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It's a Small World
It's a Small World.jpg
Land Fantasyland
Designer Walt Disney; Mary Blair
Attraction type Boat canal
Propulsion method Flume Pumps
Opening date May 1966 at Disneyland
Vehicle type Boat
Ride duration 14:30 minutes
Sponsored by UNICEF, Pepsi Cola, Bank of America, Mattel, Sogo, France Télécom, Sylvania
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
1964 New York World's Fair
Designer WED Enterprises
Opening date April 22, 1964
Closing date October 17, 1965
Sponsored by Pepsi; UNICEF

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



Like several other Disneyland attractions, "It's a Small World" originated with the 1964 New York World's Fair (it was Pepsi's pavilion.) After the fair closed, the ride was transferred to Disneyland and officially opened in 1966.

The Ride was originally titled "Children of the World". When Walt Disney demonstrated it to songwriters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman, the ride's soundtrack featured numerous national anthems all playing at once, which resulted in a musical cacophony. Walt said, "I need one song."[1] In response, the brothers wrote It's a Small World (After All).[2] It is argued that the song is the most performed and most widely translated song on earth.[1]

The attraction's whimsical design was done by Mary Blair, who was also an art director on several Disney animated features (including Cinderella 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.

Disneyland's version was closed from January to November, 2008, to receive a major refurbishment.[3][4][5] The building's structure was improved, and the attraction's boats and water flume were replaced. The refurbishment added 29 Disney characters, and the New Guinea Room was transformed into a North America Room, while the New Guinea scene's figures, props, and set pieces were relocated to the South Seas Room. Sylvania agreed to sponsor the ride for 12 years. Sylvania created a new marque for the ride.




The outer façade of the building at Disneyland presents stylized cutout turrets, towers, and minarets vaguely reminiscent of world landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A major feature is a gigantic, three-dimensional clock with a happy face that swings back and forth. On the quarter-hour, a pair of doors at the base of the tower swing open and wooden dolls representing different cultures parade out of the clock. After the last doll exits the clock, another pair of doors are opened to reveal two large toy blocks — one block with the hour, and one block with the minutes, written in highly stylized numerals — and a bell tolls indicating the time.

The exterior has been slightly redesigned and repainted over the years. First as all-white with a gold trim, then in various shades of blue, then in pink and white with pastel accents. Currently it is all white with a gold trim as it was in the 1960s. The gardens around the building are decorated with topiary animals.


The boats travel through a tunnel into the show building, which is much larger than the façade. This portion of the ride features animatronic dolls in national costumes singing the title song in numerous languages. At Disneyland, boats carrying the riders visit the regions of the world in separate rooms:

  • The Hello Room greets the guests to the attraction, showing different cultural greetings from around the world.
  • The Arctic/North Pole, with dolls representing Scandinavia, and the song sung in Swedish.
  • Europe, with the song sung in English with a Cockney accent and Italian, as well as having a yodeler in the section representing Switzerland.
  • Asia, with the song sung in Japanese.
  • Africa, with the rhythm of the song marked with drums and then sung in English.
  • South America, with the song sung in Spanish.
  • South Seas, with the song sung in an underwater gurgling sound by the mermaids in the first section of the room, a rainforest scene with native dummers, and a Polynesian steeldrum version of the song throughout the rest of the room.
  • North America, with dolls representing the United States and the song sung in English. (Up 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. The Finale Room was inspired by the final verse of the Christmas hymn, "Once In Royal David's City", which says, "When like stars, His children crowned/All in white, shall wait around."[citation needed] (Before the refurbishment, a cowboy and American Indian standing together were the only dolls during the ride that represented the United States.)

At other Disney parks, the path of the flume winds around one large room, emphasizing its theme that the world is small and interconnected. The order in which the countries appear and the countries that are represented vary in each version of the ride.

  • All the other parks but Hong Kong do not begin with a separate room for the Arctic; the Scandinavian dolls are in the Europe room.
  • All the other parks but Hong Kong place the rainforest scene in the South America Room.
  • In Paris, the song is also sung in French, German, and Arabic.
  • In Hong Kong, the song is also sung in Cantonese, Korean, Mandarin and Tagalog.

Disneyland's version gallery.

