smallworldsign.jpg smallworldsign.jpg

Small World redux


Whatever your opinion of It’s A Small World (and its unforgettable – no matter how hard your try – theme song) there’s no doubt it’s a work of art and a tribute to its designer Mary Blair.

The Re-Imagineering blog has posted details on the “updating” currently underway at the Disneyland attraction. These “improvements” include adding Disney characters to foreign locales and an expansion of an American presence to the piece -an expansion the blog points out was “…never intended for American audiences from the show’s very inception.

In consciously excluding a large scale U.S.A.-land from It’s a Small World (a lone cowboy and indian in the finale was just enough), the original show writers were asking American audiences to step away from their own national consciousness and take stock in the wider world around them. It’s a Small World was never about nationalistic fervor. It was about finding our common humanity outside our own borders.”

Read more at Re-Imagineering.

  • I was just there (Fla.) just a few weeks ago. As much flack as I’ll get for posting this….it is JUST as thrilling & enthralling the 50th time as it is the first!

  • HOW DARE THEY!!! It is a bit annoying, but it is a part of Disneyland’s history and should not tampered with in this manner. If you’re going to adjust the rides to allow heavier passengers, fine, but to overhaul the whole ride is sacrilege. Why is John Lasseter not doinf anything to stop this?

  • Pedro Nakama

    The funny thing is that Disney does bend. They’ve re-cut movies, changed song lyrics and never released certain films on DVD because they actually listen to complaints from their customer(fan) base. With enough complaints I don’t believe these new changes will be made.

  • George

    I just ride with earplugs (I really do). The ride is too visually stunning to pass up on my frequent visits to the park. I’ll miss it in it’s originally intended presentation dearly, but I’m hoping (like Jack Sparrow in POTC) that it won’t be too intrusive.

  • Annabel Cole

    Given the huge volume of international guests that Disney’s parks get, I’m simply stunned that of all possible moments, the bottom of the Bush era is the time to add a hyperpatriotic USA tableau; that it should be positioned last in the ride sequence (i. e. “saving the best for last”); and that it should replace, of all things, a rain forest.
    If Disney was actually trying to embarrass both itself and the worldwide perception of the American mindset, they couldn’t be doing a better job.

  • Killroy McFate

    Everybody sing! “It’s a world of terror and a world of fear, if your face is brown we don’t want you here…”

  • Goodness…just when we were all thought it was bad enough running into McDonalds, Starbucks, and WalMart in our favorite real foreign countries when trying to appreciate a REAL foreign place…they had to go murk up our perception of other cultures in a fantasy setting.

  • Heh… Annabel has a good point – to cut down a rain forest and replace it with some flag-waving is pure comic-tragedy.

    It’s sad that the rain forest portion of the ride isn’t recognized as the pure Mary Blair fantasy piece it is. And to add Disney characters is atrocious and insulting to the spirit of the ride. Johnny Depp littering the POTC ride was bad enough – this is intolerable.

    When I was a boy in the 60s I loved this ride. As I got older I grew away from it. Now it’s my daughter’s favorite ride and because of that, it’s mine too. Why change a ride that works so well as it is?

  • Katella Gate

    I heard about these proposed “updates” to it’s a small world a few days ago and I was pretty dismayed.

    The intrusion of Disney Characters into this attraction is just crass product placement. Perhaps Disney Inc. should drop the other shoe and really push the commercial angle with Coca Colas in the hands of the Taj Mahal dancing girls, or have Lilo and Stich sipping Dole Whips.

    When I was a child I took the ride and noticed right away that the only US characters were the cowboy and Indian discretely inserted into the grand finale. When I asked my Mom about the omission she said “American puppets don’t belong in this ride… in this ride you leave America to go see the rest of the world. When we went to the Grand Canyon last year, we didn’t take pictures of our own house because home really isn’t part of the part of the trip.” I was very satisfied with the answer.

    How is it a mid-60’s housewife and a 6 year old boy get this instinctively and the well-paid professionals at Disney don’t?

    Alas, poor Mary B. Her reputation is worth strip mining for a book or two – her name is used in DisneySpeak as a cardinal point on the compass of good taste – but the art that she herself produced is treated as completely disposable.

  • Oh dear lord.

    I agree with Weirdo, where’s Lasseter in this? He’s as old-school as they come, how did this get past him??

    Still, there’s no WAY the theme park purists will take this quietly. Let’s just hope there are enough of them to save the ride.

