It's a Small World

It's a Small World
"It's a Small World"
It's a Small World.jpg
Land Fantasyland
Coordinates 33°48′53″N 117°55′04″W / 33.8147°N 117.9178°W / 33.8147; -117.9178
Designer WED Enterprises
Manufacturer Disneyland Staff Shop, Grosh Studios, J.B. Allen Construction
Attraction type Interior Boat Cruise
Propulsion method Water jets, Electric turbine
Opening date May 28, 1966
Music "It's a Small World", written by the Sherman Brothers
Vehicle type Boat
Ride duration 15 minutes
Track height 2 ft (0.6 m)
Maximum speed 2 mph (3.2 km/h)
Site area Beyond the Railroad sq ft
Number of lifts 0
Sponsored by Osram Sylvania
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Fastpass availability icon.svg Fastpass available
Single rider line availability icon.svg Single rider available
"It's a Small World"
Its a small world at Magic Kingdom Florida.JPG
Magic Kingdom
Land Fantasyland
Coordinates 28°25′15″N 81°34′55″W / 28.4208°N 81.5820°W / 28.4208; -81.5820
Designer WED Enterprises
Opening date October 1, 1971
Ride duration 12:30 minutes
Sponsored by Mattel
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Fastpass availability icon.svg Fastpass available
Single rider line availability icon.svg Single rider available
"It's a Small World"
"it's a small world" at TDL.jpg
Tokyo Disneyland
Land Fantasyland
Coordinates 35°37′49″N 139°52′52″E / 35.6304°N 139.8812°E / 35.6304; 139.8812
Designer WED Enterprises
Opening date April 15, 1983
Ride duration - minutes
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Fastpass availability icon.svg Fastpass available
Single rider line availability icon.svg Single rider available
"It's a Small World"
Small world1.JPG
Disneyland Park (Paris)
Land Fantasyland
Coordinates 48°52′31″N 2°46′34″E / 48.8753°N 2.7761°E / 48.8753; 2.7761
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Opening date April 12, 1992
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Fastpass availability icon.svg Fastpass available
Single rider line availability icon.svg Single rider available
"It's a Small World"
Hong Kong Disneyland
Land Fantasyland
Coordinates 22°18′49″N 114°02′21″E / 22.3137°N 114.0391°E / 22.3137; 114.0391
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Opening date April 28, 2008
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Fastpass availability icon.svg Fastpass available
Single rider line availability icon.svg Single rider available

It's a Small World (stylized as "it's a small world" by The Walt Disney Company) is a popular interior boat cruise located in the Fantasyland area at each of the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts worldwide: Disneyland (in California), the Magic Kingdom (in Florida), Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. The ride features over 300 brightly costumed audio-animatronic dolls in the style of children of the world, frolicking in a spirit of international unity, and singing the attraction's title song, which has a theme of global peace.



It's a Small World was created by WED Enterprises in record time as the 1964 New York World's Fair UNICEF pavilion sponsored by Pepsi as a gift to the children of the world. It featured the kinetic sculpture Tower of the Four Winds, a 120-foot-high, perpetually turning mobile created by WED designer Roland "Rolly" Crump. It is one of five attractions (Magic Skyway [Ford], Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln [Illinois], it's a small world [UNICEF/Pepsi], Carousel of Progress [GE], and a tentative Circlerama 360°) which were used by Disney to test concepts and ride systems, then moved and re-built at Disneyland after the World's Fair closed in 1966. The company was given only 11 months lead time to create the ride.[1]

Mary Blair was principally responsible for the attraction's whimsical design styling. Blair had been an art director on several Disney animated features (including Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland, and Peter Pan). Like many Disneyland and Walt Disney World attractions, scenes and characters were designed by Marc Davis, while his wife, Alice Davis, designed the costumes for the dolls. Rolly Crump designed the toys and other supplemental figures on display. The animated dolls were designed by Disney sculptor Blaine Gibson, and manufactured and created by New York (Valley Stream) artist, Gregory S. Marinello. Walt was personally involved with Gregory's development of the dolls' facial design. Each animated child doll face is identical in shape (hence the name "it's a small world").