Magic Kingdom
Land Fantasyland
Designer WED Enterprises
Opening date October 1, 1971
Ride duration 13:30 minutes
Length 1085 ft (330.7 m)
Sponsored by Mattel (1991–1998)
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Tokyo Disneyland
Land Fantasyland
Designer WED Enterprises
Opening date April 15, 1983
Music It's a Small World (album)
Ride duration 13:30 minutes
Sponsored by Sogo Co., Ltd. (1983–2008)
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Disneyland Park (Paris)
Land Fantasyland
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Opening date April 12, 1992
Ride duration 6:24 minutes
Sponsored by France Télécom
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible
Hong Kong Disneyland
Land Fantasyland
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Opening date April 28, 2008
Ride duration 10:00 minutes
Sponsored by Pepsi (TBA)
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible

Magic Kingdom

  • At the Magic Kingdom in Florida, the ride underwent a major refurbishment from May 2004 to March 2005, reopening with a state-of-the-art sound system, new lighting effects, and a loading area similar to the ride's façade at Disneyland.
  • The Goodbye Room, which shows different postcards and parting phrases from around the world at Disneyland, here shows parting phrases written on highly-stylized flowers instead.
  • The nearby Pinocchio Village Haus restaurant overlooks the queue area.

Magic Kingdom's version gallery.

Tokyo Disneyland

The Tokyo Disneyland version of the attraction is a carbon copy of the Magic Kingdom version except for these differences:

  • The finale is sung in Japanese.
  • The Goodbye Room is much smaller.

Disneyland Paris

In Disneyland Park, the attraction is somewhat different from other versions of the ride. The scenery and music are done in a different style, 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[6]. 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 ride[7]. 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 ride at Hong Kong Disneyland, and the location of the ride is beyond the Disneyland Railroad next to The Golden Mickeys attraction[8].

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.

Disneyland Paris's version used to add subtle decorations around the ride 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' it is a variation of It's A Small World Holiday as the ride is about how different countries and cultures around the world celebrate the winter season. It includes new costumes, lighting, sounds, decorations and uses the It's a Small World Holiday music used in the Californian version.

Hong Kong Disneyland's It's A Small World changes its music to 'It's a Small World Holiday' music and subtly adds in Christmas decorations, although there are very few decorations actually added.

During the 2005–2006 holiday season, in order to remove some of the massive crowds from the main plaza during the popular Remember... Dreams Come True fireworks show, a second viewing station was installed at It's a Small World (which is unfortunately located next to the smoking area). At the same time the outdoor façade incorporated a sophisticated, elaborate, multi-media presentation projected on the colored patterns of the outer façade each quarter hour after dusk.

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

The song

The original concept for "it's a small world" had the dolls singing the national anthem from each country they represented, resulting in a loud dissonance of music. Walt Disney asked staff composers Robert and Richard Sherman to write a single theme song for the ride that could be easily translated into many different languages. The Sherman's first version of the "it's a small world" song, which was written in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, was played as a low ballad. Walt requested something more cheerful, so the song was sped up and sung as a round, or roundelay. At the first presentation to Walt, the Shermans performed the song while walking through a scale model of the attraction, singing and clapping their hands. Walt was delighted, and that song became the famous "It's a Small World (After All)" tune that is sung in each version of the attraction.

In full spirit of international unity, the "it's a small world" song was recorded in various studios around the world. It was sung 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'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 world after all. It's a small, small world.

Attraction facts and figures

Disneyland attraction version:

  • Grand Opening: May 30, 1966
    • Closing Date: January 22, 2008
  • Grand Re-Opening Date: February 6, 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 with a smiling face.
  • Ticket Required: "E"

Magic Kingdom attraction version:

  • Grand Opening: October 1, 1971 (Opened with the Magic Kingdom park)
    • Closing Date: May 2, 2004
  • Grand Re-Opening: March 18, 2005
  • Flume Capacity: 500,000 US gallons (2,000 m³) of water
  • Boat Capacity: 20 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: No clock, just a tent.

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: Different clock with a sun and moon smiling face.

Hong Kong Disneyland attraction version:

  • Soft Opening: April 27, 2008
  • Grand Opening: April 28, 2008
  • Ride 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: Discover a World of Laughter.
  • Facade: A color facade similar to Anaheim and Tokyo but the entrance is on the right of the clock tower with indoor boarding.

See also


External links


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