|By Keith Mahne|
The day was August 6th, 1970, Disneyland was being temporarily removed of its slogan “The Happiest Place on Earth” when it was taken over by a group of long haired, radicals known as Yippies. Why was Disneyland chosen by this group of young protesters to rise up against the establishment? How did Disneyland prepare for this invasion? Let's find out in today's new article...
The first thing you may be asking yourself is “What the heck is a Yippie?" A yippie was a member of the Youth International Party, an anti-authoritarian extension of the anti-Vietnam movement known for dramatic outings taking place in large numbers in the name of political activism. But why was Disneyland their target in August of 1970...
Energized by the big name counterculture revolutionaries of their time, the Yippies decided to come together and storm the land of magic and monorails in a protest of government policies and free speech. Their primary goal was to bring attention to the evils of capitalism and the ongoing war overseas. They also weren't real happy about Disney's strict dress code policies imposed by Disneyland in response to the turbulent counterculture that sprung up across the country in the late sixties. Interestingly enough, up until the late 1960s, long-haired male visitors to Disneyland were stopped at the park gates by cast members who politely informed the these guests that they did not meet the standards of Disneyland's "unwritten" dress code and therefore would not be allowed to enter the park. These protested dress codes (banning long hair, mini skirts, and young men with beards) had now been inactive by the time the Yippies decided to invade.
A few days prior to the Yippie invasion, flyers were handed out across the area by local Yippie leaders David Sacks and Michael Dale advertising the first “Yippie Pow Wow” was going be taking place at Disneyland. A list of activities that were planned for the day included a “Black Panther Hot Breakfast” at the Aunt Jemima Pancake House, a liberation of Minnie Mouse from her male oppressors in Fantasyland, a “Self Defense Collective” at the Frontierland Shooting Gallery, and a 3pm barbecue of Porky Pig (who, of course, is not a Disney character). Reports on the number of flyers passed out vary by source with 100,000 being reported by most authorities.
Disney got wind and began preparing for the oncoming “invasion” by asking the Orange County Police Department to be on hand. When the officers showed up before the park opening, they were decked out in full riot gear. An overreaction, to be sure, but they had good reason. 200,000 of the rebellious youths were expected to show up, an extremely high number that tends to scare local authorities. In the end, however, only about 200 came to the park that day. David Sacks was later quoted as saying, “Of the 200 quote “Yippies“, I'd say 100 of 'em were just freaks who were really apolitical but thought it would be fun to come to Disneyland and trip around that day”. 25,000 regular guests were also in attendance.
As they made their way into the park, the Yippies were involved in argumentative altercations with regular guests, which Disney cast members and security handled themselves without calling in the police who were on standby behind the shops on Main Street. For the most part the Yippies were initially harmless - smoking marijuana on attractions, climbing the mast of the Chicken of the Sea pirate ship, and scaring the more conservative regular guests with their generally non-conservative behavior and appearance. As the day wore on, however, the Yippies made their way to Tom Sawyer Island, where they “captured“ Castle Rock, raising a Viet Cong flag while getting stoned .
Things really got interesting after the activists made their way off the island, marching down Main Street, singing The Mickey Mouse March along with “We Are Marching To Cambodia” while weaving in and out of the Main Street Marching Band. When they got to the City Hall, one of the Yippies decided to raise a red and black flag with a pot leaf on the flagpole beside the American flag. This riled up the regular guests who had come to the park for a day of Disneyland fun.
The regular guests started singing “God Bless America” in retaliation to the Yippie activities, with some of the guests trying to start physical fights with the long haired youths. One of the guests started to take down the Yippie pot flag and the Yippies started to take down the American flag. Fights broke out, and the police came out from behind Main Street to move the Yippies out of the park. Disney officials declared the park closed at 7pm, the first time the park ever closed early in the history of its operation.
Rather than leaving the park, the Yippies dispersed throughout the park, forcing the police and Disney officials to start clearing the park section by section. The last of the Yippies were cleared hours later, leading to even more scuffles in the parking lot and at the Disneyland Hotel.
As a result of the Yippie invasion, Disneyland reinstated a new dress code they maintained for many years, barring long haired men and anyone else they felt embodied the hippy lifestyle from entering the theme park. The dress code is, of course, no longer in place. August 6th, 1970 will always live in infamy as the day Disneyland was invaded by the Yippies.
Keith Michael Mahne is the owner and editor of Disney Avenue and the host of the Disney Avenue Podcast. He has made countless trips to the Walt Disney World resort since his first trip in 1989 at the age of four.
Keith has a strong passion and respect for Walt Disney, the parks and resorts, and the men and women who help create them. He started Disney Avenue as a way to inform and entertain readers and to repay all those who make dreams come true every day.