"Children of the World" was the working title of the attraction. The attraction's tentative soundtrack design featured each national anthem, playing all at once, which resulted in a cacophonous noise. Walt demonstrated the miniature mock-up to his staff songwriters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman. As he and the Sherman Brothers walked through Walt said, "I need one song."[2] a single song for the attraction which could be easily translated into many different languages and which could be played in round. The Sherman Brothers wrote "It's a small world (after all)".[3] in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which influenced the song's message. They first presented "It's a small world (after all)" to Walt by singing in counterpoint while walking through the mock-up. The attraction became known as "it's a small world" after Walt Disney approved the Sherman Brothers' title song.

In the spirit of international unity, "It's a small world (after all)" was sung and recorded in various studios around the world – by a church choir in London, TV performers in Mexico City, a school chorus in Rome, and by local children from Tokyo and California.

It is argued that this song is the single most performed and most widely translated song on earth.[2] The song tune and lyrics are the only Disney creations never to be copyrighted, as UNICEF requested, and can be heard worldwide on musical devices ranging from keyboard demos to ice cream trucks and even public loudspeakers in some parts of Japan that play this song to signal the time, it remains "a gift to the children of the world."

Global installations

1964 New York World's Fair

The first incarnation of "It's a small world" – a Salute to UNICEF and the World's Children was an afterthought which nearly couldn't happen. The Ford Motor Co. and General Electric had engaged Disney to create their pavilions for the 1964 New York World's Fair. WED Enterprises was already at work designing audio-animatronics "doll" fashioned as Abraham Lincoln when the State of Illinois approached Walt to create the Illinois Pavilion, representatives of the state instantly approved after being "introduced" to the robotic figurehead. A CircleVision 360° exhibit was also in planning when Pepsi approached Walt late in the game with a plan to tribute UNICEF. "Disney seemed to be the showman to give us the package we want… He's terrific. He's got his hands in more bowls than anyone I've ever seen, but he accomplishes what he sets out to do." — J.G. Mullaly, Ford's World's Fair program manager.[4]

1964 World's Fair "It's a small world" ticket, logo portion.

April 22, 1964 – opening day.

"A salute to the children of the world, designed by Walt Disney, presents animated figures frolicking in miniature settings of many lands. Visitors are carried past the scenes in small boats. In an adjoining building Pepsi sponsors exhibits by the U.S. Committee for the United Nations Children's Fund. Above the pavilion rises the 120-foot Tower of the Four Winds, a fanciful creation of coloured shapes that dance and twist in the breeze." — 1965 Official Guide Book to the New York World’s Fair[5]

The attraction was incredibly successful. Ten-million 60¢ and 95¢ tickets for children and adults were collected hand over fist in two half-year seasons and the proceeds were donated to UNICEF.[5] While other attractions had lines out the doors, there seemed to always be a welcoming seat available aboard "It's a Small World." The phenomenal "people-eater" function of numerous voyagers per hour cruise capacity was recognized as a valuable innovation which was incorporated indirectly and directly into future attractions. Pirates of the Caribbean had been under construction at Disneyland as a subterranean walk-through. That design was literally scrapped as concrete was broken out so similar boats could sail pretend buccaneers past scenes which were different each voyage, another epiphany which forever influenced attraction design and popularity.

The layout of the attraction area featured a large show building which housed the boat ride. In front of the building stood the "Tower of the Four Winds," a 120-foot tall kinetic structure designed by Rolly Crump. The tower, with its many propellers, vanes and other moving parts, was a landmark at the World's Fair. The tower was discarded after the fair closed.


