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Robert Niles
Editor

Disney celebrates 50 years of It's a Small World

Published: April 10, 2014 at 7:18 AM

The Disney theme parks worldwide today are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the iconic It's a Small World ride.

It's a Small World debuted not in a Disney theme park, but at the 1964 New York Fair, where the ride was sponsored by Pepsi Cola as a tribute to UNICEF. Featuring design by Mary Blair and what might have become from the world's most famous "ear worm" theme song from Robert and Richard Sherman, It's a Small World set a new, enduring standard for dark rides, elevating them from carnival attractions to having the potential for delivering top-quality narrative experiences. (Here's Richard Sherman performing some of his famous Disney hits, including It's a Small, Small World live -- in a very different style -- at the 2009 IAAPA convention in Las Vegas.)

It's a Small World takes riders on the happiest cruise that ever sailed in all five "Magic Kingdom" theme parks around the world. The original version stands today at Disneyland in California.

Disneyland's It's a Small World Holiday
It's a Small World, with its annual Christmas overlay at Disneyland.

Along with additional versions in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom...

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Tokyo Disneyland...

Tokyo Disneyland

Disneyland Paris...

Disneyland Paris

and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Hong Kong Disneyland

In 2009, Disneyland added several Disney characters to its version of the ride, creating a kind-of "Where's Waldo?" element for riders, as they try to find the Disney characters amid Mary Blair's original singing dolls. We talked then with Walt Disney Imagineering's Kim Irvine about that makeover.

Let's take a trip on the current Disneyland version of It's a Small World:

We should note that this also is the 50th anniversary year of Walt Disney's other New York Fair attractions, including Carousel of Progress (the General Electric "Progressland" pavilion), Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln (the first Audio Animatronic to depict a once-living human being, displayed in the fair's Illinois pavilion), and the Ford's Magic Skyway. Some of the Skyway's scenes live on as the Grand Canyon Primeval World diorama on the Disneyland Railroad. Happy 50th birthday to those innovative Disney attractions, too!

Replies (8)

66.87.107.1

Published: April 10, 2014 at 10:37 AM

While on the subject of one of my sentimental favorites, I wanted to use your collective knowledge to answer a question that has bugged me for years: in the Orlando attraction, where is Canada represented? We have looked for years, first as a child, and now as a parent. Can someone solve this eternal riddle for me? Thanks!
66.36.198.42

Published: April 10, 2014 at 11:41 AM

Canada is the very 1st scene. The mounty is there before you exit the room and there's a totem pole type thing above his head.
TH Creative
Writer

Published: April 10, 2014 at 12:49 PM

When I was in the MKCP, a CM who worked at 'It's a Small World' told me, "Everyone who is boarding the ride is singing the song. And everyone has a different set of lyrics."
Jay R.

Published: April 10, 2014 at 1:58 PM

According to multiple online sources, Canada is represented in the "North Pole" portion representing Canada & Scandinavia
Tim Hillman

Published: April 10, 2014 at 2:29 PM

I've managed to avoid this ride in the Magic Kingdom now for about 15 years since my children are now in their 20s and 30s, but that streak is about to end now that the grandkids are old enough to ride it.

Maybe earplugs will help when when we go to the MK with the grandkids this spring?

96.246.128.234

Published: April 11, 2014 at 7:19 AM

Just go one and have some fun, Grandpa! I'm 32 and go on every time I visit.
TROY DAVIDSON

Published: April 11, 2014 at 7:20 AM

Why no exterior picture of WDW's Small World? Cause it's UGLY! I wish we had the prettier facade. The Toyko facade it beautiful and I love Disney Land's as well.
Tim Hillman

Published: April 12, 2014 at 8:07 AM

I used to enjoy It's a Small World quite a bit. It was a good break from the heat with a relatively short line, and you could get off your feet and relax.

...and then there was the time when my daughter who was then 5 years old wanted to go on it 3 times in a row. The first time my wife rode it with us. The second time my wife excused herself for a bathroom break, and then we couldn't find her after the ride (This was in the days before cellphones made us all instantly accessible.), so my daughter who was tired of waiting and near a meltdown asked for a third ride. I had no choice.

After that ride, we found my wife, and because it was the end of the day, we decided to go back to the hotel room, and I carried my daughter out of the park on my shoulders - while she hummed and sang what she could remember about the theme song right above my ears.

...and during the monorail ride,

...and on the tram out to the parking lot,

...and in the car until she fell asleep.

They say insanity is hereditary - you get it from your kids. It's true.

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