It’s a world of laughter a world of tears It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears. We all know the words to the song that gets stuck in your head the rest of the day. But do you know the history of the attraction that the song goes to? This week we will dive into the last attraction that Walt Disney himself was hand to dedicate, Its a Small World.
In 1963 Walt and his Imagineers were asked by Ford and General Electrical to create attractions for them for the upcoming Worlds Fair. While Walt and his team were wrapping up the final details he was approached last minute by Unicef to create an attraction for them at the fair. Walt was a huge supporter of Unicef he went above and beyond to make an amazing attraction for them. Walt had such a great relationship with Pepsi Cola that he convinced them to sponsor the attraction. Unicef was just expecting some kind of walk-through exhibit and was blown away when Walt came up with the idea of a boat ride celebrating the children of the world.
With only ten months to get this project done Walt turned to his team for help. Walt turned to Mary Blair to design the ride. He picked her because of her vast use of colors and the work she had done for children. Roly Crump was asked to assist her with the design. Roly had his special project from Walt. With such a small budget and time frame Walt had asked Roly to design a tower that could be seen from anywhere and will catch people’s attention at the fair. This was because there was just not enough time to build a facade as well. The tower came in at 130 feet tall and weighing over 220,000 pounds. The tower cause of its sheer size cost $250,000 to be built which Walt paid out of his pocket to stay on budget.
One of the biggest challenges for Walt and the Imagineers was how the ride will be able to handle all the guests of the fair. Unicef as happy with a walkthrough but Walt wanted his boat ride and that is what he got. He had Bob Gurr and Arrow design develop the boats. Most water rides at that time used drops to keep the water flowing. Gurr and the design team came up with a way to push the boats using small jets to keep them moving. When all was said and done the attraction was able to handle 3000 guests per hour.
With the ride system set and the 240 audio-animatronics of children in place and dressed for their respective countries all that was left to figure was the music. Walt had the original idea of having the children from each country sing their national anthem but during testing of the ride realized it did not sound good at all. He knew he had to do something different. He went to the Sherman Brothers and asked them to write a short catchy tune that can be sung in many different languages. They came up with the song Its a small world which was sung by children’s choirs in all different languages. Walt loved it so much that he changed the name of the attraction from Children of the World to Its a Small World.
After the success of Its a Small World at the Worlds Fair, it was decided to bring it all piece by piece back to Disneyland where it would live forever for all the park guests to enjoy. It was rather expensive to ship all the boats, the flumes, all the characters, etc that there was no way to bring it all back. Disney execs had decided that they did not want to bring back the tower of the four winds so they asked Rolly Crump to tell Walt. Walt was a huge fan of it but Rolly was not and had no problem telling Walt. Walt finally agreed to not bring it back and understood that it just wouldn’t fit in the park. Rolly and Mary Blair designed the facade that still stands today and Rolly was who had deigned the amazing clock that is the piece of the Attraction.
On May 28th,1966 Its a Small World opened to huge fanfare. Walt was such a huge fan of this attraction that he pulled out all the stops. After a big parade down Main Street USA everyone had gathered at the edge of the water in front of the ride. A child from every nation stood together singing the theme to the attraction. Water from the seven seas was poured into the waterway and Walt topped it off adding a canteen of water from all the major rivers in the United States. It’s a small world is one of the greatest attractions and songs of all time. It is said that the song is always being played somewhere on earth at any given time. That makes some people very happy and some not so much.