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Florida Guide > Magic Kingdom

‘It’s a small world’ – Love it or Hate it?

If you have visited Magic Kingdom then I guess, like me, you will have visited ‘It’s A Small World. ’ It’s irritatingly repetitive music it is something that will undoubtedly stay with you for the rest of the day. It is a bit ‘twee’ and certainly has none of the high tech animatronics of other Disney attractions, but I hate to admit it – I actually quite enjoy it – even if the song drives me absolutely nuts. It is one of those things which, like Marmite, you either love or hate – there is no middle way!

The story of how this ride developed is very interesting and goes way back to 1963, when representatives of the giant Pepsi-Cola Corporation asked Admiral Joe Fowler if they could sponsor a pavilion at the forthcoming New York World’s Fair. Disney was already involved in three other projects at this fair, and so Fowler declined their offer as he felt they had enough to do already. However, Walt, on learning of this decision, was furious, as he had had an idea for many years of a show which would feature the children of the world singing in harmony and peace. He reversed the decision and told Pepsi that Disney would take on this project. Thus it was that, one month later, construction began in New York, despite there being only a vague idea of what the attraction would actually be like.

The outcome was that flat bottomed boats, holding around 20 people were propelled round a channel of water at a speed of about one and a half miles an hour, past dolls dressed in the costumes of their countries. The writers of the score of ‘Mary Poppins, ’ Robert and Richard Sherman, were temporarily taken off that project and very soon came up with the catchiest (and most irritating! ) tune ever. Walt himself said ‘I need something and I need it right away. It should talk about unity and understanding and brotherly love, but don’t get preachy. ’ When it opened on April 22nd, 1964, ‘It’s a small world’ was an instant success. It was later moved, in 1965, to Disneyland, and when Disney World opened in Florida it was one of the opening day attractions. However, its exterior was given a castle/medieval fair style which would merge perfectly with the other rides in Fantasyland.

‘It’s a small world’ underwent major renovation works in 2004, and a digitally enhanced soundtrack was added. The entire attraction received a much needed coat of paint and the dolls were given new costumes. A giant decorative clock, which was an integral part of the Disneyland attraction, was added to the Orlando theme park. Every 15 minutes the giant doors of this clock open to reveal the time. The attraction re-opened on March 18th, 2005.

There are seven scenes inside IASW, and these represent Europe, Asia, Central and South America, Africa and the South Pacific, with a Finale and Good-bye Scene. There are 289 dolls which represent 100 different areas of the world, and these are supported by 36 animated props and 147 toys. The canal which holds the 50, 000 gallons of water is 1, 085 ft long, and the voyage takes around 10 minutes. The dolls themselves are pretty basic, and all look pretty much like each other, with their round faces. The only parts which move are their eyes, their lips, and their arms and legs.

Amazingly, in this era of technological sophistication, this most unsophisticated attraction still remains popular, so don’t forget to give it a try next time you are at Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

Oh, and by the way, the name, ‘It’s a small world’ is always displayed with lower case letters!

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Page added on: 11 January 2011
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