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it's a small world

An attraction in the Fantasyland area in Magic Kingdom theme park.

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Yes it's true. It's a Small World is the reason we have Walt Disney World today.

  • Apr 2, 2010
Although some people might consider multiple visits to “It’s A Small World” something on par with water-boarding, I look forward to riding this attraction every chance I get. It is a reminder that without it, there may never have been a Walt Disney World in Florida for me and my family to enjoy these many times. And, here’s why.

I was at the 1964/65 New York World’s Fair as a young teen, and visited the UNICEF Salute that was the Pepsi Pavilion. I particularly remember all the Walt Disney contributions to this event since I was also a big fan of the original Mickey Mouse Club, documentaries such as “The Living Desert” from the True Life Adventures Series that I saw in school, and the various TV incarnations of the Wonderful World of Disney.

But it is this “international kaleidoscope and tribute to the enchanting world of childhood”, which was It’s a Small World, that I give full credit to creation of “Project X”. As much as adults were enamored with the Carousel of Progress, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Magic Skyway (and so was I), it is only when their children get very excited about a vacation destination that adults will travel hundreds or thousands of miles simply to do rides. Little kids liked “It’s a Small World” and wanted to see more.

Interestingly Disney first declined Pepsi when approached to do something in mid-1963. It was much later that Walt alone decided to build this “little boat ride”.

An unknown publication with a Kodak Photo Montage of Small World.

The ride at the World’s Fair benefiting UNICEF cost 95 cents for adults and 60 cents for children. Over the two years, each only a 6-month period, there were over ten million visitors to this pavilion. They experienced a 12-minute highly animated show with memorable music featuring among the decorations France's Eiffel Tower, a Dutch windmill and India's Taj Majal. The large kinetic sculpture in front of the show building was called “The Tower of the Four Winds”, but this didn’t survive the later trip to California.

The Pepsi Pavilion at the Worlds Fair

Originally the “Children of the World” was to be the attraction name, but with the Sherman Brothers song titled “It’s a Small World”, the attraction name was changed to match. On the evolution of the song, I’ve read that first it was going to be a medley of national anthems. Then a ballad of the new title was created by Richard and Robert Sherman, but Walt asked that it be more “peppy” and sung in different languages. Thus, what we have today.
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 every one.
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, small world.

by Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman


So I believe that Small World was the real culmination of everything Walt Disney had previously accomplished for kids (Disneyland, TV shows, movies, three other Worlds Fair pavilions and collateral products) that ultimately made Walt Disney World possible. And it was the reason an east coast Disney Park would work, since it gave parents a strong reason to travel very long distances just for their children. It was only much later when grownups started to learn how much fun it could be at without the kids that WDW became a destination for everyone.

It’s A Small World © Disney

Once the NY World’s Fair ended, Disneyland gained this attraction on May 28, 1966. Then on opening day at Walt Disney World (October 1, 1971) Small World in Fantasyland joined the other start-up attractions, and as an E-Ticket ride. Three hundred singing and animatronic dancing dolls surrounding the Seven Seaways Water Canals represent the100 countries and five languages spoken here. It is something like a gentle, tunnel-of-love water ride (just no smooching, the kids are watching).

That is why I ride “It’s A Small World” every opportunity I can, since it is ongoing reminder that because of this one animatronics collage and sometimes annoying tune, I’m able to enjoy the total package which is Walt Disney World.

Note: One of the websites I used for research was This Day in Disney History and its Worlds Fair specialty page. There was one other main source, about architectural features at the World’s Fair, but I can’t locate the name. If anyone knows, let me know so I can give credit to them.

Bruce Brodsky, Blogger
A World View - Enjoying Walt Disney World

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April 20, 2010
Good article! It's a Small World is a Classic. It really does exemplify the intention behind Disney. I hope it never goes away.
April 06, 2010
I'm obsessed with all things retro-Disney and this was such a great look into the history of this ride. I'm so jealous you attended the World's Fair! If only we had time machines!
April 02, 2010
Thanks for your fine review and for bringing back a wonderful memory. My one and only visit to Disney was back in 1978 (pre-Epcot days) and my favoriteride was It's A Small World. So novel and so creative! .
April 02, 2010
Thanks for your comments; and I checked out your postings... I think we're an affinity group. I look forward to your future posts.
April 02, 2010
I did not know this about It's A Small World! I've been on the one in Disneyland several times before and it's definitely one of my favorite attractions (right up there with the teacups!). Thanks for sharing, Bruce, and great photos! :)
April 02, 2010
Thanks Devora, I always enjoy your feedback.
More It's A Small World (ride) reviews
Quick Tip by . April 17, 2010
posted in Only WDWorld
A ride that will always have a special place in my heart - since I got stuck in it for 15 minutes once. Pure insanity!
Quick Tip by . March 23, 2010
posted in Only WDWorld
Classic! Yes the song will get stuck in ur head, but isn't that why we go on it? Its all part of the WDW experience!
About the reviewer
Bruce Brodsky ()
Ranked #2
Hi folks. My blog is A World View - Enjoying Walt Disney World. I actually think it was watching a True-Life Adventure called the Living Desert that started my enthusiastic love of Disney. I must have … more
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Corporate Description: "it's a small world," a gentle boat ride that's fun for little ones as well as Guests of all ages, is in the Fantasyland area in Magic Kingdom theme park.Climb aboard and glide past nearly 300 brightly costumed dolls and animals as they sing "it's a small world" and dance on the shores of the Seven Seaways water canals that embrace this miniature globe.Dressed in costumes that represent more than 100 nations, the dolls sing the "it's a small world" song lyrics in 5 languages. Boundaries dissolve and continents are connected by this singular song. After all, this attraction—first designed for the 1964 New York World's Fair—has Walt Disney's personal touch.The Song Heard 'Round "it's a small world"The original concept for "it's a small world" had the dolls singing the national anthem from each country they represented. A good idea in theory, but everyone singing a different tune resulted in a musical cacophony that clearly weakened the attraction's theme of harmony.In the mid-1960s, Walt Disney interrupted staff composers Robert and Richard Sherman's work on the score for the upcoming Disney film, Mary Poppins, to write the single theme song for "it's a small world."Robert and Richard Sherman's first version of the "it's a small world" song was written as a ballad. Walt requested something more cheerful, so the song was sped up and sung as a round, or roundelay.Because of ...
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