Small World makeover opens

Last year we made note of the planned revamp of a classic Disneyland attraction, It’s A Small World. This week the new version has opened. Thanks to this L.A. Times podcast (above) we can see for ourselves some of the changes without having to hear the chrous 500 times. What do you think of the additions?

(Thanks, Mark Caballero)


  • Pedro Nakama

    Walt Disney is turning in his refrigerator.

  • Anna

    The Disney characters in that funny style are adorable!! I hope they’ll make dolls to sell.

    A little confused tho’ — how or where does Alice, Cinderella and Ariel they fit into the “countries”?? Aladdin, Pinocchio and Toy Story have a more obvious geographic space.

  • http://garrisonsjunk.blogspot.com Chris G

    I see, so they changed the idea of the ride from, “All the children of the world are really the same, and we can live in harmony,” to, “Don’t forget about The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin, and Cinderella, and Toy Story, and . . . ” This bodes well for the future of humankind.

  • http://garrisonsjunk.blogspot.com Chris G

    I wouldn’t have thought that ride could ever be made MORE annoying than the original. I guess it goes to show you, to the Imagineers, anything is possible.

  • http://wardomatic.blogspot.com Ward

    Much ado about nothing. I’m all for nostalgia, but I’m a bit indifferent to these changes. At least they kept the aesthetic quality of the original IASW Blair-ian characters intact with the new ones. It’s a company that’s meant to try and make money. They’re going to do whatever they want with their rides, so….meh.

  • Matt H

    While it looks great, I really don’t think the bucket load of Disney characters is appropriate at all. Totally ruins the ride and turns it into something else entirely. But it is Disney Land we’re talking about not Disney World, so it doesn’t really matter, after all!

  • http://www.livejournal.com/users/RandomFlavor/ Jaimonster

    I cant understand why people hate it. Sincerely, whoever says something like “this is annoying” or “Disney must be turning on his Electricity Generator” are sincerely people who dont have an open mind [or some kind of mind] or simply are too X-TREME for appreciating a simple, whimsical ride. [OH WAIT, Theres already two of them up there... NEVERMIND!].

    Its a Small World its a ride about exposing everyone to a different place, a different culture, idea or even a small part of the world that might seen exotic and unknown. Now, imagine this and then observing the people around you in the park, and consider their heritage and places where they come from to see the same wonders we get to see… Its a Small World, Indeed.

    I dont know about you guys, But I cant wait to see how the Brewers freakout over this… Oh yeah, Delicious Drama, Here WE GO!

  • Hulk!

    Sacrilege!

  • http://ryanmcculloch.com Ryan McCulloch

    As a fan of Mary Blair and of the ride and design, I have to say I am relieved that the additions as a whole seem much more subtle and less grotesque than I thought they’d be. They blend in fairly well with the style and seem to serve a “hidden Mickey” type of purpose. On the other hand, the news feed didn’t seem to go into what they GUTTED OUT, we know they took out the rain forest, what else? And why is there an undersea area for Ariel? If they promise to keep Florida’s Small World untouched, I guess I’m okay with this, at least they’re now different versions.

  • Dimwit

    I’m not sure I understand… What makes the changes “subtle” according to what the woman states in the video?

  • Gill

    I’m okay with the changes. The ride has always offered a commercial version of reality, like Dutch children in wooden shoes and Mexican children in sombreros. Call it a celebration of culture, but it’s a very cutesy way of seeing the world. Why not throw in some fictional characters, too?

  • Ian V.

    Jaimonster, your post was more melodramatic than anything anyone else said.

    “Sincerely, whoever says something like “this is annoying” or “Disney must be turning on his Electricity Generator” are sincerely people who dont have an open mind [or some kind of mind] or simply are too X-TREME for appreciating a simple, whimsical ride.”

    First, people have thought the song was annoying for years; not because it’s bad, but because it’s repetitive and gets stuck in your head. Plus, the people above are upset about the addition of Disney characters into the ride (which is what this post is about), NOT the concept of the ride itself. They appreciate the “simple, whimsical ride,” what they don’t like is that it’s original point is being altered by adding in non-related Disney characters.

