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8 Unofficial Special Event Days at Disney

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While there are plenty of official special event days at Disney theme parks to let you meet like-minded people, they don't cater to every niche audience. So several groups have taken matters into their own hands and organized unofficial Disney event days. Here are a few you might want to attend (or avoid).

1. Dapper Day – February 20, 2011 (2012 TBA)

[Image courtesy of DapperDay.com.]

When the “Imagineers” were planning Disneyland in the 1950s, the concept artists always envisioned families at the park dressed in their Sunday best – men wore suits, women wore skirts, and kids were seen running to the next attraction in dress shoes. The idea was that Disneyland was high-class entertainment; like a night at the theater, you wouldn't wear just anything to a day at Disneyland. (Of course if you've ever been to the park, you'll know that most people are dressed like they're going to the gym, not the opera.)

In an effort to bring back the original vision of the artists, designer Justin Jorgensen created Dapper Day, which asked that guests come to Disneyland dressed in mid-20th Century semi-formal attire. Considering 2011 was the first year, a small but respectable group of about 30 people dressed for the occasion. They looked like extras in Mad Men. The Dappers hung out at appropriately old timey locations like Main Street and the Mark Twain Riverboat before settling in at the Golden Vine Winery. Recently, Jorgensen said he's thinking about adding a second Dapper Day this summer, as well as expanding the event to Disney World.

2. Gay Days – May 31–June 6, 2011 & September 30–October 2, 2011

In 1991, Orlando native Doug Swallow thought it would be fun to get some of his fellow gay friends together for a day at Disney World. Thinking others might want to join them, he decided to open it up to anyone in the gay community, with the stipulation that they “wear red and be seen.” News of the event spread through the community quickly, but Swallow was still only expecting 15 or 20 people to show up. Instead, on June 1, 1991, around 1,500 gays and lesbians attended the very first “Gay Day.”

Today, “Gay Days” fills an entire week in June, and has also expanded to Disneyland for the first weekend of October. With upwards of 150,000 people in red shirts from all over the world in Orlando, and around 30,000 for the weekend in Anaheim, Gay Days have become a true vacation destination for those in the LGBT community. Both events naturally include trips to the park, but there are parties hosted in the hotels, restaurants, bars, and other non-Disney tourist destinations in the area, helping bring in an estimated $100 million to Orlando's economy every year.

3. Star Wars Day – June 26, 2011

If you're a Star Wars fan, you're probably well aware of Disney's Star Wars Weekends that take place every year in May and June. There's a parade that includes Darth Vader, Boba Fett, and Stormtroopers, and plenty of other fun things to do, all inspired by a story from a galaxy far, far away.

Unfortunately, for fans living in California, Star Wars Weekends are only at Disney World, not Disneyland. In protest, a group got together in 2005 and started their own Star Wars Day at Disneyland. While fanboys and girls won't get to meet Darth Vader (no costumes are allowed in the park), they can proudly wear their favorite Star Wars t-shirts to show their solidarity and meet up for lunch at the Pizza Port. There's a group photo at 2:00 in front of Cinderella's Castle (a popular fan day destination). To commemorate your attendance, there's an official Star Wars Day t-shirt for sale, with all proceeds going to The American Cancer Society.

4. Harry Potter Day – November 6, 2011

Most fan days are a simple get-together with little more than a planned meet-up for a group photo. But since 2006, the folks behind Harry Potter Day at Disneyland go above and beyond to give their 250 round eyeglass-wearing attendees an experience they won't soon forget.

For 2010's “Potter at the Park,” fans were split into houses and then ventured out on a park-wide scavenger hunt, filled with characters dressed in appropriately Potterish clothes who helped the teams along the way. The first team to find all the “horcruxes” won a special medallion emblazoned with the event's logo – a Disneyfication of the Death Eater tattoo. If you can't make it to Disneyland in November, the group also has “Potter Lite” days as well. [Image courtesy of Harry Potter Day at Disneyland!]

5. Raver Day – June 11, 2011 (Winter 2011 TBA)

Raves might have hit their peak in popularity a while ago, but there's still a dedicated culture out there that loves to dress in colorful clothes, collect “kandi” bracelets, and dance the night away amidst the neon shine of glowsticks. Since the late-1990s, ravers have been gathering at Disneyland for the occasional Raver Day, but it was never a very organized event. That is until 2001, when a small group of fans calling themselves “Magic in the Making” took over promotion, helping to expand the event to two days - one in the spring and another in the winter – with attendance now reaching over 1,000 people for each day.

