Accountability Conceptions and Federalism Tales: Disney’s Wonderful World?

Richard Foglesong’s Married to the Mouse: Walt Disney World and Orlando, may not offer the thrills of an entertainment park, but it is an uncommonly good read. In a book focused on approximately four decades of Disney’s interactions with Orlando and state officials, political scientist Foglesong tells the tale of how Walt Disney ended up locating his new East Coast entertainment park in Orlando, Florida and what happened in subsequent government-Disney company interactions. Using chapter headings based on stages in a personal relationship’s progression (“Serendipity” to “Seduction” through “Marriage,” and ultimately, after interim stages, “Therapy”), Foglesong shows that while the relationship had its birth in a mutual desire for economic growth, the government-Disney relationship was also dynamic and at times unpredictable. This work is likely to influence debates on subjects as diverse as federalism, land use, state and local government, public choice, deregulation and privatization of government functions. Compared to most legal scholarship exploring these subjects, political scientist Foglesong’s technique is unusual. Foglesong actually conducted substantial documentary research into the Disney-Orlando story and interviewed many of the key players. Weaving in the fruits of this document review and interview process, the book presents a nuanced picture of this increasingly complex and ultimately souring forty year relationship between an economic powerhouse and its less sophisticated local and state government and business counterparts. Orlando granted Disney substantial governmental authority, thus making the company a rarity as both the predominant business in a city and, in part, its own government. To an extent perhaps unparalleled within the United States, Disney succeeded in controlling both market choices and governmental issues within its approximately forty square mile kingdom.