    Anyway, I do like that they’re in the Mary Blair style, but a lot of the ones they showed don’t make any sense. How on earth does a Little Mermaid undersea section help show the world’s different cultures!? I thought the Aladdin one was okay because it blended in, but how do the others fit? The thing is, now people (at least little kids) are going to be distracted from the message of harmony and the beauty of the world’s cultures…by pointing out/focusing on the Disney characters. They said it was “subtle” but it’s obvious enough to draw attention…making it into an ad for their properties.

  • Ian V.

    ….and why on earth would Disney be in an “Electricity Generator?” He said refrigerator…it’s a play on that Disney was cryogenically frozen myth.

  • http://www.theaftend.com Allan Turner

    I like how they adapted the Disney characters to fit Mary Blair’s style. And I imagine Woody’s creator(s) must feel a special thrill to see their little toy that could being incorporated into something like this. But it does feel like the new take-away is “All the children of the world are really the same, and on your way out don’t forget to buy our DVDs and Blu-Ray’s.” That being said, it is DISNEYland so I don’t think it’s unethical to be selling Disney stuff.

  • Gobo

    I really, really don’t have a problem with this. Yes, I’m a huge Mary Blair fan and think “it’s a small world” is more than just a ride — it’s a treasure. That said, adding Pinocchio to the Dutch area or adding Ariel to the mermaid area harms nothing and gives kids a bit of a giggle to see their favorite characters inserted… just like the Donald Duck piñata in the Mexican area always has. Still the same ride, folks. Relax.

  • Doug

    “A little confused tho’ — how or where does Alice, Cinderella and Ariel they fit into the “countries”??”

    Alice is easy, she’s English. I always assumed that Cinderella was in France, since the most popular version of the fairy tale was written by Charles Perrault in 1697 (granted, that’s not apparent from the Disney version). As for Ariel, I assume she’s in the Dutch section, since The Little Mermaid was written by Hans Christian Anderson (again, there’s no connection to the movie).

  • Bill Cross

    Never cared much for the orignal attraction (especially after being trapped in it once when it broke down – that song, over and over, oh, the horror!).

    My guess is the ride just wasn’t pulling people in like it used to – so rather than close it (as has happened to other attractions), they gave it a face lift.

    The “universal humanity” idea behind it is on the same level as beauty pageant contestants going on about promoting “world peace.” I don’t really think the original “Small World” made much progress in bringing about universal brotherhood.

    It’s Disney’s park and Disney’s ride – they can do what they like with it. I don’t know about you, but Disney characters were a large and positive part of MY childhood and I would guess that they have been and are a large part of the childhood of people all over the world.

    If you don’t like Disney characters, what in the world are you doing in Disneyland?

  • http://www.wilsonswain.com Wilson Swain

    There’s always been a mermaid/undersea section to the ride. How that fit in before is probably how it fits now–oddly. But only because it’s the sole imaginary land depicted. These changes are far better than what I thought would happen when I first heard about plans.
    The irony in destroying a rainforest section is distasteful. Is that correct?

  • http://www.grotto11.com/blog Brian Tiemann

    Yes, and I believe THAT was a play on the almost-as-hoary gag about Disneyland being powered by an electric generator hooked up to Walt’s ever-spinning frozen corpse.

  • mitten

    Disney IS cryogenically frozen. The placement of the Disney characters has more to do with rebranding the ride – We should all be thankful they chose “classic” characters (replacing what?) over LCD monitors advertising the latest hit on Disney Radio. honestly, I’m surprised that the Disney Corporate Overlords didn’t remake the ride with Hannah Montana singing “Its a small world”.

  • http://itsbean.blogspot.com courtney

    Ryan McCulloch, there has always been an undersea area! Being a fan of mermaids since I was a little girl and before The Little Mermaid, I have pictures of the original mermaid that used to occupy that half shell before Ariel came into it.

    To me, the ride does have a slightly new message. Instead of providing a fun way to see the world and different cultures, it takes familiar characters with their familiar stories and places them in the context of the whole world. The ride now, seems more personal to me because it uses people I know to really drive home the message of the fabulous Blair attraction. And I kinda like it.

