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Forty-year-old Stephen Knittel has been a Disney fan “since diapers.” His parents took him to Disneyland as soon as he could walk, he says, and he used his season passes to Disneyland California to take his five-year-old and two-year-old to the theme parks before COVID-19 shut down the country.
When Disney parted ways with actress Gina Carano, he began to reconsider supporting the company. He became even more skeptical when Disney announced the film Turning Red, a movie that touches on themes of sexual maturation and puberty. (Disclosure: The Daily Wire has announced plans for children’s entertainment content.)
But it was Disney’s stance on Florida’s bill banning classroom conversations on gender and sexual orientation for young children that pushed Knittel over the edge.
“It saddens me to think that the magic that was part of my life (and my wife’s too) will not be part of theirs,” the Orange County, California, resident said of his children in an email to The Daily Wire, “because the only way we can effectively voice our opinion to a company like Disney is to refuse to do business with them.”
“For us that means canceling Disney+, canceling Disney Movie Club, deleting Disney Insiders memberships, and boycotting any and all creative works put forth by Disney,” he continued. “I’m not sorry for our decision and can’t even pity a company for making such a poor decision when they have enough clout to do whatever the hell they want and this is the direction they’ve decided upon.”
Knittel is one of many parents who told The Daily Wire that they are canceling their trips to Disney and their subscriptions to Disney+ over the company’s increasingly vocal embrasure of woke ideology.
Kyle Carter of Bremen, Georgia, said he and his wife have canceled their upcoming trip to Disney for her 30th birthday.
Kade Nielsen from Salt Lake City, Utah said his friend group of 12 people canceled their May Disney trip and are heading to Mexico instead.
Kraig Korbas from Ohio said he canceled Disney+ this week and agreed with his wife that they won’t be taking their toddlers to Disney “due to the ridiculous hill Disney is willing to die on.”
Elizabeth Muehlbach of Pennsylvania says she will be taking her family to Dollywood instead.
“I’ve put in HOURS of planning and have already put a deposit down at Pop Century resort,” the mother of three said. “But after reading all these reports and doing some investigating myself, I just can’t invest 15K or more in a company that so blatantly ignores science and family-friendly entertainment.”
Disney did not respond to The Daily Wire’s requests for comments for this story.
Disney has sparked national outrage over its response to Florida’s HB 1557, legislation stating that “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity may not occur in kindergarten through grade 3 or in a manner that is not age appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.”
The bill has been misrepresented by media and critics, who call it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and insist it endangers LGBTQ youth. The word “gay” is not mentioned in the legislation, though “parent” is mentioned 32 times.
Disney condemned the legislation after Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed it.
“We remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that,” a Disney spokesman told The Daily Wire earlier this week.
Shortly afterward, Chris Rufo released several videos purportedly from a recent “all-hands” Zoom staff meeting in which a Disney executive producer discussed implementing her “not-at-all secret gay agenda” in a children’s show.
Many of the parents who spoke with The Daily Wire cited these videos from Rufo as the straw that broke the camel’s back.
“We’ve all known for years that Disney is left wing, but many of us somewhat tolerated it bc their product gives our children joy,” Kurt Buchert, a Florida father of four children under eight, said in an email.
“But that Zoom call we all heard this week is utterly insane…a group of woke gay activists talking about an agenda to foist on our children about trans and LGBT ideology,” he said. “It’s blatant child abuse and grooming. Way over the line.”
Like other parents who spoke with The Daily Wire, Buchert plans to take his family and his business to other theme parks — like Universal Studios in Los Angeles, California.
“We have gone to Busch Gardens, Legoland and Universal Studios instead,” Buchert said. “Lego and Universal/NBC are somewhat ‘woke’ as well, but Disney is out of control.”
Aaron Sherrill and his wife Catherine live in Orlando with their 12-year-old son Jacob and 9-year-old son Liam. He told The Daily Wire that he grew up in Orlando and worked for Disney as his first job starting at 16.
He and his wife were Disney annual pass holders for almost 10 years and brought their children to Disney weekly.
“It was our happy place,” he said. “We went multiple times during the week. We watched all the vlogs on tips, secret hideaways and new events and spent tons of money…We were signed up for Disney+ even before it released and pre-purchased 3 years of a subscription. That’s how big of fans we were.”
They were very unimpressed by Disney’s response to the pandemic, the father said, describing the increased restrictions, prices, and reservations as a “middle finger” from the company to families.
Disney’s response to the pandemic prompted the family to stop renewing their passes, Sherrill said. But it was Disney’s response to Florida’s bill that prompted them to cancel their annual Christmas trip to Fort Wilderness, a themed camping resort in Disney’s Magic Kingdom.
They won’t be renewing their Disney+ subscription when it expires in November, and they’re looking into becoming annual pass holders at Universal Studios or Sea World.
“It’s one thing to not give your money to Disney,” Sherrill said. “It’s another to turn around and hand it to their staunch rivals.”
“The events of the past few weeks have convinced us that we will never give Disney any of our money again,” the father added. “We are disgusted with them. I would be sad if I wasn’t so revolted by their actions as of late.”
Laura Zorc, executive director of Building Education for Students Together, mother to four children and grandmother of four more, told The Daily Wire that she alternates taking her kids and grandkids to Disney World every year.
But this year they bought Florida resident passes for SeaWorld instead — and canceled their Disney+ subscription.
“We have been going to Disney since the kids have been in strollers,” she explained. “We had my daughter Abby’s first birthday at Disney at a character dinner. We had my 29-year-old’s 5th birthday at a character breakfast at Magic Kingdom.”
“Disney has been a part of our family,” she said. “This is a hard transition. It’s like giving up one of your favorite things, like giving up coffee. We enjoyed it, but we have to look at the big picture here.”
As a corporation, Zorc believes Disney has the right to go in any direction they want.
“That’s the beauty of America,” she said. “But we as customers also have the option not to patronize their establishment if it goes against our values and our beliefs.”