6. Bats Day – May 6-8, 2011

The idea of Goth fans at the Happiest Place on Earth might seem like a contradiction, but Bats Day, the annual meeting of Goth and Industrial fans, has been happening at Disney World since 1999. Started by a few Goth night clubs, the first Bats Day only had about 80 people in attendance, but it now welcomes over 1,000 black-clad fans every year. The one-day event has since been extended into a full weekend's worth of dark fun in and out of the park, including a Black Market (a place to buy spooky stuff), and, new for 2011, a costume ball where guests are required to dress as the recently departed.

7. TRON Fan Day – April 8, 2012

The newest unofficial day is TRON Fan Day, the first of which was held on April 10, 2010. Created by the folks over at pop culture news site Nuke the Fridge, the event was created to celebrate the release of TRON:Legacy on Blu-ray/DVD. Users wore “Flynn Lives” t-shirts, carried Identity Discs, and posed for a few group shots in front of Cinderella's Castle and the new ElecTRONica dance club. There's already one in the works for 2012, so hop on the grid and book your plane tickets now. [Image courtesy of Dave Lucchesi.]

8. Yippy Day – August 6, 1970

While these unofficial Disney Days generally go off without a hitch, August 6, 1970, didn't go quite so smoothly. On that day, 300 Yippies — members of the Youth International Party, a radical branch of the anti-Vietnam War movement — converged on Disneyland to “liberate Minne Mouse,” as well as protest the park's longstanding, unwritten policy against letting long-haired people inside (a policy that had, ironically, been quietly relaxed shortly before the day of the invasion).

Previously, 3,000 Yippies had successfully taken over New York's Grand Central Station. The group had been a major part of the 1968 Democratic Convention protests (three of the Chicago Seven were Yippies), and would later effectively shut down the United State government during 1971's May Day Protests. So when Disneyland officials heard the group was planning to protest at the park, they took the threat seriously. However, the high level of mayhem they expected was never realized, as only about 200 people showed up, most of whom were just there to tag along for fun rather than to support any kind of serious political agenda.

Still, the group caused a small amount of trouble by climbing on some of the displays and smoking pot at concerts. The Yippies also took over Tom Sawyer's Island, where they reportedly raised the Viet Cong flag (other reports say it was the Yippies' “New Nation” flag), before passing around joints to celebrate their “victory.” [Image courtesy of BrandTech News.]

The Yippies also infiltrated the parade on Main Street, singing a song about Ho Chi Minh, which was quickly drowned out when everyone else started to sing “God Bless America.” By this time, people who were not part of the invasion started to get fed up – and fought back. Reportedly, many Yippies were hit with purses, cameras, and good old fashioned fists, as park-goers became frustrated that their vacation was being ruined. During a scuffle, a park security guard was injured, and that was the last straw; to protect everyone, the park officials played their trump card.

Because Disneyland administrators knew about the invasion in advance, hundreds of police officers from Anaheim and the surrounding county were already at the park that day, hiding in the back lot behind Main Street, equipped with batons, helmets, and riot shields. On request, the police came streaming out into the park to get things under control. Many of the Yippies scattered, so the only thing the police could do was shut the park down five hours early and clear it out section by section.

Shortly after, the “No Long Hair” policy was reinstated.
** ** ** **
Have you ever been to an unofficial fan day at Disney? Do you know of one that we missed? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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10 Memorable Neil deGrasse Tyson Quotes
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Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Neil deGrasse Tyson is America's preeminent badass astrophysicist. He's a passionate advocate for science, NASA, and education. He's also well-known for a little incident involving Pluto. And the man holds nearly 20 honorary doctorates (in addition to his real one). In honor of his 59th birthday, here are 10 of our favorite Neil deGrasse Tyson quotes.

1. ON SCIENCE

"The good thing about science is that it's true whether or not you believe in it."
—From Real Time with Bill Maher.

