Disneyland's plans to change It's a Small World ires fans

According to Re-Imagineering, Disneyland is planning to make big changes to the Mary Blair-designed attraction, It's a Small World. "They plan on adding a few new modern characters and destroying the rain forest section in favor of adding a nationalistic USA section," says an anonymous Boing Boing reader.
200803050741 Unfortunately W.D.I. has taken ill advantage of the downtime by staking out areas throughout the attraction to place a selection of smiling Disney characters to spice up the proceedings. Imagine a grinning Stitch in Hawaii, a demure Belle in Paris, a Peter Pan in London.

And in one of the most egregious and downright disgusting decisions in Disney theme park history, the gorgeous New Guinea rainforest scene, replete with some of Mary Blair’s most whimsical character creations (a crocodile with an umbrella, colorful birds hatching from eggs) and her drummer children with Tiki Masks on the opposite shore will be replaced with a Hooray for U.S.A sequence.

Mary Blair’s formidable legacy has taken enough of a beating with the destruction of her Tomorrowland murals back in 1998. This recent move, if it goes through, would be nothing less than a brutal dismissal of her profound and enduring influence on the Disney esthetic.



  1. Destroying the rainforest for the benefit of American interests? Sounds like an accurate depiction of the planet to me.

  2. “destroying the rain forest section in favor of adding a nationalistic USA section”
    How beautifully apt.

  3. Now I’m going to have that damned song playing through my head ALL DAY! Thanks a lot. (Oh, and BTW, about destroying the rain forest… typical).

  4. I really loved Small World. Its the most 60’s experience you can have anywhere in the world! Its like a time machine, you hop on and your whisked back to the 60’s. The original design was that the children of the world had came together and made the attraction with paper, poster paint, glitter etc, etc, to show that the children are different on the outside/culturally but the same inside and it was indeed a small world after all. Now how is Mickey, peter pan and all them gonna fit into that? Its not going to look of the period or “Arts and Crafts”…

  5. *sigh* one more place to boycott for silly jingoism. First, Johnny Rockets for their “American fries” and now a “Hooray for the USA!” section on “It’s a Small World.” It’s been a long time since I last rode it, but isn’t there already a “USA” section to go along with all the other countries anyway?

  6. The USA room should instead be written on an EXIT sign with arrows pointing out of the ride. So instead your actually entering the real world and feel like a little mechanical puppet.

  7. #5 – Right on! It is a 60’s time machine.

    I seem to remember reading that It’s A Small World intentionally left out the USA since the ride is in the USA. The ride was supposed to be a celebration of the “outside world’s” children.

  8. Only in America is it considered taboo to support your own country. No… the people of new guinea definitely need to be represented.

  9. Disney can’t resist this. They are pathologically driven to brand it up, and the fact that Stitch is nowhere to be found on the ride probably exposes the executives of the company to shareholder lawsuits for not maximizing Disney’s value.

  10. It’s not a question of supporting your country, it’s a question of when that support is appropriate. The whole point of the ride is to say “look at everyone, we’re all cool in our own way.”

    Now imagine that a big chunk of the ride is one guy yelling “I’m the best! I’m the best!”

    It’d be kinda like the pastor at your wedding going on about how great America is for twenty minutes and then saying “Oh yeah, and these two kids here are nice too.”

  11. Not sure I buy it. Sounds like the kind of “news” propagated by chain emails. But that’s me. I’m a skeptic.

  12. MightyMouse1584…it sounds so much like the name of a Disney plant that it’s too obvious to be real – I think the term flamebait should be abjured in favor of false flag.

    Counterpropaganda is fun, but not as fun as counter-counter-propaganda.

  13. Ugh, this is bad. Duh! No branded Disney characters should be there. It scuttles the whole point of the ride:

    The point of the ride (as others have touched upon) is you are touring the world, with happy Mary Blair style kids singing the Small World tune.

    Then in the final “room”, instead of a rendering of any one part of the world, you see a whimsical fantasy in white and silver, in which all the children of the world are together…clearly a dream and an appeal for future global peace and happiness.

    By replacing a chunk of Small World with some dumbass Ameri-jingo crap, the Ditz-ney suits are saying they clearly don’t “get” their own ride.

    Sheesh, will the American “kids” in the new US of A part of the ride sing “It’s a Small World” or “Proud to be an Ameruh-kin”?

  14. Sheesh, will the American “kids” in the new US of A part of the ride sing “It’s a Small World” or “Proud to be an Ameruh-kin”?< ?i>

    No. Tomorrow Belongs To Me.

