s response to the ‘Parental Rights in Education’ bill want the company to:
1. Stop campaign donations to politicians involved in the creation of the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
2. Halt all ‘construction and investment’ in Florida until the bill is repealed
3. Stop relocating employees to Florida, along with a guarantee that they won’t be fired if they refuse to go
4. Reaffirm its commitment to protecting LGBTQ staff
5. Contribute ‘substantially’ to the Trevor Project and other human rights advocacy groups
6. Create more LGBTQ content
7. Create a brand focused solely on LGBTQ creators
Disney, whose movies and properties shaped generations of children around the world, has spoken out several times in recent years about contentious social and political situations.
In January 2021, it said it would suspend political donations to lawmakers who voted against certifying President Joe Biden´s electoral victory. It also threatened to pull business from Georgia – a favorite of movie and TV studios – following a 2016 anti-gay bill, which was ultimately vetoed by the then-governor.
Employees who are currently protesting the company’s response to the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill have a long list of demands that includes halting all ‘construction and investment in the state of Florida’ until the bill is repealed.
Projects that could be interrupted include the Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind rollercoaster that is set to open this summer at Disney World’s EPCOT park. Also in the pipeline is a Tron Lightcycle/Run ride that has now started testing the ride vehicles on the tracks.
Cosmic Rewind will be Disney’s first-ever ‘reverse launch’ coaster. It will also rotate riders in their cars as they race down the track.
According to the company: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is a family-friendly adventure, featuring a totally new type of roller coaster experience we’re developing just for this attraction – it’s a storycoaster that rotates 360 degrees so you’re always focused on all the action as you help the Guardians save the galaxy.’
The semi-enclosed Tron ride is a version of the Lightcycle Power Run ride that opened in 2016 in Shanghai Disneyland, according to the Disney theme park blog Inside the Magic.
It will operate in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland section.
‘This coaster-style attraction will allow riders to board a train of two-wheeled Lightcycles for a thrilling race through the digital frontier,’ the company says.
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind is set to open this summer at Disney World’s EPCOT park near Orlando, Florida. Above, a promotional poster for the project
A planned Tron Lightcycle/Run ride does not yet have an opening date, but the company says ride vehicles are currently being tested. It is set to open in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland
The ride was first announced in 2017 and construction began in 2018, though it was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Inside the Magic.
Both rollercoasters are based on the films of the same names.