If you haven't seen it, the holiday overlay adds the music of "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls" to the ride's "It's a Small World (After All)" theme song. Throw in holiday-themed decorations throughout the ride and you've got a joyful Christmas celebration that breaks up the monotony of listening to the Sherman Brothers' theme song over and over for the ride's 10 minutes.
So why don't I like it?
Well, it's not that I don't enjoy the experience as much as I'm bothered by the juxtaposition of Christmas theming with the message of cultural unity in the original version of Small World. Does the Christmas theming disrespect the non-Christian cultures referenced in Small World? Or does the global celebration of Christmas by nonbelievers neutralize the religious significance of the holiday?
Either way, the overlay gets me thinking about this symbolic conflict, when the whole point of It's a Small World was to create a vision of a world without conflict. ("I came here to feel, not to think"?) Still, the holiday version does help me appreciate the brilliance of the original version even more, but I rank it my least favorite of Disney's holiday overlays for standing attractions, behind Haunted Mansion Holiday, Jingle Cruise, and the (now only in Tokyo) Country Bear Christmas Special.
Take a video ride and decide for yourself:
And while we're at it, here are the full show videos for Haunted Mansion Holiday (last year's version), the Jingle Cruise, and the Tokyo installation of the Country Bear Christmas show. (Update: I'd originally forgotten about the Jingle Cruise, but now have added it.)
How would you rank Disney's holiday overlays?
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America loves Christmas and that is our culture. We are not ignoring others but welcome them in to see what our culture is.
Whether or not you think Christmas fits in with cultural unity, this attraction is localized. It only matters in Anaheim's Disneyland. It's awfully wrong to preemptively suggest other cultures or races are instantly offended by Christmas displays and music. I don't necessarily buy the cultural unity aspect of the attraction regardless. It might be a small world, but we are still a world apart. It's still fun to see the cultural differences as represented by kids.
I do get the point that not everyone celebrates Christmas, but at the same time so many non-Christians celebrate it (or at least recognize it) that I don't have a problem with the way Disney does their holiday version of the ride. After all, the word "Christmas" is never used in the attraction and the explicit Christmas symbols are left out of the Asia and Africa rooms completely. I also have mixed feelings about whether the message is really lost (or even diminished) in the holiday version of the ride anymore. In my opinion, the message of the ride was marred significantly by the addition of Disney characters, making it more of "It's a Disney World" in the minds of quite a few visitors.
Have you ever been to China? I've been to Bejing in December and they had Christmas decorations everywhere. It's mostly an economic holiday but they still hung Santa all over the place. Also why would you call it "atheist China"? There are very large Muslim and Christian populations in China.
Yes, a few times actually.
"I've been to Bejing in December and they had Christmas decorations everywhere. It's mostly an economic holiday but they still hung Santa all over the place. Also why would you call it "atheist China"?"
Because it is. Just because they have Christmas decorations and Santa doesn't mean China is a Christian nation or it respects religion. Wait until they freely offer nativity scenes and crosses... someday.
"There are very large Muslim and Christian populations in China."
Certainly, but China actively discourages and supresses religious practices.
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