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'It's A Small World' Gets Makeover

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:angry: F*** Disney! :angry:

I will never set foot in one of their parks again.

Glad to see their first quarter earnings were down a whopping 32%.

Karma does exist.

'It's A Small World' Gets Makeover

Addition Of Disney Movie Characters Angers Some, Delights Others

By GILLIAN FLACCUS

The Associated Press

February 4, 2009

More than 40 years after the "It's A Small World" ride opened at Disneyland to promote world peace and showcase the cultures of the world, Disney is populating one of its most beloved attractions with its own trademark vision of the planet: Aladdin, Nemo, Ariel and more than two dozen cartoon characters plucked from its movies.

And those aren't the only changes visitors will find when the ride reopens today.

Disney has woven a few bars from some of its hit soundtracks into the classic "Small World" melody and added a new America section that includes a nod to the Hollywood Bowl, a quaint farm scene and "Toy Story" characters.

Disney says it supplemented the human dolls with make-believe figures to keep the aging ride appealing to younger generations and give it a new twist.

Some angry fans see an unabashed marketing ploy that trashes the pacifist message at the heart of the ride and ruins one of the few rides that remained unchanged since the days of Walt Disney.

"What message are they actually saying about the world?" said Jerry Beck, an animation historian who runs the blog Cartoon Brew. "That you can go anywhere and there will be a Disney theme park?"

The added figures from a dozen movies include the blue alien Stitch, the mermaid Ariel, and characters from the 1992 movie "Aladdin."

"Disney wants to brand the diversity of the entire world and somehow say that it's Disney derived," said Leo Braudy, a cultural historian at USC. "It seems a bit crass to put this brand on something that was meant to be a sort of United Nations for children."

The "Small World" ride debuted at the 1964 World's Fair in New York as a benefit to the United Nations Children's Fund and moved to Disneyland two years later.

When Walt Disney dedicated the ride in 1966, he invited children from around the world to pour water from their homelands into its flume in a gesture of unity.

Replicas have opened at Disney theme parks in Florida, Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, and company research shows that a quarter of all Disneyland guests consider the ride a family tradition.

Disney says it hopes adding what it calls "new magic" to the 43-year-old attraction will attract even more riders and create new traditions for young families who don't identify with "Small World" as strongly as previous generations.

The makeover appeals to many fans, some of whom grew up riding it each year with their parents.

Adding characters, such as Alice and the White Rabbit, have some longtime fans shouting, "Off with their heads."

Dawn Barbour visited Disneyland from Texas with her children and was disappointed to find the ride closed for renovations but thrilled to hear about the changes.

"Oh, anything Disney does is always exciting," Barbour said. "It's always something fun, and they never do anything halfway."

Disney designers say routine repairs gave them an opportunity to add another dimension to the message of cross-cultural understanding by working in references to Disney movies that are based on foreign fairy tales or set in faraway lands.

Whenever Disney changes a popular ride, they say, the company receives criticism from die-hard fans who are resistant to anything that will alter the Disneyland of their childhood memories.

So-called "Dis-nerds" also got upset when Disney refurbished the classic Pirates of the Caribbean attraction but were mollified once they saw the updated ride.

Designers insist the changes to "Small World" are even more subtle and conform to Walt Disney's original philosophy and style while keeping the attraction from becoming "like a museum," said Kim Irvine, director of concept design for Walt Disney Imagineering.

The son of the ride's original designer, children's illustrator Mary Blair, wrote an open letter to Disney executives blasting the changes.

"The Disney characters themselves are positive company icons, but they do NOT fit in with the original theme of the ride," wrote Kevin Blair. "They will do nothing except marginalize the rightful stars of the ride, 'the children of the world.' "

Marty Sklar, executive vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering, responded with his own letter, which was quickly posted on dozens of blogs and appeased some fans.

"We are not trying to turn this classic attraction into a marketing pitch for Disney plush toys," Sklar wrote.

But some longtime Disney watchers disagree.

"Parents ... could take the kids on this ride and it wasn't so much about sales; it was about the images, the graphics, the dolls," said Al Lutz, a veteran Disney watcher who runs miceage.com. "It was a respite from the overwhelming commercial message that Disney can be sometimes."

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The parks are so over priced, believe me, most family's don't go there anymore. It's a shame, it's just a corporate giant looking for ever greater profits. Well, the money is not there anymore. Doing things like this, will keep me and my family away for sure. I'm so sick of Corporate America, I tell you. They will see no money from me for the rest of my life. Let their shares continue to tank. All respect to Walt. He would have gave them all the boot.