The boats enter the show building through a tunnel under the Small World clock and emerge from the ride fifteen minutes later. The show building interior is surprisingly larger than the façade. Voyagers see animatronic dolls in traditional local costumes singing "it's a small world (after all)" together, each in their native language. Boats carry voyagers as they visit the regions of the world:

  • The Hello/title Room greets visiting guests a two dimensional cutout decoupage representing a boat carrying children of all nations support the title banner and many cultural greetings from around the world nearby.
  • The Arctic/North Pole features dolls representing Scandinavia and Canada singing "It's a Small World (after all)" in Swedish.
  • Europe – the English dolls sing with a Cockney accent, French, Italians, and a yodeler represents Switzerland.
  • Asia, with the song sung in Japanese.
  • Africa, with the rhythm of the song marked with drums and then sung in English.
  • Latin America, with the song sung in Spanish.
  • South Seas, with the song sung by mermaids (previously with an underwater gurgling sound, until the 2009 renovation) in the first section of the room, a rainforest scene with native drummers, and a Polynesian steel drum version of the song throughout the rest of the room.
  • North America, with dolls representing the United States and the song sung in English. (Until the 2009 renovation, the North America Room housed the rainforest scene).
  • The Finale Room, with representatives from all the cultures of the world dressed in white versions of their native costumes and singing in English in unison. (Before the refurbishment, a cowboy and Native American standing together were the only dolls during the voyage that represented the United States.)
  • The Goodbye room features brightly painted two dimensional cut-outs representing stamps, airmail envelopes and postcards.
  • Voyagers proceed emerge from the show building from beneath the Small World clock and proceed in a curve through fanciful landscaping featuring topiary representing animals such as dolphins and moose to the twin embark/disembark dock.

Other Disney park installations wind the flume around one large room, emphasizing its theme that the world is small and interconnected. Each installation may vary the countries which are represented and the order in which they appear.

  • The Scandinavian dolls are in the Europe room.
  • In Paris, the song is also sung in French, German, and Arabic.
  • Hong Kong begins with a separate Arctic room, the rainforest scene in the South America Room, the song is also sung in Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin and Tagalog.


The Tower of the Four Winds was not relocated to Disneyland's "It's a Small World" after the New York World's Fair: taking its place is a large, three-dimensional facade with stylized cutout turrets, towers and minarets which are vaguely reminiscent of world landmarks (such as the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa.) The facade was designed by Disney Imagineer Rolly Crump who was inspired by Mary Blair's styling. Walt Disney asked Rolly to design a large 30-foot clock, a central feature of the exterior facade with a smiling face that rocks back and forth to a ticking sound.

A parade of wooden dolls in native culture costumes dance out from doors at the base of the Small World clock to an instrumental toy soldier version of "It's a small world (after all)" in preparation for each quarter hour, reminiscent of a Black Forrest Cuckoo Clock. As the last doll returns into the clock, the parade doors close and the large central pair of doors open to reveal two giant toy blocks—the large block displays highly stylized numerals of the hour, the small one second by the quarter hour, while large and small bells toll indicating the hours and quarters.

The exterior has been slightly repainted over the years, first as all-white with a gold/silver trim, then in various shades of blue, then in pink and white with pastel accents. Portions of the left side of the original facade were removed in 1993 to make room for the entrance to Mickey's Toontown. Currently, the facade is white with a gold trim as it was in 1966, except the original gold and silver paint of the clock, the smiling clock face, is now entirely gold leaf. The gardens around the building are decorated with topiary animals.

During the 2005–2006 holiday season a sophisticated, elaborate, multi-media presentation was projected upon the outdoor façade which registered colored patterns matched to the façade each quarter hour after dusk. Guests were encouraged to view the popular Remember... Dreams Come True fireworks presentation from the "It's a small world" Mall and nearby parade viewing platform built for "Light Magic" (which had included a smoking area, now re-located under the Monorail track between the Matterhorn Bobsleds and Autopia) to decrease overwhelming crowds gathered for viewing the fireworks spectacular in Plaza (hub) and Main Street.

Refurbishment with new dolls

Disneyland's "It's a small world – happy holiday" was closed from January to November 2008 (reopening in "happy holiday" version) to receive a major refurbishment.[6][7][8] The building's structure was improved, permanent attachments created for the "It's a small world – happy holiday" overlay, the waterflume replaced and propulsion upgraded to electric water jet turbines, and the attraction's aging fiberglass boats redesigned in durable plastic. The refurbishment added 30 new Disney characters each in their native land, such as Ariel under water, Pinocchio in Italy, Cinderella in France with England hosting Alice, the White Rabbit, Peter Pan and Tinkerbell. The former New Guinea Room was transformed to North America with Woody, Jessie and Bullseye. The scenes, figures, props, and set pieces of New Guinea were then added to the end of the South Seas Room.

