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8 Things Disney Parks Have Banned

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by Alvin Ward

Disneyland may be the Happiest Place on Earth, but don't think that means you can just waltz in and do whatever you want. In fact, Mickey Mouse's theme parks have banned quite a few things over the years. Here are just a few of the things on which the Mouse has dropped his hammer.

1. Long Hair

Until the late 1960s, men could either have flowing locks or enjoy Adventureland, but they definitely couldn't do both. According to Snopes, if a long-haired fellow tried to buy a ticket, a cast member would discreetly and politely inform the man that his hairdo didn't jive with the park's unwritten dress code before escorting him from the park.

2. Facial Hair

It's tough to find a picture of Walt Disney without a mustache, but for decades it was even tougher to find a Disney employee who had a 'stache of his own. Starting in 1957, workers at Disney parks were not allowed to have long hair, grow beards, or wear mustaches. (The underlying logic was that park patrons wouldn't want to buy a $9 soda from some filthy bearded hippie or mustachioed Snidely Whiplash type.)

In 2000, Disney was having trouble drumming up enough manpower to staff its parks, so it relaxed the facial hair ban. Employees were finally allowed to grow mustaches, provided they kept them trimmed and groomed. Beards didn't fare so well, though; they stayed on the forbidden list.

3. Blake Lively

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How could anyone not like the cute-as-a-button star of Gossip Girl? Disneyland apparently wasn't always amused with Lively's pre-fame antics. According to Lively, when she was six, she and her older brother used the old put-hairspray-on-a-friend's-readmission-hand-stamp-to-transfer-the-stamp-to-their-own-skin trick. It would have been the perfect crime, except security nabbed the Lively kids right as they went through the park's turnstiles and slapped the pair with a one-year ban.

4. Florida State Football Recruits

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In June 2007, four Florida State football recruits met up for a little bit of fun. Instead of engaging in any of the myriad nefarious acts a group of 18-year-old males are known to favor, the players decided to go to Disney World, which seemed like the very last place in the world they could get into any trouble. Wrong. Park officials approached the men, all of whom were African-American, while they hung out in Downtown Disney and ejected them from the park for violating its anti-loitering rules. Security also hit the players with a lifetime ban from the park in a move that many Disney critics claimed smacked of racial profiling.

5. Costumes

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You may want to dress up like Jack Sparrow for a day of riding Pirates of the Caribbean, but if you're older than nine, forget it. Disney bans any costumes and masks on anyone who's ten or older. Also listed on Disney's park dress code: "Makeup that could be construed as part of a costume." So go easy on the eye shadow—the fashion police might decide you're shooting for a 19th-century harlot look and give you the heave-ho.

Similarly, the dress code bans "clothing that accentuates or draws attention to private areas," a well meaning, if oddly phrased, choice. Here's hoping Disney starts handing out unisex burlap smocks at the park gates to avoid any potentially accentuated private areas. [Image courtesy of reader Christopher Schwarz.]

6. Gallows

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In early 2008, upstart English punk band Gallows was all set to open for Social Distortion at a gig at the House of Blues at Disneyland. The bill seemed like a good way to get exposure for a band that was starting to catch on stateside—or it did until Disney officials actually stopped to listen to Gallows' debut record, Orchestra of Wolves. Once Disney brass heard Gallows' tunes, they nixed the show due to the band's occasionally offensive lyrical content.

While it seems odd to get upset at a punk band for being abrasive, Disney's move wasn't unprecedented. Just a few months earlier, the company had banned the metal band Machine Head from performing at the House of Blues for similar reasons.

7. Kids

Kids banned by Disney? You bet. In January 2008, Disney announced that children under the age of 10 would no longer be allowed to dine at Victoria & Albert's, the ritziest restaurant at Disney World's Grand Floridian Spa and Resort. The move made news, but Disney officials claimed that the AAA five-diamond-rated restaurant didn't attract that many children in the first place. In addition to being pricey, Victoria & Albert's only offered a fixed-price menu with kid-unfriendly offerings like caviar, so the restaurant only catered to a handful of young diners each year.