  • http://www.losetheradio.com Roman

    Walt is NOT frozen.

    And, I was never completely against these changes, as so many of the park guests that aren’t on websites devoted to Disney or animation simply want characters EVERYWHERE.

    I also think it’s still hard to judge based on that video – it shows the new pieces, but completely out of context of the rest of the ride… so while they look like they SHOULD fit in, still tough to judge. Overall, it looks like it was done tastefully and respectfully, so I’m sure it would be fine.

    And I’m sure it’s coming to Florida… lol.

  • BobT

    “As for Ariel, I assume she’s in the Dutch section, since The Little Mermaid was written by Hans Christian Anderson (again, there’s no connection to the movie).”

    Hans Christian Andersen was Danish.

  • jip

    Also, The Little Mermaid and Pinocchio are not Dutch.
    The Little Mermaid is a Danish story. Pinocchio is Italian.
    I don’t know what to think of these changes. But you could also look at this as a way to educate the people how all these fairy tales come from specific countries, yet they entertain us all over the world.
    Showing it’s a small world after all.

  • joris

    Neither Pinocchio or the Little Mermaid are Dutch. Pinocchio is Italian and Ariel comes from Denmark.
    funfact: For Disneyland Paris they designed Fantasyland in such way that each fairy tale’s architecture represents it’s country of origin. They even used the respective languages in all the rides, but the French didn’t like that…

    Although aesthetically the re-do doesn’t bother me at all, I find it a pity that new theme park design always needs some some sort of reference to existing material. They’re not seen as independent creative products anymore, but more like tie-ins to whatever works. Then again, as a kid I loved the fact that there was a drawing of Simba on the sign for the African restaurant in Disneyland.

  • OM

    “honestly, I’m surprised that the Disney Corporate Overlords didn’t remake the ride with Hannah Montana singing “Its a small world”.”

    …Don’t give them any ideas, even if Miley Cyrus will go down in history as being as lame and reviled as her Achy-Breaky father is.

  • Chris

    Hmmm I kinda of liked the changes,however i want to see what they took out to put all those new sets in. It would be sad to see some of my favorites have been eliminated. Now if they just added and didn’t subtract even better!…… I hope i don’t see a mickey mouse in there though…GRRRRRRRRR. I would love to see a homage to Mary Blair in a Small World, maybe one of her little characters painting or drawing in her most famous design.

  • http://exitplanetwhom.blogspot.com gavin mouldey

    The stereotypical fashion in which the cultures were depicted was always presented a form of fiction. Adding fictional characters only accentuates that. It’s theirs to do with as they wish really. I don’t think Blair would be mortified. Being dead and all.

  • Rose

    I have mixed feelings about the changes, but none at all about the original attraction.

    I first rode It’s a small world in 1965, during the second season of the NYWF. I loved it then, and still love it now.

    I think Mary Blair a genius with color and layout and one of my greatest fears was that adding Disney characters would ruin her overall design. Color, layout, ruined. Things out of balance in design.

    …but I find that most of the additions fit fairly well.

    What disturbs me at all is the need for overt branding. One knows where they are, and the “intrusion” or addition of Disney characters are not needed to make a visitor more aware of this. A few moments away from the characters and into the message of equality doesn’t harm at all.

    …but it works. It keeps the attraction alive, and may add some further enjoyment to many.

    …and that enjoyment, with it’s still vital message, is the most important thing.

    I rather not have them there, but if it brings joy, and keeps most of Mary Blair and Walt’s vision alive, with an intact message: then I can continue to ride it with a smile on my face.

  • http://zipmartin.deviantart.com Ian V.

    Jip (and the others that mentioned similar things) has a good point. ^^ But still, Little Mermaid doesn’t seem to be in a country…is she near a Denmark section?

  • http://www.cupojo.net Joanna Davidovich

    I don’t have any issues with these additions- although the hyenas don’t seem to be as “Blaired” as the other additions. The addition of Jack Sparrow to the Pirates of the Caribbean ride was a more disturbing change than any of this.