2. ON NASA FUNDING

"As a fraction of your tax dollar today, what is the total cost of all spaceborne telescopes, planetary probes, the rovers on Mars, the International Space Station, the space shuttle, telescopes yet to orbit, and missions yet to fly?' Answer: one-half of one percent of each tax dollar. Half a penny. I’d prefer it were more: perhaps two cents on the dollar. Even during the storied Apollo era, peak NASA spending amounted to little more than four cents on the tax dollar." 
—From Space Chronicles

3. ON GOD AND HURRICANES

"Once upon a time, people identified the god Neptune as the source of storms at sea. Today we call these storms hurricanes ... The only people who still call hurricanes acts of God are the people who write insurance forms."
—From Death by Black Hole

4. ON THE BENEFITS OF TECHNOLOGY INVENTED FOR USE IN SPACE

"Countless women are alive today because of ideas stimulated by a design flaw in the Hubble Space Telescope." (Editor's note: technology used to repair the Hubble Space Telescope's optical problems led to improved technology for breast cancer detection.)
—From Space Chronicles

5. ON THE DEMOTION OF PLUTO FROM PLANET STATUS 


PBS

"I knew Pluto was popular among elementary schoolkids, but I had no idea they would mobilize into a 'Save Pluto' campaign. I now have a drawer full of hate letters from hundreds of elementary schoolchildren (with supportive cover letters from their science teachers) pleading with me to reverse my stance on Pluto. The file includes a photograph of the entire third grade of a school posing on their front steps and holding up a banner proclaiming, 'Dr. Tyson—Pluto is a Planet!'"
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

6. ON JAMES CAMERON'S TITANIC

"In [Titanic], the stars above the ship bear no correspondence to any constellations in a real sky. Worse yet, while the heroine bobs ... we are treated to her view of this Hollywood sky—one where the stars on the right half of the scene trace the mirror image of the stars in the left half. How lazy can you get?"
—From Death by Black Hole

7. ON DEATH BY ASTEROID

"On Friday the 13th, April 2029, an asteroid large enough to fill the Rose Bowl as though it were an egg cup will fly so close to Earth that it will dip below the altitude of our communication satellites. We did not name this asteroid Bambi. Instead, we named it Apophis, after the Egyptian god of darkness and death."
—From Space Chronicles

8. ON THE MOTIVATIONS BEHIND AMERICA'S MOONSHOT

"[L]et us not fool ourselves into thinking we went to the Moon because we are pioneers, or discoverers, or adventurers. We went to the Moon because it was the militaristically expedient thing to do."
—From The Sky Is Not the Limit

9. ON INTELLIGENT LIFE (OR THE LACK THEREOF)

Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html
Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life.
Read more at: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/n/neildegras615117.html

"Perhaps we've never been visited by aliens because they have looked upon Earth and decided there's no sign of intelligent life."

10. PRACTICAL ADVICE IN THE EVENT OF ALIEN CONTACT 

A still from Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Universal Studios

"[I]f an alien lands on your front lawn and extends an appendage as a gesture of greeting, before you get friendly, toss it an eightball. If the appendage explodes, then the alien was probably made of antimatter. If not, then you can proceed to take it to your leader."
—From Death by Black Hole

How Apple's '1984' Super Bowl Ad Was Almost Canceled

More than 30 years ago, Apple defined the Super Bowl commercial as a cultural phenomenon. Prior to Super Bowl XVIII, nobody watched the game "just for the commercials"—but one epic TV spot, directed by sci-fi legend Ridley Scott, changed all that. Read on for the inside story of the commercial that rocked the world of advertising, even though Apple's Board of Directors didn't want to run it at all.

THE AD

If you haven't seen it, here's a fuzzy YouTube version:

"WHY 1984 WON'T BE LIKE 1984"

The tagline "Why 1984 Won't Be Like '1984'" references George Orwell's 1949 novel 1984, which envisioned a dystopian future, controlled by a televised "Big Brother." The tagline was written by Brent Thomas and Steve Hayden of the ad firm Chiat\Day in 1982, and the pair tried to sell it to various companies (including Apple, for the Apple II computer) but were turned down repeatedly. When Steve Jobs heard the pitch in 1983, he was sold—he saw the Macintosh as a "revolutionary" product, and wanted advertising to match. Jobs saw IBM as Big Brother, and wanted to position Apple as the world's last chance to escape IBM's domination of the personal computer industry. The Mac was scheduled to launch in late January of 1984, a week after the Super Bowl. IBM already held the nickname "Big Blue," so the parallels, at least to Jobs, were too delicious to miss.