  • Steven Finch, Attorney At Law

    I hate to sound pessimistic, but nobody’s being realistic here. They already destroyed Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Pirates of the Caribbean and have been slowly “updating” the Haunted Mansion for the past five or so years–and I dare say POTC and the Mansion are way more popular than Small World.

    What makes anyone think that somehow THIS ride is going to get “saved”?

  • Big Nerd

    Small World is SO 1964. Make room for an Aladdin Cave of Wonders Magic Carpet Roller Coaster Ride…and have the Genie playroom sit in the middle of it for the little ones. At least make it SO 1991.

  • Wye Flunktor

    Steven, because this is far more ludicrous than any of those updates. Mr. Toad, whatever it means to one personally, wasn’t the icon that Small World is (it also didn’t happen under the current regime). When updating the Haunted Mansion, they didn’t rip out Madame Leota and replace her with Jeb W. McHaunty, a ghost singing the national anthem in a spooky voice. Pirates is still essentially Pirates; it doesn’t feature Mickey and Donald articulating a wench (if you know what I mean).

    There’s no guarantee about anything, and Disney as a whole is right-wing as a giant faceless corporation can be, but jesus, ripping out the rainforest for a essentially giant flag lapel pin? I don’t think anyone can doubt Disney’s patriotism/Republicanism, both historical and contemporary — look at the floating parade of lights at Disney World, Epcot, etc, the Shades of Green resort at Disney World, the ABC television network, etc. This is just pathetic.

  • Steven Finch, Attorney At Law

    Actually, Wye, I absolutely would equate plastering Johnny Depp’s heart-throb-of-the-moment face all over Pirates of the Caribbean, or cramming Jack Skellington and his goth-friendly pals down Haunted Mandion fans’ throats for four months out of the year with inserting Mickey Mouse into the Small World ride.

    What makes it any different? The fact that it lets people make a big deal out of Disney “symbolically” destroying a rain forest for an expanded American presentation? I guess this incident should be emphasized because it allows us to make crazy, right-wing conspiracies. I mean, a big, evil, multi-national, Satan-worshiping conglomerate is a big, evil, multi-national, Satan-worshiping conglomerate, am I right? Please.

    I in no way endorse modifying this or any of the decades-old, proven, classic Disneyland attractions, especially in ways such as this that are just out-and-out tacky, but come on! I think some of us need to get a grip on reality and realize that no matter how unfortunate this is, it’s hardly some indication of the downfall of western civilization!

  • Mela

    I take everything said at Re-Imagineering because they strike me as incredibly bitter about every change, even stuff that’s taken out because it’s blatantly racist. I’m surprised they don’t approve of this, since attempts to get rid of ‘me biggum head hunter’ portrayals of Indians being replaced leads them to crap their pants.

    They tend to take the insistence that “Disneyland is not a museum” as a challenge and find things to nit-pick about even the good work they do (for instance, the excellent restoration of CA’s Tiki Room was missing one figure for fire hazard reasons, so they whine at length about that). To me, getting information from Re-Imagineering is like getting all of your political info from Bill O’Reilly. They’re an unbelievably flawed source.

  • Chuck R.

    Steven, you’re exactly right.

    Disneyland is an active, working, ever-changing business, and the people who run it have an obligation to its customers and shareholders to do what is necessary to make it entertaining and profitable. It has no obligation to any one contributor (artist, designer or engineer) to ensure his/her work will last forever. Much less tree-huggers who are concerned about trees made out of plastic.

    I don’t see what’s the problem with injecting a bit of patriotism into the attraction. You make an exhibit about the global community. You put some American cartoon characters in France. You put a monumental French sculpture in America. You call it “It’s a Small World”. Sounds like truth in advertising to me.

    That being said, this is a stupid and short-sighted move. Disney, more than any other corporation, is an empire built on the creations of individual artists and designers. Screwing around with a monument to one of their finest (at a peak in her popularity) is crass beyond belief. Are they trying to send a message to every dedicated artist currently in their employ?

    Disney also should know better than anyone that it’s an empire built on nostalgia. Do they think people go to that exhibit for the same reason they go to Space Mountain? For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the same sensibility that went into the Disney Treasures series can’t be put to work here. “It’s a Small World” and the Tiki Room, despite their flaws, should be treated by Disney like anything else on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • John Tebbel

    Interesting that the last hired, fastest produced ride from the ’64 fair, and the one with the most cartoon-like plot, the dream of the dolls come to life, is the one that’s proved the most durable. Others survive, and making a robot president is a great, still undigested cultural achievement, but Small World actually brings happiness to millions, day in and day out. Mostly little kids, but they remain an under-served demographic when it comes to the park rides.

