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.
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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Mousecop on February 10, 2017:
I remember that day well. I was a Disneyland security officer assigned to the Main Gate that day. I had extensive experience working the gate enforcing the dress code from 1967-1972. And, yes they did have a dress code at that time...contrary to several emails I've read that said the dress code was created after Yippie Day.
LG on January 28, 2017:
I was one of the invading "Yippies", or rather a long-haired high school girl typical of that era. Actually, there WAS a dress code in place that day. I distinctly remember one young man being denied entrance because he had holes in his jeans. The guy, noticing they were letting in older men in Bermuda shorts, asked if he could get in if he cut his pants into shorts above his knees so there would be no more holes. The folks at the entrance said yes and let him in. I also recall that Disney at the time had rather racist hiring policies and that was another reason for the protest.
The Rat on September 30, 2014:
We were also there that day, visiting from the East Coast. I was pretty confused by it all, but I recall that my dad was less than pleased by the whole thing. Maybe because he was a WWII vet stationed in the Pacific when the bombs were dropped, which possibly could have saved his life.
gwh53 on April 27, 2013:
Having been there that day, it is and shall remain an historical moment and a sign of the issues at the time. While it did not change the political situation, as the War continued for a few more years, it still made a clear statement, that given the right motivation you can achieve anything.
Sami on February 25, 2012:
The Black Panthers invading a waffle house. I have never laughed harder.
JoceyPosse from Toronto on June 28, 2011:
I love a good (Disney) history lesson! Great hub!
Angie on July 15, 2010:
I was there that day! I was seven years old and with my Mom, Dad, older sister and younger brother. We were visiting from a small town in Tennessee. What an experience! Thanks so much for your post. I can't wait to share it with my sister and Dad.
William Johnson (author) from Texas on June 17, 2010:
Thanks for all the good luck wishes, everybody! Now, if I could just get my computer fixed so i can be back on here everyday...
Money Glitch from Texas on June 15, 2010:
Nice little history lesson here. Didn't know that the Yippies had an influence on Disney's dress code. However, sounds like probably concerns for an individual's rights is what changed the policy later on. Congrats on being selected as one of the HubNugget Wannabe's nominee. Good Luck to you!
shazwellyn on June 15, 2010:
It looks like I am a yippie then! Identity crisis solved! Thank you for an informative hub :)
Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on June 11, 2010:
This is your official announcement: Your hub is a Hubnugget Wannabe! Read the details by following this link: https://hubpages.com/hubnuggets10/hub/hubnuggets-g... Vote, vote and promote your hub. :) Congratulations and best of luck!
William Johnson (author) from Texas on May 18, 2010:
Thanks. I hope to write more on the lesser known stories from the Disney Parks soon. They're one of my obsessions.
Ben Evans on May 18, 2010:
That was an interesting article and was well written. Welcome to HP.
torimari from Pennsylvania on May 18, 2010:
Very entertaining and interesting read. :)
William Johnson (author) from Texas on May 15, 2010:
Thank you. So far, the forums have been very helpful.
K Partin from Garden City, Michigan on May 15, 2010:
Very good, and welcome to HP. This was very interesting and I commend you on your first hub well done. See you on the forums. K.
William Johnson (author) from Texas on May 15, 2010:
Thanks, Origin. I first hard this story when I worked for Disney in Florida. It's one of my favorite pieces of Disney lore.
Origin from Minneapolis on May 15, 2010:
Great article, I didn't know what a yippie was until now.