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it's a small world
It's a Small World


October 1, 1971




WED Enterprises

Ride length


Boat capacity




it's a small world is a popular interior boat cruise located in the Fantasyland area at the Magic Kingdom. 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.


The ride was originally 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 magical, ever-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 that were then moved and rebuilt at Disneyland after the World's Fair closed in 1966. The company was given only eleven months lead time to create the ride.

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").

The first incarnation of it's a small world 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 an Audio-Animatronic "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 design a tribute to UNICEF.

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. 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, and 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 completely 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 destroyed after the fair closed.

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

The attraction underwent a major refurbishment from May 2nd 2004 to March 20th 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, the attraction was again closed for refurbishment.


"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." He wanted 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)" in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which influenced the song's message. They first presented the song 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, the song 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. 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. It remains "a gift to the children of the world."

References in Pop Culture[]

  • "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 Lion King, Scar tells Zazu to sing something "with a little bounce in it." H sings "It's a Small World" and Scar cuts him off by saying, "No! Anything but that."
  • 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 it's a small world.
  • In The Return of Jafar, Genie returns 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 the song.
  • 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 it's a 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.


On August 18, 1994, a 6-year-old girl from Miami, Florida fell out of one of the ride's boats while it was in the loading area. Orange County authorities believe she was then struck by an incoming boat. The girl suffered a broken hip, a broken arm, and a collapsed lung, but was expected to recover fully. The ride was closed for an inspection and re-opened the following day.

Sources & External Links[]