Thomas and Hayden wrote up the story of the ad: we see a world of mind-controlled, shuffling men all in gray, staring at a video screen showing the face of Big Brother droning on about "information purification directives." A lone woman clad in vibrant red shorts and a white tank-top (bearing a Mac logo) runs from riot police, dashing up an aisle towards Big Brother. Just before being snatched by the police, she flings a sledgehammer at Big Brother's screen, smashing him just after he intones "We shall prevail!" Big Brother's destruction frees the minds of the throng, who quite literally see the light, flooding their faces now that the screen is gone. A mere eight seconds before the one-minute ad concludes, a narrator briefly mentions the word "Macintosh," in a restatement of that original tagline: "On January 24th, Apple Computer will introduce Macintosh. And you'll see why 1984 won't be like '1984.'" An Apple logo is shown, and then we're out—back to the game.

In 1983, in a presentation about the Mac, Jobs introduced the ad to a cheering audience of Apple employees:

"... It is now 1984. It appears IBM wants it all. Apple is perceived to be the only hope to offer IBM a run for its money. Dealers, initially welcoming IBM with open arms, now fear an IBM-dominated and -controlled future. They are increasingly turning back to Apple as the only force that can ensure their future freedom. IBM wants it all and is aiming its guns on its last obstacle to industry control: Apple. Will Big Blue dominate the entire computer industry? The entire information age? Was George Orwell right about 1984?"

After seeing the ad for the first time, the Apple audience totally freaked out (jump to about the 5-minute mark to witness the riotous cheering).

SKINHEADS, A DISCUS THROWER, AND A SCI-FI DIRECTOR

Chiat\Day hired Ridley Scott, whose 1982 sci-fi film Blade Runner had the dystopian tone they were looking for (and Alien wasn't so bad either). Scott filmed the ad in London, using actual skinheads playing the mute bald men—they were paid $125 a day to sit and stare at Big Brother; those who still had hair were paid to shave their heads for the shoot. Anya Major, a discus thrower and actress, was cast as the woman with the sledgehammer largely because she was actually capable of wielding the thing.

Mac programmer Andy Hertzfeld wrote an Apple II program "to flash impressive looking numbers and graphs on [Big Brother's] screen," but it's unclear whether his program was used for the final film. The ad cost a shocking $900,000 to film, plus Apple booked two premium slots during the Super Bowl to air it—carrying an airtime cost of more than $1 million.

WHAT EXECUTIVES AT APPLE THOUGHT

Although Jobs and his marketing team (plus the assembled throng at his 1983 internal presentation) loved the ad, Apple's Board of Directors hated it. After seeing the ad for the first time, board member Mike Markkula suggested that Chiat\Day be fired, and the remainder of the board were similarly unimpressed. Then-CEO John Sculley recalled the reaction after the ad was screened for the group: "The others just looked at each other, dazed expressions on their faces ... Most of them felt it was the worst commercial they had ever seen. Not a single outside board member liked it." Sculley instructed Chiat\Day to sell off the Super Bowl airtime they had purchased, but Chiat\Day principal Jay Chiat quietly resisted. Chiat had purchased two slots—a 60-second slot in the third quarter to show the full ad, plus a 30-second slot later on to repeat an edited-down version. Chiat sold only the 30-second slot and claimed it was too late to sell the longer one. By disobeying his client's instructions, Chiat cemented Apple's place in advertising history.

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak heard that the ad was in trouble, he offered to pony up half the airtime costs himself, saying, "I asked how much it was going to cost, and [Steve Jobs] told me $800,000. I said, 'Well, I'll pay half of it if you will.' I figured it was a problem with the company justifying the expenditure. I thought an ad that was so great a piece of science fiction should have its chance to be seen."

But Woz didn't have to shell out the money; the executive team finally decided to run a 100-day advertising extravaganza for the Mac's launch, starting with the Super Bowl ad—after all, they had already paid to shoot it and were stuck with the airtime.

