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'It's a Small World' gets makeover

Updating "It's a Small World"  

15 members have voted

  1. 1. Should Disney have updated "It's a Small World"?

    • NO. It's a classic Disney attraction that shouldn't be messed with at all.
    • MAYBE. As long as the updates don't ruin the original artistic style of the attraction.
    • YES. The attraction has passed its prime and needs some freshening up.
    • "It's a Small World" should be removed from the park.

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Source: The Press Enterprise


'It's a Small World' gets makeover




07:49 PM PST on Wednesday, February 4, 2009



The Associated Press


More than 40 years after the "It's A Small World" ride opened at Disneyland to promote world peace and showcase the cultures of the world, Disney is populating one of its most beloved attractions with its own trademark vision of the planet: Aladdin, Nemo, Ariel and more than two dozen cartoon characters plucked from its movies.


And those aren't the only changes visitors will find when the ride reopens today.


Disney has woven a few bars from some of its hit soundtracks into the classic "Small World" melody and added a new America section that includes a nod to the Hollywood Bowl, a quaint farm scene and "Toy Story" characters.



Senior Production Designer Leslee Turnbull paints the Cinderella portion of "It's A Small World" at Disneyland


Disney says it supplemented the human dolls with make-believe figures to keep the aging ride appealing to younger generations and give it a new twist.


Some angry fans see an unabashed marketing ploy that trashes the pacifist message at the heart of the ride and ruins one of the few rides that remained unchanged since the days of Walt Disney.


"What message are they actually saying about the world?" said Jerry Beck, an animation historian who runs the blog Cartoon Brew. "That you can go anywhere and there will be a Disney theme park?"


The added figures from a dozen movies include the blue alien Stitch, the mermaid Ariel, and characters from the 1992 movie "Aladdin."


"Disney wants to brand the diversity of the entire world and somehow say that it's Disney derived," said Leo Braudy, a cultural historian at USC. "It seems a bit crass to put this brand on something that was meant to be a sort of United Nations for children."


The "Small World" ride debuted at the 1964 World's Fair in New York as a benefit to the United Nations Children's Fund and moved to Disneyland two years later.


When Walt Disney dedicated the ride in 1966, he invited children from around the world to pour water from their homelands into its flume in a gesture of unity.


Replicas have opened at Disney theme parks in Florida, Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, and company research shows that a quarter of all Disneyland guests consider the ride a family tradition.


Disney says it hopes adding what it calls "new magic" to the 43-year-old attraction will attract even more riders and create new traditions for young families who don't identify with "Small World" as strongly as previous generations.


The makeover appeals to many fans, some of whom grew up riding it each year with their parents.



Adding characters, such as Alice and the White Rabbit, have some longtime fans shouting, "Off with their heads."


Dawn Barbour visited Disneyland from Texas with her children and was disappointed to find the ride closed for renovations but thrilled to hear about the changes.


"Oh, anything Disney does is always exciting," Barbour said. "It's always something fun, and they never do anything halfway."


Disney designers say routine repairs gave them an opportunity to add another dimension to the message of cross-cultural understanding by working in references to Disney movies that are based on foreign fairy tales or set in faraway lands.


Whenever Disney changes a popular ride, they say, the company receives criticism from die-hard fans who are resistant to anything that will alter the Disneyland of their childhood memories.


So-called "Dis-nerds" also got upset when Disney refurbished the classic Pirates of the Caribbean attraction but were mollified once they saw the updated ride.


Designers insist the changes to "Small World" are even more subtle and conform to Walt Disney's original philosophy and style while keeping the attraction from becoming "like a museum," said Kim Irvine, director of concept design for Walt Disney Imagineering.


The son of the ride's original designer, children's illustrator Mary Blair, wrote an open letter to Disney executives blasting the changes.


"The Disney characters themselves are positive company icons, but they do NOT fit in with the original theme of the ride," wrote Kevin Blair. "They will do nothing except marginalize the rightful stars of the ride, 'the children of the world.' "


Marty Sklar, executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, responded with his own letter, which was quickly posted on dozens of blogs and appeased some fans.


"We are not trying to turn this classic attraction into a marketing pitch for Disney plush toys," Sklar wrote.


But some longtime Disney watchers disagree.


"Parents ... could take the kids on this ride and it wasn't so much about sales; it was about the images, the graphics, the dolls," said Al Lutz, a veteran Disney watcher who runs miceage.com. "It was a respite from the overwhelming commercial message that Disney can be sometimes."

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Not a big fan of this as a whole because I think the Small World rides should have been kept as they were. They were rides built not in the spirit of promoting individual Disney characters, but instead of promoting diversity, unity, and other noble ideals. Throwing the trademark Disney characters into the mix I think somewhat dilutes the ride form what it was personally.

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I see it as a way to keep the ride more relevant for kids today who expect to see the Disney characters they know around every corner in Disney parks. I think since they decided to do it at least they are doing it right, keeping with the original Mary Blair style the ride was designed in.

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I love the new changes! I wish they would come to Florida. I love how they fit right in, as if they where always there. I would be interested to see a Small World done 3 Colboerros(I knows I spelt it wrong)/ Mexico ride with Project scenes showing the Disney characters in the countries. But NOTHING will ever beat the sound of 300 animatronic children singing the same tune( no I am not being sarcastic). One of the reasons Small World is SOOOOO popular, although annoying, is it is a feel good attraction. It doesn't really have a theme, it's just 10 minutes of smiling faces and a good Song. So, it doesn't have a backstory of a haunted mansion or a trip to space, that gives you nothing to think about, no story to follow. You can only focus on the happy energy the ride gives off. One thing I've noticed is that guests who start the day by riding Small World leave and have a great day. Theres nothing scary or nothing not to like. It is just a "kick back, relax, ans smile" attraction. If Disney ever screws THAT up, than that really is ruingin the tradition and it should be fixed, IMMEDIETELY!!!!!!!!


With the new additions Disney: :lol:

Classic Attraction: ^_^

If you ruin it Disney: :censored:

Edited by warnerleroy
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I don't like the new additions but seeing them looking like the other dolls don't make it as bad as I thought it would be. Stitch should not be there though. I guess I would have to ride it to see for myself though since most people had positive things to say about the POTC and I hated what they did to the ride. Jack Sparrow looked way too realistic compared to the "cartoon" looking pirates in the ride and didn't like how they changed part of the dialogue to talk about him in the ride.


In general I don't like that it seems like everything has to tie into a movie in the parks though. Fantasyland is one thing but Tomorrowland is quickly becoming Pixar Land and if the rumored Cars taking over the Speedway is true that will just make it worse.

Edited by Yoshi
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  • 2 weeks later...

I think it was a great addition. Walt Disney was for "plussing" his rides, constantly changing them. He even stated that Disneyland was his piece of clay, free to be changed whenever and however he wanted. "it's a small world" isn't a museum, it's an attraction. In order to keep guests continually visiting it, changes were required.

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I'm all for improving outdated attractions and using modern technology to enhance appeal. I just think they went in the wrong direction by inserting Disney characters, especially ones from outer space, into a ride about world harmony. Disney thrusts it's movies down your throat plenty, it isn't necessary to insert them into attractions that Walt himself didn't think they belonged.

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