Sylvania has agreed to a twelve year sponsorship and created a new marquee for the attraction.

The Magic, Memories and You

As part of Disney's "Let the Memories Begin" campaign for 2011, a nighttime projection show premiered at Disneyland's "it's a small world" in Anaheim on January 27, 2011.[9] The Magic, Memories and You show projects sequences of classic Disney attractions and characters set to Disney tunes onto the exterior façade of "it's a small world" to fill it's architectural features, personalized with exclusive photographs and videos of park guests taken that day by Disney's PhotoPass cast members. A similar show exists in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom projected onto Cinderella Castle.

Magic Kingdom

October 1, 1971 the cruise began to welcome visitors to Florida's Walt Disney World Fantasyland within the Magic Kingdom. The nearby Pinocchio Village Haus restaurant overlooks the queue area.

  • The Goodbye Room, which at Disneyland shows different postcards and parting phrases from around the world, instead displays parting phrases written on highly stylized flowers.
  • The attraction underwent a major refurbishment from May 2004 to March 2005, reopening with a state-of-the-art sound system, new lighting effects, and an enclosed loading area similar to the attraction's façade at Disneyland.
  • In September 2010 until October 21, 2010, this Walt Disney World attraction was again closed for refurbishment.

Tokyo Disneyland

The Tokyo Disneyland version of the attraction is a carbon copy of the Magic Kingdom version except for these differences:movie 『It's a Small World』.

  • The finale is sung in Japanese.
  • The Goodbye Room is much smaller.
  • It has a facade that is based on its western cousin.

Disneyland Paris

In Disneyland Paris, the attraction is somewhat different from other versions of the attraction. The exterior clock face features a wide-awake sun on its right half and a sleeping moon on on its left half. The scenery and music are done in a different style (i.e. more ornate, more symphonic), and there is a separate room for North America, with dolls representing Canada and the United States. This version also has a complete Middle Eastern section (in which the song is sung in Arabic). In the Finale Room, in addition to the song being sung in English, it is also sung in French and German.

Hong Kong Disneyland

The Hong Kong Disneyland version opened in April 2008 with 38 Disney characters (all rendered in the Mary Blair style) added to scenes where their stories originated.[10] mimicking its original sister in Disneyland. This version also features an expanded Asia sequence, a Middle Eastern Room, and a new scene for North America. The Finale Room features extraordinary fiber-optic lighting effects not seen on any other Disney attraction.[11] The song is sung in Cantonese, Mandarin, Korean and Tagalog, languages which are unique to Hong Kong Disneyland's version. The finale is sung in 3 languages: Cantonese, English and Mandarin. The attraction is the largest indoor attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland, and the location of the attraction is beyond the Disneyland Railroad next to The Golden Mickeys attraction.

Holiday season

"It's a Small World Holiday" lighting display.

Since 1997, Disneyland has featured "It's a Small World Holiday" during the end-of-the-year Christmas and holiday season. The attraction is closed in late October to receive temporary holiday decorations inside and outside, and reopens in early November before the start of the busy holiday tourist season. The overlay has proved very popular and at one point during its run needed the use of FASTPASS machines (which have since been removed). The attraction is the same boat voyage through many regions of the world, though the main theme song is not played fully. Instead, the children sing "Jingle Bells" and a bridge of "Deck the Halls" in addition to the main theme. The holiday overlay has since been implemented at Tokyo Disneyland with similar decorations, if not more, than the Disneyland version.

From now on the Disney characters and The Spirit of America room (formerly the covered transition room) are joining in the "It's a Small World Holiday" at Disneyland.

Disneyland Paris's version used to add subtle decorations around the attraction and changed the music in the North American area to "Deck The Halls". For the 2009 winter season, Disneyland Paris has added "It's a small world celebration", a variation of "it's a small world – happy holiday" highlighting winter season frolic shared by people worldwide. It includes new costumes, lighting, sounds, decorations and uses the Disneyland (California) version "It's a small world holiday" music – Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls.

