it’s a small world Fantasyland Disneyland
The children of the world host this simplistic yet charming, whimsical, and gentle boat ride. Small boats glide along the international waters and you are very quickly surrounded by dancing dolls, animals and flowers, singing that now almost infamous song, “it’s a small world.”
Walt Disney originally designed the attraction for the Pepsi-Cola Company to benefit UNICEF at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. When the Fair closed, the attraction was moved to Disneyland where it opened in July 1966.
“it’s a small world” is considered a Fantasyland attraction, yet it occupies its own separate building outside of the main Fantasyland area. The building is practically an attraction in and of itself – the facade is a crazy quilt of different shapes and patterns, and incorporates architectural features from a variety of countries such as pagodas and minarets. In the center of the facade is a huge clock, with a smiling face that continuously rocks back and forth. Every 15 minutes the doors below the clock face open and there’s a musical “children’s march of nations”. This is followed by the opening of another pair of doors to reveal a set of blocks that give the current time — hour and minute.
The grounds around the building feature a veritable zoo of topiary animals, including moose, dolphins, giraffe, and elephant.
The queue is entirely outdoors, and winds down a ramp to the loading area.
As your boat serenely glides along for 10-1/2 minutes, you’ll be entertained by many audio-animatronics including doll figures, toys, animated props and even characters from Disney movies. Each room you pass through has a theme, with the audio animatronic dolls outfitted in clothing and props that reflect their respective cultures. The major themes include: Europe, Asia, Africa, Central/South America, South Pacific Islands, the U.S.A., the Finale and the Good-bye Scene. Listen to the lyrics of the song — throughout the cruise you’ll hear it in Spanish, French, and Japanese, to name a few.
During the 11-month refurbishment in 2008-2009 a number of changes were made. These include:
- The boats were redesigned to look like a child’s toy boat, with brighter colors. They also hold fewer passengers.
- The new “Spirit of America” room, featuring a scene of the American west based on a painting by Mary Blair, replaced the Rainforest Room. A new version of the rainforest was moved to the South Seas room.
- 29 characters from Disney and Disney*Pixar movies were added to the attraction. These include Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit, Cinderella, Jacques, and Gus, Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket, Mulan and Mushu, Aladdin, Jasmine, and Abu, Donald Duck, Panchito and Jose Carioca, Simba, Pumbaa and Timon, Ariel and Flounder, Dory and Nemo, Lilo and Stitch, and Jessie, Bullseye, and Woody.
- The soundtrack has been augmented in places and familiar Disney movie theme music has been added, appropriate to the scene and the characters. theme songs from some of the Disney movies. For example, “Golden Afternoon” can be heard near Alice in Wonderland, and “A Whole New World” near Jasmine and Aladdin.
Additional information on the refurbishment:
it’s a small world reopens
“it’s a small world” – Ride-through with Imagineer Kim Irvine
During the holiday season (first week of November through first week of January) it’s a small world is transformed into a holiday fantasy. The outside of the building, including all of the topiary animals, are decorated with white lights and the clock face wears a Santa hat. Inside the building it seems like everyone and everything is in the holiday spirit. There are signs proclaiming “Happy Holidays”, “Merry Christmas”, and “Happy New Year” in many different languages, holiday and fireworks displays, and everyone is dressed in their holiday best. The animals get into the spirit of the season, too — there’s reindeer with red noses, and the kiwi birds have jingle bells on their beaks. Even the soundtrack has a holiday flavor — for most of the ride it alternates verses of “it’s a small world” with Jingle Bells. Be sure and listen as you pass by the mermaids, though, since they sing their own version: Jingle Shells. In the “Goodbye” room everyone joins together in a chorus of Deck the Halls.
Read about the Walt Disney World version of “it’s a small world” HERE.
It’s a Small World is a continuous loading ride; that is, as soon as one boatload of visitors disembarks, another is then loaded on. Each boat can hold up to 15 people. During crowded times, the boats often back up at the end of the ride and sometimes gently bump each other, so do not stand or allow your children to stand until the Cast Member beckons you to unload.
Wheelchairs or ECVs should proceed through the auxiliary entrance, located in front of the attraction, then ask a Cast Member for boarding instructions. Wheelchairs can be rolled right onto specially equipped boats. ECVs must transfer to a standard wheelchair before riding.
Handheld captioning devices may be used on “it’s a small world”.
There are a number of Hidden Mickeys in this attraction.
This attraction is a great place to visit when it’s hot outside, as the cool air inside will refresh you.
Some adults and older children are delighted with the costumes and music, while others find it very boring.
There are many, many different dolls to spot as you wind along the waterway. Look for wooden soldiers, cancan dancers, balloonists, chess pieces, Tower of London guards, bagpipers and leprechauns, gooseherds, little Dutch children in wooden shoes, Don Quixote and Cleopatra, a goatherd, yodelers and gondoliers, dancers from Greece and Thailand, snake charmers, Japanese kite flyers, mermaids, hippos, giraffes, frogs, hyenas, monkeys, elephants, surfers, dolphins and much more! The 2008 refurbishment saw the addition of 29 Disney characters to the attraction, such as Alice in Wonderland, Pinocchio, Mulan, Simba, and Lilo and Stitch.
Look for easily recognized landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and the Taj Mahal.
The closest restrooms are located just outside the Fantasyland Theater.
Kids of all ages will enjoy this ride. There is nothing scary about it — no drops, no darkness, and no sudden loud noises or surprises.
There are 29 different Disney characters in the attraction, and trying to spot them is a fun activity for kids and adults.
Disney characters are sometimes available for meet-and-greets on the raised terrace area along Small World Way.
Troubadour Tavern just outside the Fantasyland Theater is the nearest dining location. There are also a number of carts along Small World Way which sell popcorn, churros, pretzels, frozen novelties and drinks. For indoor seating and a little more variety, try the Village Haus in Fantasyland.
The attraction exits into the “it’s a small world” Toy Shop. It offers Mattel toys including Disney dolls, park attraction playsets, and other children’s toys. Occasionally there are a few “it’s a small world” items for sale.
Walt Disney asked the Oscar-winning musical team of Richard and Robert Sherman to come up with a “simple piece that could be repeated over and over, sung in different languages” — thus, the famous “it’s a small world” theme song was born. The song was recorded by a church choir in London, a school chorus in Rome, Italy, TV performers in Mexico City and kids from Tokyo and Burbank, California. It was later spliced together with sounds and styles that represent 25 countries.
Walt Disney Imagineer artist Mary Blair created the conceptual drawings and doll designs for “it’s a small world.”
Disneyland carried a set of “small world beanies” in 1998-9 – these included the British Beefeater Boy, French Can-Can dancer, and Dutch Girl. The pink kangaroo, hippo, zebra, and rhino were also represented.
There is a clown figure in a hot air balloon in the “Finale” scene carrying a “Help” sign. It is is the only frowning figure in the entire attraction.
The coloring on the facade has changed several times over the years — it’s been bright pastels, soft pastels, and it’s currently all white.
“it’s a small world holiday” premiered in November 1997.
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