It IS a Small World After All

by Alice McNutt Miller
AllEars® Guest Columnist

Feature Article

This article appeared in the February 9, 2010 Issue #542 of ALL EARS® (ISSN: 1533-0753)

I read Jack Spence's recent blog and article for AllEars® on the origins of the "it's a small world" attraction, and was reminded that the name of this attraction has become firmly rooted in our everyday language usage and popular culture. (I did a quick Google search on "it's a small world after all" and got about 240 MILLION results.)

How many times have you thought to yourself, or exclaimed to your companions, "Wow, it really is a small world!" This may happen when you run into someone you haven't seen for years in an unexpected location, or hear of a shared experience in a surprising way. I refer to these encounters as "Small World Moments."  I have had many Small World Moments on visits to Walt Disney World. Rarely does my family have a visit where one of us does not catch a glimpse of someone we know from home or from some other part of our lives.

On one trip, we were lounging in the courtyard across from the Tusker House restaurant in the Animal Kingdom, when my older daughter said, "Hey, isn't that Brady?" Sure enough, it was the son of one of our neighbors. We said hello, laughed that we did not know that we would all be visiting Disney World at the same time, and then waved happy goodbyes. We saw the same family again a few nights later in a different part of the World. On our last trip, when we were walking through the United Kingdom area of Epcot, I caught a glimpse of a woman I had worked with years earlier, and had not seen for a long time. By the time I remembered her name, and moved to say hello, she and her family had disappeared. Sorry Barbara, maybe next time.

Walt Disney World is not the only place that I have had Small World Moments. I have had many during my business travels, where I have run into colleagues, acquaintances, classmates, friends and former bosses in airports, hotel lobbies, museums and cultural attractions and on the street in cities all over the world.

My most memorable Small World Moment happened at Hong Kong Disneyland. It was the spring of 2006, and I was in Hong Kong to attend a conference for work. I asked my husband if he minded if I added an additional day to my trip so that I could visit Hong Kong Disneyland, then only about a year-and-a-half old. He agreed, and I made the arrangements, calling to make a reservation at the resort's Hollywood Hotel (the international phone call to make the reservation cost almost as much as the room itself, but that is for another story). At the conclusion of the conference that I was attending, I (sheepishly) explained to my colleagues that I would not be returning to Washington with them, as I was staying on in Hong Kong to indulge my Disney passion.

On this particular trip, I ran into a business acquaintance from Indonesia in front of my hotel in Hong Kong (the Kowloon Shangri-la; the same hotel Jack Spence stayed in on the trip to Hong Kong that he recounted in his AllEars® blog -- yet another Small World Moment!). As a result of that encounter, I was not expecting to have another Moment on this trip.

Early on the morning of the day of my visit to Hong Kong Disneyland, I checked out of my hotel and walked the block to the Hong Kong subway (the MTR), which, with one change of trains, would take me to Hong Kong Disneyland. After the Disney-themed train (beautiful!) arrived at the Resort station, I took a bus to my hotel, checked in, left my suitcase, and purchased my park ticket for the day. I then walked to the gate of the resort, and waited with a very small crowd (at least compared to my previous experiences at Disney World) for the rope drop.

I spent a lovely day at the park, riding rides (there were only two other people on Dumbo for the first ride of the day!), watching the parade, and eating yummy Disney Chinese food.  Late in the afternoon, when I was getting tired (and tired of being alone) I headed toward the last showing of the "Festival of the Lion King." As I waited in the queue for the show to start, I noticed an American-looking family (Mom, Dad and teenage son and daughter) standing in line in front of me. A voice came over the loudspeaker above our heads and made a rather unintelligible announcement about the show. Mom looked at me and asked if I understood what had been said. We both laughed, and struck up a conversation. Family asked me where I was from, and I answered that I lived in the Washington, DC area. I asked where they were from, and Dad answered "Idaho." Whoa! I felt a Small World Moment coming on. "Where in Idaho?" I asked. "Coeur d'Alene," Mom answered. "It is a small town in the northern part of the state." Now, I KNOW where Coeur d'Alene is. I grew up there. Definitely a Small World Moment. Daughter: "No way!" We shared another laugh. Who would have thought that I would have struck up a conversation with a lovely family from MY hometown in Idaho in Hong Kong Disneyland? 

The family took me under their wing, sensing that I was feeling a bit lonely. We sat together and had a rambling conversation while we waited for the show to start. Son asked me about the teachers I had when I had attended Coeur d'Alene High School (sorry, Sonny, that was a LONG time ago, can't imagine that there would still be any of the same teachers there), and Mom about what I had been doing since I left. After we enjoyed the show together, we parted ways, still laughing at our happy coincidence.

Unfortunately, I got neither the name of the family, nor a picture to remember our encounter by, but every time I ride "it's a small world" at a Disney park, I remember my special Hong Kong Disneyland Small World Moment, and look forward to many more to come. 

The next time you ride "it's a small world" think of all of the Small World Moments that you have had, and how the singing dolls and that catchy song have become metaphors for shared experiences and chance encounters. Thanks, Walt. It IS a small world after all!



Alice McNutt Miller is a lifelong Disney fan whose fondest childhood memories include "The Wonderful World of Disney" on Sunday nights and her first trip to Disneyland when she was 10 years old.  Alice and her family are Disney Vacation Club members, and have visited Disney parks all over the world. They live in Vienna, Virginia.


Editor's Note: This story/information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all current rates, information and other details before planning your trip.