Hong Kong Disneyland's "It's a small world – happy holiday" changes the music seasonally and subtly adds a few Christmas decorations.

Attraction facts and figures

Disneyland attraction version:

  • Grand opening: May 28, 1966
    • Closing date: January 22, 2008 (for renovation)
  • Grand re-opening date: February 5, 2009
  • Boat capacity: 15 passengers
  • Animated/Disney characters/unanimated figures: 437
  • Slogan: The happiest cruise that ever sailed 'round the world..
  • Facade: White and gold.

Magic Kingdom attraction version:

  • Grand opening: October 1, 1971 (Opened with the Magic Kingdom park)
    • Closing date: May 2, 2004 (for renovation)
  • Grand re-opening: March 18, 2005
  • Flume capacity: 500,000 US gallons (2,000 m³) of water
  • Boat capacity: 24 passengers
  • Animated/unanimated figures: 472
    • Audio-Animatronics dolls: 289
    • Toys: 147
    • Animated props: 36
  • Slogan: The happiest cruise that ever sailed the seven seas.
  • Facade: Same as Anaheim, but the facade is inside a building without any doors

Tokyo Disneyland attraction version:

  • Grand opening April 15, 1983 (Opened with the Tokyo Disneyland Park)
  • Slogan: Welcomes You to the Magic Kingdom of All the World's Children.
  • Facade: Same as Anaheim but the entrance is on the left of the clock tower and the facade is more colorful.

Disneyland Paris attraction version:

  • Grand opening April 12, 1992 (Opened with Euro Disneyland)
  • Slogan: The happiest cruise that ever sailed around the world.
  • Facade: Same as Florida and Anaheim but the clock looks like a moon and sun face

Hong Kong Disneyland attraction version:

  • Soft opening: April 27, 2008
  • Grand opening: April 28, 2008
  • attraction area: 83,500 sq ft (7,760 m2)
  • Boat capacity: 23 passengers
  • Animated/unanimated figures: 514
    • Audio-Animatronics dolls: 202
    • Disney characters: 38
    • Toys: 220
    • Animated props: 42
  • Slogan: The happiest that ever sailed.
  • Facade: A color facade similar to Anaheim, Florida and Tokyo, but the entrance is on the right of the clock tower, with indoor boarding like Florida's version

Cultural references

  • "Gremlin Village" is the area based on this attraction in the video game Epic Mickey. It is home to the Gremlins and the attraction's outer facade was adapted into it as the game's first boss, the Clock Tower.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Selma's Choice", Bart, Lisa and Selma Bouvier ride an attraction called The Little Land of Duff in Duff Gardens wherein Lisa starts to hallucinate after drinking some "water" in this aquatic ride. The Little Land of Duff is a parody of the ride.
  • In The Fairly OddParents episode "Love At First Height", Timmy sees a ride at Adrenaland called "It's A Dull World" which is a parody of Small World.
  • In the Courage the Cowardly Dog episode "Human Habitrail", Courage has to go rescue Eustace and Muriel by heading to Dr. Gerbil's lair. He takes a raft to it while listening to "It's Doc Gerbil's World".
  • In the Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain episode "A Walk in the Park", the trio visits a Disney-esque theme park where Brain attempts to change the looping song in the "Small World" ride to one containing an encoded hypnotic message.
  • In Going Bovine, the lead character Cameron almost died on the ride as a child.

Disney itself has been known to reference the attraction. In The Lion King (1994), Scar tells Zazu to sing something "with a little bounce in it." Zazu sings "It's a Small World" and Scar prevents him from finishing the song. Direct-to-video release The Return of Jafar (1994), released earlier that year, includes Genie returning from his trip around the world. Aladdin remarks that he didn't take a long time at his trip, Genie then turns into a bunch of Genie dolls, and sings "It's a Small World". Lesser uses include video game Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep (2010), in which the song plays from an ice cream musical machine.

See also


External links

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