Now, for many people, simply visiting Disneyland is just not enough. There is a growing trend, visible to Disneyland guests, to become part of a club whose purpose is to unite people of all different backgrounds who share a bountiful love for everything Disney.
Strolling through the Orange County, California iconic theme park, it is becoming increasing clear that like-minded guests are joining forces to show their pride in their hobby along with their love of Disney. These people wear denim jackets embroidered with the name of their particular club. Those names usually take their cue from specific places in the park, like “The Jungle Cruisers,” named after a popular ride; or the “Main Street Elite,” named after the crowded thoroughfare all visitors must through to get to the rest of the park. Other names are more general winks at Disney icons, like the “Hidden Mickeys” and “Walt’s Misfits.”
Disneyland has traditionally not been known before for its avant garde atmosphere. But strangely, these clubs seem to be defying, while at the same time honoring, the message of Disneyland, which has, at least until the advent of these groups, been the apple pie wholesomeness of the ‘American Way.’ In addition to the denim vests and jackets, the gang, I mean club members, nurture a unique look which could include body piercing, tattoos, pompadours, or other outward manifestation that Walt himself would probably not approve of. Their look is “unconventional” while Disneyland is probably the birthplace and capital of conventionality.
So what’s going on here? One member of the Main Street Elite, L. Aggro Harrington explained,
“We wanted to meet people who wanted to go to the park as much as we did. People who were like us: young parents into movies, music, fashion, tattoos and body mods.”
The clubs appear to be open and tolerant. The few requirements for membership include respect for other members, other clubs, and Disneyland itself. They don’t seem to be exclusive or clique-y: members can come from any age group, gender, or even sexual orientation. Yet, there are many Disneyland guests or are suspicious of these clubs, which feel like a kind of gang to them.
“They definitely make other guests uncomfortable when they’re groups of younger ones,” explains a Disney cast member who works in Fantasyland and Toontown. “But there are also families that come. [The clubs] have gotten so big that they have every kind of guest you can imagine now.”
Despite frightening rumors of typical gang behavior such as turf wars and the like, talking to a club member or two and it is clear there is nothing frightening or dangerous here. The bottom line for this new breed of gang member is that it’s all about friendship, having fun at Disneyland, and looking ‘cool’ while you’re doing it. Leaders of the clubs insist that they are highly appreciative of all the other clubs popping up and it’s not about competition or exclusiveness. How could it be and still be Disney?