Disney backlash over Florida bill could sour Oscars night

Disney-owned ABC to air Oscars broadcast after previous record-low ratings

The LGBTQ backlash against Disney over its response to Florida’s parental rights bill could sour Oscars night, which is already on a downward ratings slide.

The 94th Academy Awards airs Sunday evening on Disney-owned ABC and will be hosted by Amy Schumer, Regina Hall and Wanda Sykes. It comes amid simmering tensions at Disney after its CEO, Bob Chapek, condemned the Republican-led Parents Rights in Education bill in Florida – dubbed by Democrats the "Don't Say Gay" bill – which bans school employees from giving classroom instruction on "sexual orientation" or "gender identity" in kindergarten through third grade.

Bob Chapek Disney

Bob Chapek, chief executive officer of The Walt Disney Company during the opening ceremony for the Avengers Campus inside Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, Calif., June 2, 2021.  (Jeff Gritchen/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images / Getty Images)

Chapek spoke out against the bill for the first time March 7, claiming it "could be used to unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary and transgender kids and families," and he also announced a pause on political donations in Florida and vowed Disney would contribute millions of dollars more to LGBTQ causes.


Critics, including Disney employees, slammed Chapek for what they said was too little too late as the bill passed the Florida legislature and heads to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

A group of Disney employees staged a walkout last week at locations across the country, demanding the company do more to protect LGBTQ people. The group published a list of demands for the company, ordering Disney to cease all campaign donations to politicians that voted for the bill indefinitely, end all investment in Florida until the bill is repealed, make "substantial contributions" to human rights advocacy groups and expand the company's LGBTQ content.


A screen shows the logo and a ticker symbol for The Walt Disney Company on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in New York Dec. 14, 2017. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid / Reuters Photos)

Actor Oscar Isaac, who stars in Disney-owned Marvel’s "Moon Knight," spoke out against the bill on Thursday, calling on Disney to come out "as forcefully as possible" against it.

"It's an absolutely ridiculous law, it's insane, it's insanity, and I hope that Disney as a company comes out as forcefully as possible against this idea," Isaac said. "It's astounding that that even exists in this country."

On March 9, two days after Chapek spoke out against Disney, LGBTQ employees at Pixar Animation Studios sent a statement to Disney executives claiming the company had actively censored "overtly gay affection" in films. 

According to Variety, Pixar’s next feature film, "Lightyear," had a kiss between two female characters cut from the film. The kiss was reinstated into the movie last week amid the larger controversy concerning the Florida bill, Variety reported.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) also publicly rejected a $5 million donation from Disney, "until we see them build on their public commitment and work with LGBTQ+ advocates to ensure that dangerous proposals, like Florida’s Don’t Say Gay or Trans bill, don’t become dangerous laws, and if they do, to work to get them off the books."

Disney cast member Nicholas Maldonado

Disney cast member Nicholas Maldonado protests his company's stance on LGBTQ issues while participating in an employee walkout at Walt Disney World March 22, 2022, in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack / AP Newsroom)

Disney+ issued a statement last week saying, in part, that the streaming service "stands by our LGBTQIA+ employees, colleagues, families, storytellers and fans, and we strongly denounce all legislation that infringes on the basic human rights of people in the LGBTQIA+ community – especially legislation that targets and harms young people and their families."


The backlash could sour the Oscars broadcast, which is already on "life support," Entertainment and IP attorney Tom Lallas, who represented the late Marvel legend Stan Lee before his death in 2018, told Fox News Digital.

Last year, there were 9.85 million viewers, which was less than half of its previous low and a whopping one-sixth as many as there were barely 20 years ago.

Disney did not respond to Fox Business' request for comment. 

Fox News’ Julius Young and Breck Dumas contributed to this report.