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Disneyland

"it's a small world"

June 1966

In 1964, Disney produced six attractions for the Chicago World's Fair in New York.

  • A tour through animatronic scenes of the history of the world, viewed from ride vehicles that looked like little red wagons (sponsored by Radio Flyer). Today, riders on the Disneyland Railroad can see the dinosaur scenes from this attraction (with anachronistic children's toys removed).
  • Ezekiel's Space Tour, a "realistic" (and moralistic) ride through space (sponsored by the Institute for Creationist Research). Some decades later, a much improved version was opened in Disneyland as Star Tours.
  • A big, round, electric building (sponsored by General Electric). This became Disneyland's Carousel of Progress, then America Sings, then An Empty Building, then Innoventions.
  • A singing, dancing, animatronic Abraham Lincoln (sponsored by the Ford Motor Company). A scaled down version of this was used for "Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln."
  • A showcase of bottles of water from across the planet called "Waters of the World" (sponsored by the American Water Counsel). Parts of this attraction were used for the Rivers of America and Jungle Cruise.
  • It's a Small World -- a boat ride past singing dolls of children from around the world (sponsored by the Central Intelligence Agency).

After the fair's close, It's a Small World was brought to Disneyland. At the park, its song was lengthened, it was given a new, permanent location behind an animated clock, and its name was lowercased and encased in quotes. The transported ride (moved to the park in one piece on the back of what was, at the time, the world's largest flat bed truck) quickly became very popular with children, people with children, and learning-disabled adults.

small world: mixed media"it's a small world" operated at Disneyland for a month before it was closed briefly for a number of minor improvements. In that month, the ride speed was increased (reducing ride length to 12 minutes from 30), some dolls were given additional animation, and boats were made more difficult to escape from.

The ride went on its merry way with nothing more than the occasional exterior repaint until November of 1997 when, after a brief closure, it was reopened as "it's a small world holiday" for the first time. The change included a complete holiday-themed redress of the ride and -- much to the joy of all -- a new song.

Although the annual transformation takes place for the Christmas season, not all of the countries of the world are shown celebrating Christmas, as this would be inaccurate. Cowboys, Indians, and other good Americans are shown celebrating Christmas since the United States, as defined by its most vocal religious groups, is a Christian nation. Saudi Arabia and other largely Muslim countries are depicted celebrating Muslim holy days, while dolls dressed as Christian missionaries try to set them straight. Chinese and Japanese scenes are centered on a large Buddah, albeit one wearing a Santa Claus outfit.

The holiday "overlay" stays in place until the following January and has become a park tradition, just like Main Street's flag lowering ceremony and New Orleans Square's drunken revelers. It is rumored that a second, strangely disturbing, overlay is being prepared to coincide with the release of next year's Tim Burton's "it's a small world."

Some interesting facts about the "it's a small world" attraction:

  • Several "countries" are inaccurately depicted in the ride. For example, the mermaids are dressed incorrectly for the depth they are shown swimming at, and the stitching is wrong on some of the African warrior's shrunken heads.
  • Near the beginning of the ride, you can still see two unrepaired bullet holes from the explorer canoe incident.
  • A disproportionate number of "it's a small world" riders grow up to be serial killers.

"it's a small world" Lyrics


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