  • Paul

    Admittedly, it’s hard to know because it’s not open yet, but from what I’ve read the characters in the Hong Kong version of Small World have been stylized to match the Mary Blair aesthetic and won’t be overly obtrusive. I think this is another case where waiting to see the final outcome would be a good idea.

    And Chuck…I’ve got to disagree, strongly. The problem with preserving Disneyland and not letting it change is that that’s the one sure-fire way to guarantee its death. I think it’s something that commenters in their forties and fifties tend to overlook, but people my age (early twenties) don’t have the emotional attachment that came from growing up with those attractions. Sure, you can keep It’s A Small World and the Tiki Room the same forever…but if you do, the park’s audience will erode away into nothingness because the dated plots, songs, and designs won’t be a pull to the younger generations.

    Now, I’m not saying we need Enchanted Tiki Room style revamps, but allowing the attractions to evolve with the times has its merits. Admittedly, that’s not really the issue at hand here – the ride would continue to function perfectly fine without adding Aladdin and Mulan – but it’s worth considering.

    On another note entirely, I’ve always found people complaining about the parks changing sort of silly in the first place. Given that Walt had planned to rerelease Fantasia every year or two, swapping out a few segments and keeping others, I think it’s a bit ludicrous to say that he wouldn’t have wanted the parks to change over time. If he was willing to let a movie evolve, why not a theme park ride?

  • Chuck R.

    Paul —Are you disagreeing with me strongly? Re-read my first paragraph. I think we agree that the parks need to be continually fresh and entertaining —that’s the bottom line. But among the dozens of attractions, a very small handful have immense historical and cultural value and are probably never going to be a major draw for younger audiences. These select few ought to be “refreshed” with a great deal of care and background knowledge.

  • Gobo

    I disagree, Stephen — updating Pirates is nothing like what’s proposed for “small world”. Disney attractions have always taken advantage of movie tie-ins in a tasteful way (from the Swiss Family Treehouse to Casey Jr. the locomotive) and adding Jack Sparrow to the Pirates storyline is no different. The Pirates movies are huge, and to not tweak the story to sync the ride up would be foolish — especially as it was done in a very intelligent, tasteful, sophisticated way. [note that Eddie Murphy is nowhere to be seen on Haunted Mansion — Disney knows when to stop]

    If there was a hit animated “small world” movie done in Mary Blair style in which Pancho saved the UN, I’d be all in favor of adding Pancho as a character to the ride, for example. That’d be smart. Adding a salute to the US isn’t.

    I do agree entirely about the Register of Historic Places, though. The Tiki Room and Great Moments with Mr Lincoln deserve that sort of listing.

  • The world just got a little smaller.

    I’m not big on Disney and I’ve never been to their theme parks, but this is just sad. What’s wrong with a little multiculturalism?

    What’s next, a Hannah Montana remix of the song over the speakers?

  • Ron

    I remember a little over 10 years ago, they added Israel to the ride in Florida (but not in California). On the one hand I was glad to see it included but on the other hand I was disappointed that it wasn’t a more creative display. Regardelss of one’s political stance on the country or the region, there was a LOT more that they could have done with Israel’s diverse and colorful culture(s) which would have been ideal for a Small World type treatment. Alas, all they ended up putting in was an orthodox jewish couple under a wedding canopy. I’m concerned that this American revamp will get the same ‘tacked on’ not thought out treatment as Israel did.
    I agree wholeheartedly with the earlier post that this ride is about seeing the rest of the world…to take a trip away from America for a while. That was my problem all along with California Adventure. It is the stupidest idea in the world to make an amusement park out of a state we’re already in. Disneyland is about escape and fantasy…not seeing mockups of real stuff just a few miles away.

    Them’s my two cents!

  • Gary Pearson

    I’m not an American, so when I go to Disneyland or Disney World, I expect lots of American boosterism everywhere, because Walt loved his country and the main audience appreciates and shares that view. He never lost any money selling patriotism. From dozens of places in the parks, sometimes as a subtle element, sometimes as a ‘hit you over the head with the all American baseball bat’, love of U.S.A is expressed. As a guest in your home, I’m not offended by any of it, it’s your right. But you know, there is so much of it, its not like it had to be in Small World too.

