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The Yippie Invasion of Disneyland!
On August 6th, 1970, Disneyland, the famous theme park founded by animation pioneer and entertainment mogul Walt Disney, was temporarily robbed of its title “The Happiest Place on Earth” when it was invaded by a group of long haired, pot smoking radicals known as Yippies.
The first thing you’re probably asking yourself is “What the hell is a Yippie? Is it like a hippy? A yuppie?”
The Yippies were members of the Youth International Party, an anti-authoritarian offshoot of the broader anti Vietnam movement known for theatrical pranks in the name of political activism.
But why were they there?
Inspired by counterculture revolutionaries like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, the Yippies stormed the land of fairy tales and overpriced churros in general protest of the “establishment”. They wanted to bring attention to the evils of capitalism and the ongoing war overseas. They also wanted Disney to know how they felt about dress code policies imposed by Disneyland in response to the turbulent counterculture that sprung up across the country in the late sixties. Ironically, the protested dress codes (banning long hair, mini skirts, and young men with beards) were already inactive by the time the Yippies decided to invade.
Days before, flyers were distributed across the area by local Yippie leaders David Sacks and Michael Dale advertising the first “Yippie Pow Wow”. A list of activities supposedly going to take place 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 distributed vary by source (as do so many things from such hazy days) with 100,000 being reported by most authorities.
Disney prepared 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.
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Upon gaining entrance to 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 innocuous - 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.
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