8. Segways

GOB Bluth is going to be in quite a bind if he ever tries to ride his Segway into Disneyland. The company bans Segways from its parks, ostensibly because it's tough to balance safety issues with the potential for having a fleet of two-wheeled vehicles rolling around the grounds.

The trouble here, though, is that a lot of disabled people use Segways in lieu of wheelchairs. These folks were understandably peeved that they couldn't visit the parks using their preferred mode of transportation, and several of them filed lawsuits. So far it's been tough for the Segway riders to get Disney to budge; earlier this fall, a federal judge threw out a class action lawsuit brought against Disney by Segway devotees. The ruling left an opening for further legal action, though, so this court battle may not be over yet.

Readers have brought up two other things that might not be welcome in Disney parks: Nikita Khrushchev and bubble gum. Alvin has added those stories...

Nikita Khrushchev?

Disneyland as a battleground for the Cold War? Believe it or not, that's exactly what it became in 1959. That year, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev spent 11 days visiting the United States. He spent one day of the trip in Los Angeles, and the fierce orator wanted to see Disneyland. However, the LAPD and the rest of Khrushchev's security detail were worried about his safety during such a trip, so they nixed the idea.

Khrushchev accepted the news with characteristic poise, which is to say he exploded. He ranted, "And I say, I would very much like to go and see Disneyland. But then, we cannot guarantee your security, they say. Then what must I do? Commit suicide? What is it? Is there an epidemic of cholera there or something? Or have gangsters taken hold of the place that can destroy me?"

Gum?

Want to chomp on some gum while you're standing in line at a Disney park? You'll have to bring it with you from home. In an effort to keep chewed gum from being stuck all over the parks, none of the shops in any Disney theme park sells gum. Supposedly this innovation came from Walt Disney himself, who wanted to make sure that his guests could enjoy their visits without getting gum stuck to their shoes.

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The Secret to the World's Most Comfortable Bed Might Be Yak Hair
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Savoir Beds laughs at your unspooling mail-order mattresses and their promises of ultimate comfort. The UK-based company has teamed with London's Savoy Hotel to offer what they’ve declared is one of the most luxurious nights of sleep you’ll ever experience. 

What do they have that everyone else lacks? About eight pounds of Mongolian yak hair.

The elegantly-named Savoir No. 1 Khangai Limited Edition is part of the hotel’s elite Royal Suite accommodations. For $1845 a night, guests can sink into the mattress with a topper stuffed full of yak hair from Khangai, Mongolia. Hand-combed and with heat-dispensing properties, it takes 40 yaks to make one topper. In a press release, collaborator and yarn specialist Tengri claims it “transcends all levels of comfort currently available.”

Visitors opting for such deluxe amenities also have access to a hair stylist, butler, chef, and a Rolls-Royce with a driver.

Savoir Beds has entered into a fair-share partnership with the farmers, who receive an equitable wage in exchange for the fibers, which are said to be softer than cashmere. If you’d prefer to luxuriate like that every night, the purchase price for the bed is $93,000. Purchased separately, the topper is $17,400. Act soon, as only 50 of the beds will be made available each year. 

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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Fart Gallery: A Novel History of Spencer Gifts
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When U.S. Army Corps bombardier Max Spencer Adler was shot down over Europe and imprisoned by the Nazis during World War II, it’s not likely he dreamed of one day becoming the czar of penis-shaped lollipops and lava lamps. But when Adler became a free man, he decided to capitalize on a booming post-war economy by doing exactly that—pursuing a career as the head of a gag gift mail-order empire that would eventually stretch across 600 retail locations and become a rite of passage for mall-trekking teens in the 1980s and 1990s.

To sneak into a Spencer Gifts store against your parents' wishes and revel in its array of tacky novelties and adult toys felt a little like getting away with something. Glowing with lasers and stuffed with Halloween masks, the layout always had something interesting within arm’s reach. But stocking the stores with such provocations sometimes carried consequences.