    From one Canadian’s perpsective, it was always a nice message with Small World that despite our borders, we were all basically part of the same human family. To stick a big ‘America is Great’ message in the middle of it all goes against the intent of the original ride. I fully expect all Disney attractions, no matter what my attachment to them to be, to be one day replaced or updated, but this deal seems wrong. As for Mary Blair’s wonderful art, I would hope any update would try to emulate her style and sense of humour as much as possible. This is one update I wish they would send back to the old drawing board.

  • Chris Sobieniak

    Shame to see what goes on at a ride I’ve never been on or may never in my life. :-(

    Really, if my parents had the wad, I could’ve been there as a tyke, but we were hard-working blue collar types who couldn’t afford those frivolities as flying to Orlando for Disney World and all that, but it’s a shame to see they’re so-called ‘improving’ on something in a manner I would’ve rather gotten back in school anyway.

  • mary allison

    I just got back from Disney a couple hours ago. I took my 2 y/o through It’s A Small World for the first time and I cried through the whole ride. My dad just passed away Jan 3rd of this year and it brought back so many memories. I did not even begin to think it would affect me, but its was truley an emotional moment for me. My dad took me to Disney every year when we were kids and we always went on Small World. Ill charish my dad and the memories that ride brings back for the rest of my life. Its A Small World is for every age and it never gets old, it makes you feel like a child again….

  • mawnck

    I think it’s something that commenters in their forties and fifties tend to overlook, but people my age (early twenties) don’t have the emotional attachment that came from growing up with those attractions. Sure, you can keep It’s A Small World and the Tiki Room the same forever…but if you do, the park’s audience will erode away into nothingness because the dated plots, songs, and designs won’t be a pull to the younger generations.

    I don’t think keeping it the same (or at least similar) forever is going to hurt anything or anybody. Dated it most certainly is not. If there’s one single thing at Disneyland that’s timeless, iasw is absolutely it.

    Would you twenty-somethings mind getting over yourselves and admitting that some things can’t be improved upon, even by you? Or at least throw us elderly 40-somethings a bone and leave us one place that we can escape from Disney/PIXAR circa 2008 and revisit Walt Disney Productions circa 1964, if only for a few minutes?

    And by the way, which dated plots are you referring to? Snow White? Peter Pan? Dumbo? Pinocchio?

    Tiki Room, incidentally, had a song and a half snipped out of the show some years ago, never to return. I don’t disagree with that decision. The original Tiki Room show *is* terribly dated, both in pacing and content. (Everybody in the Tiki Room audience who recognizes the parrot’s Bing Crosby impression, raise your hands. Yep, thought so.)

    But at least it doesn’t suck eggs like what they did to it in Florida.

  • I was a young boy in 1964 when I rode ‘It’s a Small World’ at the New York Worlds fair. All the riders were New Yorkers.

    Twenty five years later, I rode it again at Disney World. I was the only American on the boat. It truly had become a small world and Disney has had a big part in helping bridge many gaps internationally.

    It’s a Small World should be preserved as a piece of Art and Cultural History. It, in its own innocent way may have help prevent World War and ushered in seeds of peace for the millions of people that have been exposed to this amazing 10 minute experience.

    Just based on that, we should preserve this experience for future generations.

    I visited “It’s a Small World” with my 7 year old daughter in March 2008 and felt I had passed on a spiritual endowment to her. I hope she will do the same for her children.

    David Baker
    Galesburg, MI

  • Pijohnso

    It’s a ridiculously dated ride. Just dump it and its irritating song! I could really live without Disney.

  • inmypajamas

    Disney characters in a Disney ride at a Disney park! What a shocker. The films of the last decade have highlighted countries around the world so why not include those characters familiar to kids around the world in the Small World ride?

    And that icky patriotism! Please. Walt himself was a proud and patriotic American and would surely approve the addition of an American tribute along with the tributes to all the other countries.

    I grew up in southern CA and went to Disneyland more times than I can possibly count. I have also been to WDW a couple of times. The last time I was on the Small World ride, there were not that many riders and it seemed dated even to someone who has grown up with and loved the ride. My children were not very impressed – the technology is just not as interesting to them as it was to us years ago. Some updating and refreshing would not be a bad thing. Walt was always up for new ideas, anyway.