    I rode It’s a Small World at the 1964 World’s Fair. It was a microcosm of what was going on in the fairgrounds. Despite expecting nuclear war any second, people were still more optimistic then.

    Isn’t this ride a work of art? ‘Updating’ it is like giving Ingres’s Grande Odalisque a tramp stamp to make her more current. Disney doesn’t even recognize the value of their own works.

  15. What’s the opposite of ironic? You know, something so expected as to be unexpected? This one could have the pedants and wordsmiths at it for days trying to figure out the proper term.

    It’s one of those amazing shifts in meaning, where small world used to be a celebration of diversity [in a way], it’s becoming a celebration of [the consequences of] globalisation.

    I kinda hope this one is true.

  16. Disney has regularly been butchering their classic rides… Pirates of the Caribbean now has Jack Sparrow and other movie-related stuff plastered all over it, and their Submarine Voyage ride closed in 1998 and is going to be replaced with a Finding Nemo submarine ride instead. In Disneyworld, it was actually replaced with Pooh’s Playful Spot, basically a playground. Because slides and monkey bars are a vast improvement over a submarine, right?

    Horizons, one of the best rides at Epcot, was also shut down… though at least they replaced it with a mission-to-mars deal, instead of more branded character crap.

  17. MightyMouse1584, only a nutbar would take this story to mean it’s “taboo to support your own country.”

    ScottFree (21), would “brazen” do?

  18. #18-19: ell, what say you, Antinous? Cue up Dean Wormer from Animal House: “Out with it!!” :-)

    Anyway, I should have also mentioned Magic Kingdom already has a fine Liberty Square. Why mess with a classic ride like Small World? (aside from making the boats more fattie-friendly, that is)

  19. I wonder what would happen if one of their rides were to be put on the National Register of Historic Places? I wonder why that never happens? I wonder why the news media never asks why that never happens? Actually, I think I know the answers to those questions already.

  20. Only in America is it considered taboo to support your own country. No… the people of new guinea definitely need to be represented.

    Visit Disneyland some time. The very first thing you will see when you walk in the front of the park is a corridor called “Main Street U.S.A.” lined with patriotic flags. If you turn to the right you’ll find an exhibit called “Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln.”

    The magic kingdom hardly needs to butcher one of its classic attractions to show support for its country.

  21. Oh, what I tried to say (that disappeared) was that they’d be singing Tomorrow Belongs to Me.

    I took the ride at the 1964 World’s Fair, where it was a microcosm of what was going on outside in the fairgrounds.

    Regarding the National Register of Historic Places, I’d even call it defacing an artwork. Like updating Ingres’s Grande Odalisque with a tramp stamp.

  22. Brazen: 3. fig. Hardened in effrontery; shameless, according to the OED. Also, it has connotations of the mythological age of decline, “the age of brass.”

    I was thinking “cynical”, but maybe brazen will do better.

  23. I love Disneyland. That said, Its a Small World is old, run down and letting it sit and rot doesn’t keep with the Disney ethos either.

    A refresh doesn’t bother me at all nor does an America section. Why is it wrong to be proud of America? America has done a hell of a lot that sucks — but we’ve also done a lot of wonderful things.

  24. #29 – Jason, nobody is saying it’s wrong to be proud of America (that is unless you’re a Godless Commie, Hippie or Democrat). The point is that the original intention of the ride was to get American’s out of their local mindset and think of the unity of the world around them.

  25. ok so where to start…

    @ HereticGestalt. im not some schmuck working for disney. im a college student living in boulder, co studying math. mightymouse has been my name on boingboing and other various realms of the internet since i was a youngster as mightymouse was a childhood hero of mine.

    @Teresa Nielsen Hayden / Moderator. i dont think the story implies its taboo to support america. the first few comments is where i get that from. i suppos id have to agree with jason (29) on this one. his feelings are right on par with mine.

  26. ps. ive been posting on boingboing since october of last year… really… im not some asshole trying to stand up for disney

  27. Jason- I agree that it’s not good to let Small World decay, but they could easily repair and upgrade it without changing the artistic style of it. As far as I know, it’s always been a very popular ride and it has a lot of sentimental value for some people. Merely adding an American section is bad enough, since there’s no way it’s going to match the Mary Blair style of the rest of the ride. It will be jarring and awkward, and there’s no way around that.

    But they’re going once step worse and actually destroying part of the original ride to replace it with the USA part. It’s fine to be proud of America for the wonderful things, but in a theme park that already has tons of America-themed attractions, is it really necessary to destroy part of a classic ride just to wedge in even more USA?