    But this brought to mind an idea- perhaps it would be lucrative to create another Disney park for all the old retired rides. They could call it “Nostalgia Land” or something. I would pay admission for that- if only to ride the Mars mission and old Alien Encounter.

  • Dave

    I think it looks great! Congrats to Kim and everyone else who worked on the update. It’s gotta be tough making any kind of changes to something so established and loved.

  • Katella Gate

    It’s a Small World needs Disney characters like the Mona Lisa needs to be holding a Coke can.

  • mark cee

    Yes, we all know that Disneyland is supposed to be an ever-evolving theme park. But I thought it was supposed to be done tastefully. Does EVERY ride really need to have those damn characters spinning around, pushing product? That Kim gal should be ashamed of herself to think she’s even close to the league of Mary Blair. It’s hideous.

  • Jim Engel

    I rather like the original ride, and I’d be all for leaving it alone. (I was really put off by this same thing in the TIKI ROOM, where the birds from Aladdin & Lion King now upstage the original birds…)

    Putting Pinocchio, Alice, Ariel & Co. into the ride is bad enough, but I REALLY bristled at seeing Pixar characters in there.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    I probably second Chris G’s and mark cee’s comments on the matter. Why change something that wasn’t entirely broken before? But then, we’re all entitled to our opinions on what worked then and now.

  • http://tangoland.com Cynthia

    I wish these rides and attractions were treated with the same “hands off” approach as works of art in a museum. You don’t go in and repaint masterpieces.

    That said, I haven’t even been able to bring myself to get on Pirates after hearing that Johnny Depp is now in it!

    At least I was able to enjoy the park as a child before the word “synergy” was invented.

  • http://tomboycomics.blogspot.com Emily

    After seeing this video + pictures of the renovated ride, I feel a lot better about it (keep in mind, I am a big Mary Blair appreciator). So far, it looks like the characters were tastefully incorporated, but I guess I’ll decide for myself soon…on my birthday, of course!

  • RODAN

    About time they cleaned up that place! I mean…it’s been over 40 years.

    I can’t wait to see when they open the new Great Moment’s with Mr. W. To promote his new movie! I can just see Abe sitting in the alley at the end of Main Street all rusted while W get’s a “make over”.

  • Keith Bryant

    I happen to like the changes. Some Disney purists (some say elitists), go into seizures everytime a Disney park changes one of their attractions. Walt was always changing things in Disneyland, always looking for ways to upgrade the park and keep things fresh so why should things be different now? I have no doubt that the Disney parks will to continue to change the attractions long after we’re all gone so what’s the big deal?

  • Angry Anim

    The “big deal” is the loss of history and vision. People in Imagineering like to throw out the “Well, Walt always said that Disneyland should always be evolving”, but I doubt that he meant that they should be shoving corprate characters into pre-existing rides… but that’s exactly the trend nowadays with shoving Jack Sparrow into Pirates, turning the subs into the Nemo ride, shoving Zazu and Igao in Florida’s Tiki Room, and now this.

    So are they going to turn New Orleans Square into “Princess and the Frog Land” if it’s successful?

  • Angela

    I wish I knew what the original ride looked like, so I could compare; I’ve never been to Disneyland (yes, I know, LAME), so I don’t know what the differences and similarities are. So, what are the huge changes here…?

  • http://www.jessica-plummer.com Jessica Plummer

    I think it looks alright. At least it’s not one terrible alien ride that changed into a completely different terrible alien ride…by just copying the script.

    So it’s bad that a DISNEY attraction features more of it’s own DISNEY characters? Stylized in the wake of an original DISNEY artist? Where’s the over-branding in that? Sounds normal to me.

    I also thought this was the ride everyone hated. Suddenly the most obnoxious ride of the whole park turns into everyone’s treasure and inspiration.

  • http://tangoland.com Cynthia

    Jessica..no, not everyone hates Small World. I think this thread demonstrates that!

