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Disney World Classic Attraction - "it's a small world"

One of the most beloved Disney attractions will celebrate 50 years of delighting passengers on April 22, but few people know that it was first seen at the 1964-1965 New York World's Fair and not at a Disney theme park.

Entrance to "it's a small world"

"it's a small world"

The attraction that has made so many people smile and sing along to it's catchy song was not originally on Walt Disney's plate of projects for the 1964 World's Fair in New York.  While plans were underway and in development for Carousel Of Progress, Great Stories With Mr. Lincoln, and the Ford Magic Skyway, the Pepsi-Cola Company came to Walt with a need for an attraction for the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).  Never one to walk away from a challenge Walt agreed to take on this project as well.

The original attraction was relocated to Disneyland after the completion of the fair and re-opened on May 28, 1966.  It has been duplicated in every Magic Kingdom park built around the world.  It was one of the original opening day attractions at the Magic Kingdom at the Walt Disney World Resort.

When "it's a small world" opened at Disney World there were 289 dolls representing six continents in addition to a multitude of toys, animals, and props.

Disney Legends Abound For Creation Of "it's a small world."

There was no shortage of talent when it came to the design and creation of "it's a small world."  The list of designers and major influencers reads like a who's who of Disney lore and legends.

  • Marc Davis
  • Alice Davis
  • Mary Blair
  • Rolly Crump
  • Blaine Gibson
  • Walt Disney

Marc Davis is mainly responsible for coming up with the main concept for the attraction after Walt Disney gave him the instructions to create a boat ride attraction for UNICEF to represent the children of the world.

The project got a special lift when Walt suggested that they get Mary Blair involved.  At the time, Mary, a former Disney employee was working at Golden Books, but when presented with this opportunity she came book to work for Disney to take on this project.

Mary brought her artistic style that has those childlike qualities to it that make it uniquely endearing to all who see it.

Another Disney Legend that played a major role was Alice Davis, often considered the first female Disney Imagineer.  Alice painstakingly took on the task to make sure that the costumes worn by the dolls looked authentic and represented the various countries and regions of the world.

The Simple Song That Brings It All Together

One aspect of 'it's a small world" that cannot be overlooked is the song that all of us know all too well. The original design for the attraction had the children each singing their native national anthems as you progressed through the boat ride.

Legendary Disney Songwriting duo Richard and Robert Sherman were brought onboard to provide the music for the attraction and noted that the sound of the conflicting national anthems created a "cacophony."  So the talented brothers created a simple song that could easily be translated into multiple languages and resonate with the guests.

The resulting song is a Disney Theme park masterpiece! During the course of a day at Disney World the song will get played around 1,200 times.  Multiply that by the 5 "it's a small world" attractions at Disney Parks around the world and you have a song that is always playing somewhere making people smile and infectiously singing along.

The words penned by Richard and Robert Sherman, although simple, really bring home the message intended in the song:

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears.
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears.
There's so much that we share,
That it's time we're aware
It's a small world after all.
It's a small world after all.
It's a small world after all.
It's a small world after all.
It's a small, small world.

There is just one moon and one golden sun.
And a smile means friendship to everyone.
Though the mountains divide,
And the oceans are wide
It's a small world after all.
It's a small world after all.
It's a small world after all.
It's a small world after all.
It's a small, small world. 

Classic Disney Attraction

From it's humble origin as a little boat ride, this innocent tribute to children of the world, brings out the kid in all of us.  The fantastically simple animation of the hundreds or dolls, animals and props creates a backdrop that is a feast for the eyes and senses as you make your way through six continents around the world on your boat ride.

Hopefully you are singing along with the song in your head, or out loud if you so desire, and enjoyed this look back at the attraction that has delighted millions of people all around the world for 50 years.

Saying "Goodbye" in final scene on "it's a small world"

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