But following walkouts and accusations that the company was failing to protect LGBT staff and their families from “open and unapologetic bigotry”, he apologised for “not being a stronger ally”.
“Our employees see the power of this great company as an opportunity to do good,” he said in a statement in March. “I agree. Yes, we need to use our influence to promote that good by telling inclusive stories, but also by standing up for the rights of all.”
He added: “We were opposed to the bill from the outset, but we chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind the scenes, working with lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.”
Chapek’s decision, however, seems to have put Disney on an unavoidable collision course with DeSantis and other Republicans, who it relies on for special powers. Disney was contacted for comment.
The irony of the situation is not lost on Anna Eskamani, a Democrat congresswoman in Florida’s House of Representatives, who argues the company is now trying to “slay the beast that it created” through donations of many thousands of dollars to Republican candidates – including DeSantis – over the years.
She believes attacks on the company are politically-motivated but, at the same time, argues that Disney and other big businesses should not be able to enjoy unfair advantages.
“This is all tied to the Governor’s culture wars and his desire to run for president, so anything he doesn’t like gets called woke,” she says.
“The intention here is to intimidate and bully people into submission. I don’t really have sympathy for these corporations … I have been one of the most vocal opponents of corporate tax giveaways.”
Eskamani adds: “But Disney has a large LGBTQ+ workforce and when it comes to speaking up for the community that you represent, that’s freedom of speech.
“The decision by certain lawmakers to express punitive and performative measures on Disney is so inappropriate. If you don’t like something a constituent says, do you just attack them? No. You have a conversation.”
Some experts have questioned whether Florida lawmakers will take the nuclear option and revoke Disney’s long-held rights over the theme park area, known officially as Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Political analysts say bashing “woke” ideologies is likely to prove popular with the Republican voters DeSantis is so assiduously courting.
It’s a showdown that could prove to be one of the most dramatic chapters so far in the story of Walt Disney’s “Magic Kingdom”.
But fans be warned: this time, there is no guarantee of a fairytale ending.