    When Walt said Disneyland was always “evolving” I think he meant that in a sense that things are always going to get *better* and improve upon itself. That is the very nature of evolution. To be fair, maybe today’s version of evolving is to focus entirely on profit even at the expense of artistic integrity. This is what I feel is going on now at Disneyland. Ever seen California Adventure? A dismal, corporate landscape of little to do and plenty of souvenir/food stands. I happen to think the addition of the other characters like Woody and Alice into Small World is to develop a link between the ride and “outside” profit generating entities. After all…how much money does Small World itself actually generate?

    One of the biggest letdowns was going to Disney World in Florida to see the Tiki Room and watching the screeching Iago the parrot take over the show as he flailed around trying to find a way to cash in on the attraction..yes! That was the theme of the show..Iago trying to take it over to get rich.

    Sounds more like the aspirations of those who insisted this attraction be altered to include this reflection of greed and anxiety.

  • Keith Bryant

    I noticed that many of the posts were about Ariel and why she wasn’t in Denmark since that’s where Hans Christian Andersen was from. From what I’ve seen in other sites, she’s in the Pacific Island area where there were mermaids before the renovation. My guess is she’s here instead of Denmark is because the film had a more tropical theme than Scandanavian. Also, Lilo and Stitch can be seen nearby riding a surfboard while Nemo and Dory are swimming around. I know that this is going to send some of you racing for the valium but in spite of these changes, the sun will rise tomorrow and somehow, life will go on.

  • http://artofmatthewlong.blogspot.com Matthew Long

    I was at Disneyland this Saturday and went on the ride, I didn’t mind the additions much. Some aren’t too obvious at first glance like Cinderella and Jasmine/Aladdin. But others like the Little Mermaid and Lilo and Stitch stood out a bit too prominently, like centerpieces for their section of the ride.

    Also I don’t think it has been mentioned yet, but after the laughing hyenas there is also Pumba and Simba with Timon popping out of the ground behind them. And to the upper right of Pinocchio is a Jiminy Cricket doll in the next window, no animatronics for him. There is also a big Mushu dragon kite as well as Mulan in armor with Mushu on her shoulder in the China section.

  • http://www.yaytime.com dave roman

    At least they are subtle. But this still pissed me off.

    I agree that it’s shoving corprate characters into pre-existing rides…sort of in a subconscious way. LAME.

  • Mike

    My concern about the update is that future generations will not take the same uplifting message from this ride that we did as children.

    Children love a good scavenger hunt; they love to see and collect the hidden details in things (witness the popularity of the “Where’s Waldo” and “I Spy” books, and the “Hidden Mickey” craze).

    So instead of a fascinating introduction to world cultures, today’s kids will see “it’s a small world” merely as a “find the Disney characters” game — and the so-called subtlety of the changes will make that more, not less, likely.

  • Ophelia

    The changes mentioned above don’t sound that subtle nor do some of them look subtle from the video.

    I think they are cute though (ecpecialy Alice and the White Rabbit)

  • Rachel

    Honestly, I think there’s been a bit of an overreaction. The new additions are all fairly subtle (Though I think the Jessie puppet is rather ugly), done in a reasonable imitation of Mary Blair’s style, and not done in a way that suggests marketing too heavily.

    I’m not wild about the USA section, but it’s not as egregious as I feared. And again, I wish they hadn’t used Woody and Jessie… I’d have gone with Pecos Bill and Sluefoot Sue the way they were depicted in Melody Time.

    Granted that might have struck them as too obscure.

  • bella

    Does anyone know what was eleminated from the ride? I just picked up 2 of the original figures from the ride which confused me as I didn’t realize that “took away” some characters…..I thought they just “added”. And yet here I sit with 2 of them..naked as jail birds. I am sad knowing I could easily find such a big part of what we all remember about the original Disneyland…just bouncing around at an estate sale.

  • WDWLocal

    I also happen to be in the camp who agrees that the changes were indeed done very tastefully.

    I also happen to appreciate the WDW Tiki Room with Iago and Zazu, which also does not deserve the constant flack that it gets in too many fan circles. Don’t expect every attraction to be the same on both coasts–it doesn’t, and can’t, work that way.

    And Mark Cee, take back what you said about poor, sweet, innocent Kim Irivne!!!