it’s a small world – May 28, 1966

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Originally created for the 1964 World’s Fair, it’s a small world officially opened at Disneyland on May 28, 1966. HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the song that will never leave your brain! iasm was the brainchild of Mary Blair, Marc and Alice Davis, and Rolly Crump, 4 legendary Imagineers. Mary did the styling and coloring, while the Davis’s dressed and designed the dolls. Good ‘ol Rolly designed the exterior and the toys. In Rolly’s book “It’s Kind of a Cute Story,” he describes the process of installing the ride and pushing Walt Disney through the ride in a boat on wheels. (I highly recommend this book. Rolly is a fabulous storyteller, and he has tons of them!)

The façade of it’s a small world at Disneyland is 60 feet high and 300 feet long, and the load area for the boats is outside. From there, riders enter the show pavilion under the clock and begin the happiest cruise that ever sailed through different countries and regions of the world. Riders will see animatronic dolls, representing the Children of the World, dressed in traditional clothing singing along to it’s a small world (after all) for 15 minutes in their native languages. Controversially, the Disneyland version was restyled, and dolls were replaced by Disney IP, in their “native” countries.

The exterior is the result of Rolly Crump’s imagination. Inspired by Mary Blair’s designs, Rolly designed the façade with cutouts featuring world icons, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the Eiffel Tower. Walt Disney asked Rolly to design the iconic clock that we all know and love, featuring a smiling clock that rocks back and forth. Fans of the ride at every park will note that the clock chimes every 15 minutes, replicating an old European automaton clock. The Disneyland version has a parade of wooden dolls that comes out to an instrumental toy soldier version of the song, and as the last doll returns into the clock, the parade doors close and the large central pair of doors open to reveal two giant toy blocks. The large block displays stylized numerals of the hour, the small one displays the minutes. Large and small bells toll to count the hours and quarters.

Some small world fun facts:

  • Disneyland boats seat 15 passengers
  • there are 437 animatronics
  • in the 2008 refurbishment, the fiberglass boats were reinforced with more durable plastic
  • there are 29 Disney characters that were added in the refurbishment, each in their own land
  • every holiday season, Disneyland gives iasw a holiday overlay, called “it’s a small world holiday,” and holiday decorations are added to the ride’s interior
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