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Such a shame. There are few places that remain unchanged in this country. One of the nice things about visiting Memphis is that Sun Studio and Graceland remain relatively the same through all the years since their last use. Sun had many alternate occupants since it operated as the Memphis Recording Service but they never renovated it. When you vist there it is astonishingly original. Graceland too, the spirt of Elvis, Vernon and Gladys remain.

It would have been nice it Disney kept SW true to its NYWF beginnings. But look at the lousy job NYC did with NYSP and the Federal Builidng.

Are the alterations just character related? Were any essential elements of the experience changed?

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Are the alterations just character related? Were any essential elements of the experience changed?

Unfortunately, no they were not just character related. The song "It's A Small World" has been reworked to now include music from Disney films. Also there are new scenes, most distastefully an "Up With America" one, don't get me wrong I love this country but the ride is about the children of the world. Additionally I believe they softened the color pallet. They've destroyed so much of Mary Blair's work at Disney it was only a matter of time before they ruined this too. The AP article quotes Mary's son Kevin but neglects to report he passed away last year, which makes this all the sadder. :(

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Sorry about the double post. Don't know why that happened.

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When Walt Disney dedicated the ride in 1966, he invited children from around the world to pour water from their homelands into its flume in a gesture of unity.

Was this common knowledge? I was not aware of it. Seems like such an appropriate and heartfelt gesture, and one in grating contrast with this news.

What do you feel like doing in that flume now?

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I totally agree. The attraction had high attendance. The only reason to add Disney characters was to increase visibility of Disney characters. Like that needed to happen.

The new finale goes against the spirit of the attraction as it is written in Disney's own publications that it was meant to celebrate the purity and innocence of children worldwide.

If there is anything good in the changes it's that certain Blair designed show elements that haven't been seen since the fair have been restored and used in the new version of the attraction.

My last visit to a Disney park was in 1996 and Disneyland was really looking tired. I felt it was way to expensive to be seeing peeling paint and burnt-out light bulbs.

@molasses I did almost edit your post. The excessive use of frowns may be offensive to some visitors. ;)

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It really is sad that the word "Disney" was synonymous (sp?) with creativity, imagination, cutting edge, new, unique. Walt Disney could have easily used Disney movie characters in his rides at the fair, and I'm sure alot of those companies would have said "yes". But he didn't. Walt knew that, while the movie characters were part of the brand, there was far more to the Disney brand then just characters. His "immersive", "creative", and "relevant" attractions used UNIQUE characters and storylines made specifically for the theme park. If you were to look at a map of Disneyland in 1965, 66, and even 1967 (after Walt died, though he had helped plan out the park for 67) you would notice that numerous rides and shows involved NO Disney movie characters. That these rides, many of them not thrill rides, were popular, and would you beleive that people still kept on going to Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom, and EPCOT Center despite large use of movie character tye in, pixar overlays, and all out thrill rides.

People have and always will go to Disney parks regardless of what they put in there. I can't believe the marketing folks are drinking the kool-aid thinking people are going to the parks specifically due to these character overlays.

They have no balls to come up with something unique. This IS not the Imagineers. This is the power park management has overthem who can cancel and override a project at their beckoning call.

I feel bad for the average joes that Disney feeds off of.The average Joe thinks Disney does everything magical and right, when the fail to notice the doors can't properly close on the Monorail, there is rust and leaks in the transporation and ticket center at the magic kingdom, that many new rides have a cheap industrial look such as Soarin, whose film print is covered and dust, and monsters inc where you can see the air ducts and piping above you.

What happened to "it's a small world" is a sad and sick look at the future of Disney parks.

Disney has only hurt themselves and their brand. The best brand is a diverse brand, and people still think Disney is "for kids, princesses, etc"

And then Disney has the audacity to say "noooo, we're more than that, look what our founder Walt Disney did".

Disney has to thank the almighty lord for Walt did, mentioning rides such as haunted mansion (and even space mountain as walt knew about the early space port concept) without these rides.....if these rides did not exist, I can gaurentee people would not be going to disney parks to experience project themed attractions and pixar overlays.

What a said day. Disneyland was never meant to be a museum, and it was always meant to change, but they seem to forget the line Walt knew existed when it came down to branding the brand itself.

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No they havent destroyed the color pallet, some insiders have said that new lightning, new paint, and alot of 1964 glitter has made its way back into the ride since the 2008 holiday overlay :D including a near replica of the 1964 golden sun, in the finale room.

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Here is the AP video which shows some of the characters

All I can say is YES....thank God for the original IASW the chartacter use is toned down. Many of the characters will blend in and will be fine and are in the style of the ride which won't cause a huge fuss....but what will is the use of the music from the movies that will at time overlap the score for it's a small world. I'm 60/40 on this 60 percent not ok with this, but 40 percent okay.

