Let’s take a close look at “it’s a small world” from its inception to its current state in multiple parks around the globe. We’ve broken down the full history of this iconic ride, the “happiest cruise that ever sailed.”
Themed for world cooperation and togetherness, the original iteration of “it’s a small world” actually premiered at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The attraction was extremely popular during the event.
When the fair ended, the attraction was moved to Disneyland in Anaheim, California, where it remains one of the park’s premiere attractions. “it’s a small world” has shown millions of children about different cultures around the world, and its aim is to promote peace and unity between nations. The attraction attempts to remind guests that we are all connected to one another.
Globally, “it’s a small world” is a water-based boat ride located in the Fantasyland area at various Disney theme parks worldwide, including Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California; Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida; Tokyo Disneyland and Disneyland Paris. It is also the largest indoor attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland. The only Disney resort property in the world that does not have this attraction available is Shanghai Disneyland.
The idea for “it’s a small world” came to Walt Disney in the early 1960s, as he was looking for a way to promote peace and understanding between children of all cultures. When he first conceived the ride, it was called “Children of the World.” He was inspired by the United Nations, which had been founded just a few years earlier, and he believed that a theme park attraction could be a powerful way to teach children about the importance of tolerance and cooperation.
Walt Disney himself described the attraction as follows: “Our musical fantasy features the songs and dances from youngsters from more than one-hundred nations. Each singing in his own, native language. Now, when the current World’s Fair ends, all four of our shows: The Magic Skyway, The Carousel Theater, Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln, and “it’s a small world” will find a permanent home at Disneyland, U.S.A.”
Of the four attractions featured at the World’s Fair, “it’s a small world” was the last project Walt Disney undertook. After being contacted by Pepsi-Cola, who at the time was partnered with UNICEF, Walt agreed to create one final showcase for the event.
With only a year to work, Pepsi-Cola asked Disney to create an attraction that would provide a “salute to UNICEF and all the world’s children.” Imagineers worked closely with UNICEF to develop the attraction, and Walt Disney even donated a portion of the proceeds from its opening to the organization.
Mary Blair, a famous female artist working at The Walt Disney Company at the time, made significant artistic contributions to the ride’s design and overall aesthetic. She was responsible for the attraction’s child-like design and color palette. Rolly Crump was in charge of designing the toys and other supplemental figures on display in the attraction.
He was one of the key designers for many of Disneyland’s groundbreaking new attractions and shops, including the Haunted Mansion and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. He also served as a key designer on the four Disney attractions featured at the New York World’s Fair, including “it’s a small world” and the “Tower of the Four Winds.”
Rolly Crump was known for his creative and whimsical designs.