Travel around the world aboard a gentil boat ride and encounter hundreds of singing children, that teach you that this planet isn't that big after all...
"There is just one moon and one golden sun, and a smile means friendship to everyone. Though mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it's a small world after all..."
It is indeed a small world. Especially nowadays, when you can reach every corner in just a day thanks to airplanes. Television delivers images from all over the globe right into your living room and the telephone and the internet allows us to communicate with people from all continents instantly.
And Disney's It's a Small World builds upon this spirit of unity and friendship among the children of this planet.
At Disneyland Paris, It's a Small World - which can be found at every Magic Kingdom - is housed within a beautiful palace-like building. Its colourful facade reminds of sights and different types of architecture from all over the globe. But the main item on the outside of the attraction is a clock tower, that offers a carillon every 15 minutes.
After boarding one of the small boats, you enter the show-building, where hundreds of singing dolls accompany the guests on their voyage around the world.
Even though many clichées are being used, the attraction is nothing but charming. Guests encounter sights like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Alps and the St. Basilius Cathedral but also Don Quixote at the European section of the ride; kite-flying children, pandas and the Taj Mahal in Asia; Queen Cleopatra (also a singing doll) and funny jungle animals in Africa; a mermaid, hula girls in Hawaii and kangaroos in Oceania; Incas, Samba dancers and a Mexican fiesta in South America and last but not least we meet one of the famous Floridian crocodiles before it goes on past Canada, a farm, New York City's skyline, the Golden Gaten Bridge and Hollywood in Northern America.
The big finale is probably very appropriate for Disneyland: children from all over the world have gathered together at a bright and beautiful amusement fair.
And even though the song will haunt you for hours, you might agree - after noticing that the other guests around you are from different countries - that it's actually a small world...
Don't miss the little pavilion at the exit of the ride: here, the attraction's sponsor France Telecom presents a nice little installation featuring modern communication in a detail-rich setting continuing the concept and style of the ride. Small monitors (which are housed in big recreations of world-famous sights like the Eiffel Tower or castle Neuschwanstein) offer a view onto children from all over the world and how they communicate with each other - which is almost as charming as the ride itself.
And since 2004 a newly installed interactive feature named "SmallTalk" allows young guests to choose a character from It's A Small World and through this character communicate with other characters of international children. A small but certainly entertaining feature.
From the beginning of the holiday season till St. Valentine's Day It's A Small World is transformed into It's A Small World - Celebrations with a new season style soundtrack and lavish new costumes and props. In this special version the children all present their most important and festive celebrations of the year. But there is something special to discover in time for the Halloween Festival already, when most of the decorations are not yet up: a Halloween-scene in the American landscape shortly before the finale of the ride!
Did you know that It's a Small World did not originate from any Disney park? Strange, but true.
In the early 1960's, Walt Disney and his talented team of imagineers had created four attractions for the 1964 World's Fair at New York City. Thanks to Disney, visitors of the World's Fair could have an encounter with President Lincoln, could see dinosaurs on "Ford's Magic Skyway", enjoyed a performance of the Carrousel of Progress (which later was moved to Disneyland and then to Walt Disney World) - and they could travel around the globe at It's s Small World which had been created on request of UNICEF.
The design of the ride was inspired by a sequence from Disney's "The Three Caballeros", in which the Mexican way of celebrating Christmas is being described. Back then, the sequence was designed by artist Mary Blair - one of the very first women in the field of animation. Almost twenty years later, Walt Disney invited her to design It's a Small World in the style of her old drawings.
Originally, it was planned that each doll would sing the national anthem of the nation it represented. But that turned into a terrible mess. So Walt turned to the songwriters Richard and Robert Sherman for advice. The Sherman Brothers had worked for Disney before, writing the songs for Disneyland's Enchanted Tiki-Room, the theme song for the Carrousel of Progress and all of the music for Walt Disney's movie "Mary Poppins". Quickly, the two created a simple tune, which could easily be varied. They called their new song "It's a Small World" - which also gave the attraction its name.
After the fair had ended, the ride was sended to California, where it was re-opened in 1966 at Disneyland's Fantasyland. There (and in Tokyo and Orlando) the original recording of the song was used till shortly after the opening of Disneyland Paris in 1992. Especially for Paris John Debney had reorchestrated the song and recorded it with the London Symphony Orchestra to achieve a fresher sound. This ment, that the lyrcis had to be recorded to go with the new altered version of the song too. To be able to offer the european guests an accent-free rendition of the song in their languages Don Lewis recorded the appropriate parts with children choruses in Italy, Germany, France, Spain and the Netherlands. The result is a It's a Small World as crisp and catchy as we haven't heared it since 1964 - so it came as no surprise that the other Disney parks decided to make use of this new recording too. In the meantime it has been released on CD too (in Paris on the "It's a Small World"-CD-single and on the CD "Une Journee a Disneyland Paris").
Today, It's a Small World can be found at all of Disney's Magic Kingdoms and has without a doubt become a classic. Even though - thanks to its song that can haunt for hours and the cute little dolls - some fear this attraction more than any other ride at at Disney theme park. And a lot of fun has been made about It's a Small World, too. Most notably an episode of "The Simpsons", in which Bart and Lisa visit a theme park called Duff Gardens, which also offers a certain ride with hundreds of dolls - with the only difference that those dolls are seeing about beer...
But usually, you just parody what you love. And the fact that the attraction is still hugely popular with guests might indicate that it's not such a bad ride after all...
Comparing It's a Small World in Disneyland Paris and in the other Disney parks guests will notice an important difference: the different regions / lands the guests cruises by are no longer separated by walls creating rooms but in one huge building with the sets creating enclosed spaces for the different regions. This does not only emphasize the "one world"-aspect but is also a step back to the original version from the 1964 World Fair which didn't have separate rooms either.
In the fall of 2001 the attraction saw its first major refurbishment in Disneyland Paris which drew on till April 2002. The actual ride did already open in time for Halloween, after a makeover of each and every scene, during which only minor details were changed. Fans might notice that in the process additional AudioAnimatronics and props were added to further heighten the atmosphere. The facade wasn't unveiled till mid-March, when it presented itself in fresh pastel-colors and with golden rooftops, and the final step, teh reopening of the exit-pavilon didn't take place till early April (in time for the official 10. birthday of the the park). Since then the interior of the pavilon features all warm pastel-colors too instead of the rather cold blue- and grey-tones used before.
This peacefull cruise is appropriate for all ages and can be accessed by guests in wheelchairs. So there are no "limits".