A row of lava lamps on display at Spencer Gifts
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Returning from the war, Adler sensed a wave of relief running through the general population. Goods no longer had to be rationed, and toy factories could return to making nonessential items. The guilt of spending time or money on frivolous items was disappearing.

With his brother Harry, Adler started Spencer Gifts as a mail-order business in 1947. Their catalog, which became an immediate success, was populated with items like do-it-yourself backyard skating rinks and cotton candy makers [PDF]—items no one really needed but were inexpensive enough to indulge in. In some ways, the Spencer catalogs resembled the mail-order comic ads promising X-ray glasses and undersea fish kingdoms. Instead of kids, Adler was targeting the deeper pockets of adults.

Bolstered by that early success, Adler moved into a curious category: live animals. He had small donkeys transported from Mexico and marketed them as the new trend in domestic pets. LIFE magazine took note of the fad in 1954, observing the $85 burros, being sold at a clip of 40 a day, “except for stubbornness, are very placid.”

Burro fever foreshadowed the direction of Spencer’s in the years to come. The Adlers opened their first physical location—minus livestock—in Cherry Hill, New Jersey in 1963, expanding on their notion to peddle unique gift items like the Reduce-Eze girdle, which promised to shave inches off the wearer’s stomach. That claim caught the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, which chastised the company for advertising the device could reduce body weight without exercise [PDF]. The FTC also took them to task for implying their jewelry contained precious metals [PDF] when the items did not.

Offending the FTC aside, Spencer’s did a brisk enough business to garner the attention of California-based entertainment company Music Corporation of America, Inc. (MCA), which purchased the brand and proceeded to expand it in the rapidly growing number of malls across the country in the 1970s and 1980s. (The mail order business closed in 1990.)

Brick and mortar retail was ideal for their inventory, which encouraged perusal, store demonstrations, and roving bands of giggling teenagers. The company wanted its stores to capture foot traffic by stuffing its aisles with items that had a look-at-this factor—a novelty that invited someone to pick it up and show it to a friend. When executives saw specific categories taking off, they “Spencerized,” or amalgamated them. When there was a resurgence of interest in Rubik’s Cubes and merchandise from the 1983 Al Pacino film Scarface, visitors were soon greeted in stores by stacks of Scarface-themed Rubik’s Cubes.

Mike Mozart via Flickr

Apart from its busy aesthetic—“like the stage from an old Poison video,” as one journalist put it—Spencer's was also known for its inventory of risqué adult novelty items. Pole-dancing kits and sex-themed card games occupied a portion of the store’s layout. The toys captured a demographic that might have been too embarrassed to visit a dedicated adult store but felt that browsing in a mall was harmless.

Sometimes, the store’s blasé attitude toward stocking such items drew critical attention. In 2010, police in Rapid City, South Dakota seized hundreds of items because Spencer's had failed to register as an “adult-oriented business,” something the city ordinance required. As far back as the 1980s, parents in various locales had complained that suggestive material was viewable by minors. In 2008, ABC news affiliate WTVD in Durham, North Carolina dispatched two teenage girls with hidden cameras to see what they would be allowed to buy. While they were shooed away from a back-of-store display, they were able to purchase “two toy rabbits that vibrate, moan, and simulate sex” as well as a penis-shaped necklace.

As a possible consequence of the internet, there are fewer incidences of parental outrage directed at Spencer’s these days. And despite the general downturn of both malls and retail shopping, the company bolsters its bottom line with the seasonal arrival of Spirit Halloween, a pop-up store specializing in costumes. Despite only being open two months out of the year, their Spirit locations contribute to roughly half of Spencer's $250 million in annual revenue.

Today, the chain’s 650 stores remain a source for impulse shopping. They still occasionally court controversy over items that appear to stereotype the Irish as drunken oafs or other inflammatory merchandise. With traditional mall locations expected to shrink by as much as 25 percent over the next five years, it’s not quite clear whether their assortment of novelties will continue to have a large retail footprint. But so long as demand exists for fake poop, fart sprays, and penis ring toss kits, Spencer’s will probably have a home.

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