Before we start on this brief commentary and special extended
photo essay on the 'it's a small world' attraction, I do
have to confess something; I'm really not all that enthusiastic
about this ride.
For me the dolls can be unnerving, Mary
Blair's and Rolly Crump's folk/abstract designs are not to my
taste and that earworm of a tune by the Sherman Brothers I have
no doubt is used by the CIA to torture terrorists with.
That said, ever since we were the first to report on the
proposed changes to the attraction a few months ago, the plans
not only struck a bad chord with a lot of folks (even inspiring
an L.A. Times editorial) but began to bother me, who at one
point many years ago felt that arming all riders with bazookas
on this ride would be a mighty fine idea.
Rolly Crump and Walt Disney
What finally sparked this piece today though was an e-mail
and a letter to the Times fired off by two Disney suits; both of
whom glibly dismissed the many concerns and criticisms expressed
by the park's aficionados by claiming to know precisely what a
still very dead Walt Disney might have thought.
What the man who approved SuperStar Limo and the file clerk
both forgot though is that when you build brands by selling the
customer on a strong emotional relationship with them, as well
as exploiting their nostalgia, you can't suddenly dismiss their
subsequent concerns as it suits you. You have to respect the
audience you built.
The premise behind small world is simple, it's a ride about
'the children of the world' and for over forty years it has
continued to pull in solid rider numbers despite a gradual
decline in show quality. Thanks to an extremely well executed
holiday makeover it has even grown those numbers to become a
vital component of the Christmas season plans for the park.
So why mess with the successful original concept by turning
it into a character hunt? Why not just restore and enhance the
original? Forget the American section, we're the hosts you know.
And why not save the Disney characters for the holiday version -
and make them into toys for the children?
The ride stills in this photo essay today are from the 1964
"Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair" TV show. (Apparently they
filmed the attraction as it was set-up on a soundstage before it
was shipped to New York.)
The colors you see here are untouched and even accounting for film or
video reproduction issues show small world used to be a much more
vibrant ride when it debuted. The shots are not in any
particular order and have been selected to highlight the colors