I am still clinging to the untampered small world in florida which had gone through a beautiful refurbishment a few years ago with no characters.

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I invited my son and my grandaughter to visit Tampa so we could all enjoy some of the Florida attractions. We visited one of the best zoos in the USA, The Lowry Zoo here in Tampa. Another day was spent at Busch Gardens, Tampa.

In planning our week, I called corporate Disney in Orlando to get a quote on one day ticket prices. I was shocked to hear the total was just under $200.00! With lunch and dinner for three plus renting an electric scooter, tolls on Rt. 4 and R/T gas cost, the one day excursion would total over $360.00!

I told the Disney employee that I would be there as soon as my banker approves my loan. In short, we did not go to Orlando.

I'm sorry to learn that they have mangled the original, much beloved "IT'S A SMALL WORLD".

The next thing you know, Disney World will feature a really scary exhibit, "WALT DISNEY ON ICE".

Ray D.

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@molasses I did almost edit your post. The excessive use of frowns may be offensive to some visitors. ;)

I downgraded them to a respectable two. :)

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No they havent destroyed the color pallet, some insiders have said that new lightning, new paint, and alot of 1964 glitter has made its way back into the ride since the 2008 holiday overlay :D including a near replica of the 1964 golden sun, in the finale room.

Good to hear.

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Here is the AP video which shows some of the characters

No where do they say why they needed to tamper with an already successful ride. Why was it necessary to add characters? No answers. The audio for the one dissenting voice was garbled. <_<

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Here is the AP video which shows some of the characters

Interesting that only the human characters were emphasized. It's enough to get some fans thinking "it doesn't look so bad, what's the big deal?" and create a wedge.

I do think the White Rabbit is kinda charming.

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Interesting that only the human characters were emphasized. It's enough to get some fans thinking "it doesn't look so bad, what's the big deal?" and create a wedge.

I do think the White Rabbit is kinda charming.

The only character I think is appropriate is Lilo from Lilo & Stitch, as she's an 8 year-old Hawaiian girl.

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Today's LA Times mentioned that the ride was one of the most successful in the park, attracting 3+ million guests per year. I can't see any reason for these changes other than trying to push more Disney character merchandise. The changes sure weren't due to flagging interest.

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Alright here is the rundown of the good and the bad...in my opinion of course

I will also supply the first ride video known on youtube...the quality is OK.....but here is a rundown

The entire facade has once again been restored to its 1966 splendor with topiary gardens, flowers, and plants, the charming and bouncy area music from the world's fair, the clock from 1966, etc. A refurbished flume with new boats compliment the area. The entrance arc inspired by the tower of the four winds is still there along with the 1989 redidcation plaque. Everything is as it should be and at night....an old Mary Blair design has come alive with the use of LED lights...now the coloress facade takes on new life in colorful patterns at night as the clock chimes and train passes through...this IS what walt disney was talking about not having Disneyland being a museum....this IS the sucess of the haunted mansion refurb......the story and premise remains with the aid of new technology.

As we pass beneath the clocktower...one notices the wonderful digital enhanment of the 1964 soundtrack....and the refreshening of the scenes.

The entrance room and scandenvaia are all original and characterless.

We then enter the british isles and find only peter pan flying atop the moon.

past him on the chessboard is alice and the white rabbit. across the way is cinderella with the two mice.

We keep on going past other countries with nothing but excellent paint jobs, glitter,and lighting

Pinocchio is in Italy

In Arabia we encounter Aladdin and Jasmin on a flying carpet with the Genie bottle, while Apu the monkey is below on the ground

In China we find Mulan and Mooshoo the dragon.

In Africa cleopatra is still center stage with excellent mood lighting she still tilts her head back and forth to us as she has since 1964....timon, simba and pumba blend in exceptionally as african animals in the african scene. Even the hippo has some glitter ala 1964 back on it with the tick birds picking on him/her.

Next we head into south america...interestingly the rainforest was originally here during the world's fair, though you can see the empty spot where it used to be. The only change is that there are three windows where the three straw hat cowboys were....2 of them remain on each side of the windows...while donald and the other caballeros are in the windows.

We sail into the islands of the south pacific where we encounter Ariel and Flounder. Australia has Nemo and Dorry and Polynesia has Lilo and Stitch

The small papa nueguniea village has been saved with the instrument playing boys...now beneath the boys rotating in the volcanos while the once brazilian rainforest, is now a rainforest in the pacific.

We then enter the american room....very toned down...showing the mid west....with Jessie and Woody and Bulls Eye the horse.....only crappy thing is a throwback to the hollywood bowl.

We enter the finale where.....I believe not since 1965...has the finale room been bathed in color changing pinks and other pastels....it looks amazing...and there on the wall is a replica of the world's fair sun which never made it to Disneyland in 1966. We exit out with goodbyes and postcards.

