Illustration by Bob AulDisneyland has Gay Day. Disneyland has Raver Day. Disneyland had Yippie Day once, in 1970—it was fun, at least till the cops showed up in riot gear. We're pretty sure Disneyland has also had Sex Worker Day, Vegan Day, Rick Springfield Universal Fan Club Day, Trekkie Day, Trannie Day and Plushie/Furrie Day—all unsanctioned and unknown by the park brass, naturally, but nonetheless, dates when life's variant subcultures can romp around the Magic Kingdom and feel that they've taken over the place.
This Sunday, it's the Goths' turn.
For the fifth year in a row, Disneyland will be creeping with mobs of black-clad death-rocker types for what organizers officially bill as Bats Day in the Fun Park, but what most people just call Goth Day.
This isn't some dinky operation, either. The guy who organizes it all is 32-year-old LA graphic artist Noah Korda, who tells us that Bats Day, in its short lifespan, has gotten so big that Goths from England, Germany, Puerto Rico and New Zealand fly out for it, so mega that the name Bats Day in the Fun Park had to be trademarked this year on account of a renegade band of Arizona Goths who tried to purloin it for themselves, the shits. Goths may be a morose breed, but damn if they aren't savvy marketers.
So why would a tribe of people largely typecast as gloomy, depressed, trench coat-wearing, Bauhaus-worshipping creatures of the night want to spend a day at the Happiest Place on Earth? The sheer irony of it all, for one thing. Plus the always welcome chance to make the eyes of non-Goths bug out: one year, Korda managed to get eight boats on the It's a Small World ride and an entire Davy Crockett Explorer Canoe filled with Goths.
"It's just a big oxymoron," says Korda. "It started out in 1999 as kind of a farce—here's this mopey group of people showing up where all this happiness and innocence is supposed to be. But it's gotten so popular partly because I don't think anyone's ever put this much work into doing something for this group of people before."
The first Bats Day was started by a group of friends who ran the monthly Release the Bats (hence, the name) Goth club at Long Beach's Que Sera.
"The original plan was just to go to Disneyland and drop acid," Korda says. "I helped create fliers and posters for it, and we got 80 or 90 people that first year. Then we got a website and started posting photos up, and that's when it really started taking off."
Bats Day 2002 drew about 550 people and Spin Magazine, which ran a good-sized (if snarky) article about it. This year will be Bats Day's best-attended yet, almost certain to draw close to (if not more than) 1,000 Siouxsie Sioux/Robert Smith look-alikes who'll converge at predetermined times during the day to pose for group photos in front of the Haunted Mansion (of course) and Sleeping Beauty's Castle, partake in the meet-and-greet dinner the night before, and strut down the so-clean-you-could-lick-it asphalt of Main Street USA decked out in their finest, blackest, Gothiest wardrobe (as long as it complies with the D-Land dress code—did you know that men criminally cannot wear fishnet stockings in Disneyland?). Korda says that Goth parents are even starting to bring their Goth kids with them.
And maybe, Korda suggests, Disney might be starting to tap into the Goth market. Sorta.
"Disney has such a weird dark side, and people in our scene have always gravitated toward the darker, villainous characters—the Wicked Queen, the Cheshire Cat, Cruella De Vil. Now with the Pirates of the Caribbean movie, I think that success is going to open up a whole new side of Disney, to where they'll do more creepy things. I don't have high hopes at all for this Haunted Mansion movie coming out later this year—c'mon, Eddie Murphy?—but I think they're starting to see a darker side of things and in their films. It took them long enough to realize that Nightmare Before Christmas had this huge cult following, and now they redecorate the Haunted Mansion around it every October."
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Really then, wouldn't Halloween—the Goth national holiday!—be the more apropos time for Bats Day instead of dreadfully sweaty August, when heavy black clothes may not exactly be the wisest of fashion choices? Yeah, but Korda says Bats Day is designed for one of the last August Sundays for good reason—it's usually the final day of the park's summer schedule, meaning a midnight closing time, and the first non-summer blackout day for Disneyland annual passport holders. Apparently a lot of Goths have annual passports, which make us think that SoCal Goths have got to be some of the perkiest Goths in the world.
And Korda, in an odd, it's-a-world-of-laughter-a-world-of-cheer kind of way, agrees.
"It's the one time when everyone can get together, that one day of the year when Goth people can have a good time and enjoy themselves and not take themselves too seriously. There are some who come to Bats Day who still take themselves very seriously, but that's all right."
Bats Day in the Fun Park happens at Disneyland Sunday. For more info, go to www.batsday.net.