  28. @22 Horizons, one of the best rides at Epcot, was also shut down… though at least they replaced it with a mission-to-mars deal, instead of more branded character crap. Mission Space is based on the Disney flick, Mission to Mars, hence the Gary Senise intro that the ride includes.

    Alien encounter used to be a bit thrilling until they lamed it up for the kiddies with Stitch. For me the last straw was “The Seas” becoming “with Nemo and Friends”. It’s one thing to base a ride on a movie, I loved the 20,000 leagues ride with it’s campy giant tentacles. I’ll tolerate the Jack Sparrow and Barbosa in PotC because they have a legitimate tie in. It should have been completely redesigned to accommodate the characters and themes of the films though. But that “re-vamp” of an entire pavilion that really had no reason to have a film tie in, simply because they had a film that could be tied in, was just pathetic commercialism. Sadly this is becoming the norm for Disney since their ride partners have been dwindling their support.

    As for the blatant jingo-ism of a “Hooray for USA” addition to IaSW, while I’ve never been a fan of the ride, I’m even less a fan of Nationalism destroying art.

  29. I love a lot of Disney work from their golden age, but have never figured out the adulation the Mary Blair receives. Her style incorporates such a horrific level of tweeness that my brain trys to crawl out of my skull when I encounter it.

    I’ve ridden the “It’s a small world” ride once,back in the early 90s, and think it should be preserved as a demonstration of how torture techniques need not involve physical harm.

  30. Mission Space is based on the Disney flick, Mission to Mars, hence the Gary Senise intro that the ride includes.

    Oh, great. Well, in that case, I guess it’s only a matter of time before every single ride in every park is reduced to an ad for a Disney character or movie. I’ve never been a huge fan of Disney, but the older stuff like Snow White, Fantasia, and the retro-futuristic World’s Fair atmosphere of Epcot always held a bit of magic for me.

  31. MightyMouse, I’m sorry. You’re not a nutbar. But honestly, there isn’t a place in this country that I know of where you can’t stick up for America. You should have seen the West Village right after 9/11. The locals were out in the streets singing patriotic songs.

  32. it’s only a matter of time before every single ride in every park is reduced to an ad for a Disney character or movie

    When they open the Pollyanna ride with an animatronic Agnes Moorehead, I’m going.

  33. 10 years ago I was a consultant for the ROK (south korea) consulate in LA… They wanted Disney to expand the Korean real estate in the ride… something like Japan’s (an extra puppet, some dancing whatever). My job was to convince Disney to do this–money was NO issue. I finally got on to talk to the guy in charge who just laughed… it seems that some Eastern European countries had been asking the same thing, again with no limit to the budget. “We make one change,” he said, “We could start WWIII.”

  34. I’d pay to see a Small World ride that really reflected international relations — a lot!

  35. Teresa Nielsen Hayden. no harm no foul. perhaps i just get a little contact with the hippies here in boulder.

  36. ok,this is a bit late,but…
    #27,that song choice is so Wrong…that it is absolutely perfect.thanks for the laugh!

  37. Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was a far greater loss to children in my opinion. It’s a Small World hurt my head.

  38. Ah Toad,Mole and Ratty! Remember Peter Sellers reading the bedtime story to Ringo in The Magic Christian?

  39. I’ve been saying for years that the boring ride would be better with some sort of weaponry that tagged the damned puppets. I can’t say how much I despise the ride. Even when it is decked out for Christmas, it is detestable and deadly dull. And as to it being commercial — did you forget the boats were giant Pepsi Cola bottles when it debuted at the New York World’s Fair?

  40. Actually, don’t really know where the author got his information, but nothing has been finalized about any changes being made to the attraction, except for a larger flume and boat redo.
    Also, there is no such department within the Walt Disney Company known as “Re-Imagineering.”
    However, Walt said himself that Disneyland would never be complete as long as there was imagination in the world.
    Change is good.

  41. The small world has been redesigned before. After it left the 1964 fair it was mutilated to accommodate larger crowds in California. The entire progression of the music track was sacrificed for the sake of putting more people through it faster. The original built to a series of crescendos and transitioned smoothly from one country to the next culminating with a assembling of all the characters at the end. I saw the original in ’64 and then the installation in WDW in late 70’s and the installation in California in 1989. I had lunch with Marc Davis after seeing the ride in ’89 and he confirmed the redesign for the parks. The original was like a Disney Silly Symphony whereas the version for the parks became an overblown store window with no dramatic curve. Very sad indeed.

  42. December 10th, ride looks about the same. I am a big man and the boat did not sink. Guess they did their job.

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