Here is a list of the characters scenes

1.) Peter Pan as a child

2.) Alice as a child with the white rabbit as a toy

3.) Cinderella as a child with the two mice as toys

4.) Pinocchio as a toy

5.) Aladdin and Jasmin as children with the monkey and genie lamp as toys.

6.) Mulan as a child and MooShoo as a toy.

7.) Simba, Timon, and Pumba as animals

8.) The three caballeros (donald, ponchito, and that other guy) as ....toys...I dont know what to think of them

9.) Aerial as child and flounder the fish

10.) Dorry and Nemo as fish

11.) Lilo as a child and Stitch as an.....alien

12.) Woody and Jessy as toys....they should have been children!

There are only 2 movie theme scores.....golden afternoon with alice and whole new worldwith aliddin and jasmine.

Between mexico and the islands is the enhanced musical instrumental score made in 2008/9 that helps blend latino music into the music of the islands....it is new but works great for a once dark corridor.

The only really BAD things in my opinion are the two song overlays golden afternoon and whole new world

The irittating things to me are....Pinochio should have been a child, as well as Jessy and Woody as cowboy and cowgirl children. Yet...Simba, Timon,and Pumba work EXCELLENT in Africa while the three caballeros look terrible in Mexico.

The only big loss for me is that children and moms from Arkansas will think this ride is amazing and will do nothing but point and stare and play an I Spy game...the other loss for me is the bubble gurgling sound of the original mermaids....now its children doing the sound effect.

Here is a link to part 1 of the ride

and part 2

Would love to hear everyone's thoughts on this.

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This quote from the Disney press release SAYS IT ALL:

"Guests will enjoy riding "it's a small world" again and again as they search for the 29 Disney and Disney·Pixar characters now represented in the attraction."

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ExpoSeeker.. thank you for posting that video!!

I watched it, and here's my thoughts.

first of all, i think that they made the colors POP in there, and it overall looked cleaner, and probably as shiny and new as it was in 1964. so kudos to that.

secondly, i barely noticed the disney figures.. until Hawaii. that room had to be like an explosion of how many disney charachters they can add into that scene. it was atrocious.

overall, i think that the addition of these characters is still horrific, but Pinocchio worked where it was, as well as Aladdin and Jasmine. I still am not endorsing this as good, but i think that they tried to modify it, and change it to look as much like Mary Blair as possible. i think it was a good effort on their parts, although it wasn't necessary.

The america section was kinda weird. but whatever. I overall enjoyed this ride... but i feel it still wasn't needed... only a new paint job and some dusting.

i also didn't see Simba, Timon and Pumba... nor did i hear the song overlays. so i have no opinion on those.

i LOVE the end part though... the postcards looked beautiful. the one in florida isn't like that at all.

so overall? i give the new renovation a 7/10.

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Here is a link to part 1 of the ride

and part 2

Would love to hear everyone's thoughts on this.

Hey thanks for posting the video.

Unfortunately my opinion has not changed. :( I think the UNICEF message of peace/children of the world is totally lost. The character additions were completely distracting. I found myself looking for them instead of taking in the overall aesthetic of the ride. As for the American addition I really did not like it, this is not about America, this is about the world. Then the Nemo part, what does that have to with the overall theme? Do children live under the sea? :blink:

Still I cannot understand the need to do what they did. When something works, and does so for over 40 years, why mess with it? I’m reminded of the time Coke introduced its new formula back in the 80s. Why? :huh:

Thinking back to my childhood experiences of Disney the three things that were my favorites, It’s A Small World, The Haunted Mansion & America On Parade, had very few Disney characters in them.

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Well, considering what I have seen Disney do in the past to other amazingly original parts of the park, this could have been a lot worse. It still retains its 60's style and essence, thank goodness.

Thanks for the vids!

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Well, now that I've watched the vids, Ihave to say the additions show a lack of creative leadership at Disney. The idea that "the park will always be changing" is true to Disney's vision, but here the phrase is just an excuse for some changes that really did nothing to "plus" the experience. If they really wanted to make something of the new characters, they should have done it much more subtly - with them harder to find - that would have fit their other excuse "kids will enjoy hunting for them. With this placement, there is no hunting to be done.

I think I could tell these people how to create the Disney feeling much better than their creative management apparently could.

In terms of a restoration of the colorfulness, etc., I think it's great - but the intended enhancements are just heavy-handed, when they could have been delightful as little surprizes here and there.

By the way, I did not notice the music overlays in the videos - maybe it would be more obvious in person.

All just my opinion, of course, but the renovation seems well done, while the additions just seem .. clumsy.

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