1984 - Big Brother

WHAT EVERYBODY ELSE THOUGHT

When the ad aired, controversy erupted—viewers either loved or hated the ad, and it spurred a wave of media coverage that involved news shows replaying the ad as part of covering it, leading to estimates of an additional $5 million in "free" airtime for the ad. All three national networks, plus countless local markets, ran news stories about the ad. "1984" become a cultural event, and served as a blueprint for future Apple product launches. The marketing logic was brilliantly simple: create an ad campaign that sparked controversy (for example, by insinuating that IBM was like Big Brother), and the media will cover your launch for free, amplifying the message.

The full ad famously ran once during the Super Bowl XVIII (on January 22, 1984), but it also ran the month prior—on December 31, 1983, TV station operator Tom Frank ran the ad on KMVT at the last possible time slot before midnight, in order to qualify for 1983's advertising awards.* (Any awards the ad won would mean more media coverage.) Apple paid to screen the ad in movie theaters before movie trailers, further heightening anticipation for the Mac launch. In addition to all that, the 30-second version was aired across the country after its debut on the Super Bowl.

Chiat\Day adman Steve Hayden recalled: "We ran a 30- second version of '1984' in the top 10 U.S. markets, plus, in an admittedly childish move, in an 11th market—Boca Raton, Florida, headquarters for IBM's PC division." Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld ended his remembrance of the ad by saying:

"A week after the Macintosh launch, Apple held its January board meeting. The Macintosh executive staff was invited to attend, not knowing what to expect. When the Mac people entered the room, everyone on the board rose and gave them a standing ovation, acknowledging that they were wrong about the commercial and congratulating the team for pulling off a fantastic launch.

Chiat\Day wanted the commercial to qualify for upcoming advertising awards, so they ran it once at 1 AM at a small television station in Twin Falls, Idaho, KMVT, on December 15, 1983 [incorrect; see below for an update on this -ed]. And sure enough it won just about every possible award, including best commercial of the decade. Twenty years later it's considered one of the most memorable television commercials ever made."

THE AWFUL 1985 FOLLOW-UP

A year later, Apple again employed Chiat\Day to make a blockbuster ad for their Macintosh Office product line, which was basically a file server, networking gear, and a laser printer. Directed by Ridley Scott's brother Tony, the new ad was called "Lemmings," and featured blindfolded businesspeople whistling an out-of-tune version of Snow White's "Heigh-Ho" as they followed each other off a cliff (referencing the myth of lemming suicide).

Jobs and Sculley didn't like the ad, but Chiat\Day convinced them to run it, pointing out that the board hadn't liked the last ad either. But unlike the rousing, empowering message of the "1984" ad, "Lemmings" directly insulted business customers who had already bought IBM computers. It was also weirdly boring—when it was aired at the Super Bowl (with Jobs and Sculley in attendance), nobody really reacted. The ad was a flop, and Apple even proposed running a printed apology in The Wall Street Journal. Jay Chiat shot back, saying that if Apple apologized, Chiat would buy an ad on the next page, apologizing for the apology. It was a mess:

20-YEAR ANNIVERSARY

In 2004, the ad was updated for the launch of the iPod. The only change was that the woman with the hammer was now listening to an iPod, which remained clipped to her belt as she ran. You can watch that version too:

FURTHER READING

Chiat\Day adman Lee Clow gave an interview about the ad, covering some of this material.

Check out Mac team member Andy Hertzfeld's excellent first-person account of the ad. A similar account (but with more from Jobs's point of view) can found in the Steve Jobs biography, and an even more in-depth account is in The Mac Bathroom Reader. The Mac Bathroom Reader is out of print; you can read an excerpt online, including QuickTime movies of the two versions of the ad, plus a behind-the-scenes video. Finally, you might enjoy this 2004 USA Today article about the ad, pointing out that ads for other computers (including Atari, Radio Shack, and IBM's new PCjr) also ran during that Super Bowl.

* = A Note on the Airing in 1983

Update: Thanks to Tom Frank for writing in to correct my earlier mis-statement about the first air date of this commercial. As you can see in his comment below, Hertzfeld's comments above (and the dates cited in other accounts I've seen) are incorrect. Stay tuned for an upcoming interview with Frank, in which we discuss what it was like running both "1984" and "Lemmings" before they were on the Super Bowl!

Update 2: You can read the story behind this post in Chris's book The Blogger Abides.

This post originally appeared in 2012.

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