Welcome to Jim Hill Media - Entertainment News : Theme Parks Movies Television

Still bothered by the changes that were recently made to “it’s a small world” ? “Get a key and open your minds”

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

Still bothered by the changes that were recently made to “it’s a small world” ? “Get a key and open your minds”

Rate This
  • Comments 13
Last week, I got e-mails from a bunch of West Coast Disneyana fans who were hoping that JHM might champion their cause. Which was to protest -- in the strongest possible terms, mind you -- Radio Disney’s decision to distribute brochures inside of Disneyland.

“And what was the problem with these brochures?,” you ask. Well, they showed Guests where  exactly to find all of the Disney characters that had recently installed inside of the newly refurbished “it’s a small world.”

WDW Small World Exterior
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

As politely as possible, I told those people “No.” Pretty much for the same reason that I didn’t join last year’s “Save the Rain Forest” campaign.  Because – to be perfectly honest here – I thought that Disneyland’s “small world” redo was a pretty stupid thing to get all worked up about.

Mind you, one of the reasons that I feel that way is that I’m lucky enough to know Alice Davis. That Disney Legend who – along with her husband, Marc and their good friend Mary Blair – helped to create the original version of “it’s a small world” for the 1964 New York World Fair.

Alice Davis
Alice Davis working on the original version of "it's a small world." Copyright Disney. All Rights Reserved

Ms. Davis recently made a trip to Disneyland to check out this refurbished attraction. Care to guess what her reaction to the revamped ride was?

Here (special thanks to Shelly Smith for this transcript) is Alice’s take on the Disney characters being added to “it’s a small world.”

Small World
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

"Some things I like. Some I don’t like. I think that a committee changed 'it’s a small world.' Every so many years, a new group of Young Turks comes into the Company and thinks that they know better. And they change things like 'it’s a small world' and 'Pirates of the Caribbean.'

I don’t mean to throw rocks at them. But back when I worked at WED, we were lucky. We just had Walt to tell us how things should be, instead of some committee trying to decide things.

Walt Disney Small World Doll
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Which is why WDI is so lucky to have Kim Irvine. She’s a very talented person. Kim was born with a Disney spoon in her mouth. Her father-in-law was Dick Irvine and her mom was Imagineer Leota Toombs.

Leota was one of the first Imagineers. Kim’s mother was one of the nicest people you’d ever want to meet. Toombs was generous and sincere, and she taught Kim to know & respect all the early Disney artists like Mary Blair.

Disney It's a Small World
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

So I take my hat off to Kim. It’s not 'small world' as it was before. But Kim did the best possible job with what she was given, and I’m very proud of her. I can’t think of anyone who would have handled the 'small world' redo project as well as she did.

Kim did what she could to keep this attraction as 'small world'-like as possible.  She was very clever with how she did that. But instead of appreciating all of that effort, everybody is up in arms. 

It's a Small World
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

A lot of people decided before they even rode the revised version of 'it’s a small world' that they were going to hate it.  Well, to them I say, 'Get a key and open your minds.''

Kim Irvine did a wonderful job here and the general public needs to understand & appreciate that. Sure, this was a project that was started by a committee. But that committee was smart enough to hand this project off to an artist who actually understood this attraction  and really respected the people who originally created 'it’s a small world.' Which is why this redo turned out as well as it did.

It's a Small World
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Of course, the funny part of this story is – in another couple of years – another group of Young Turks will come along and undoubtedly ask that even more changes be made to 'it’s a small world.' I just hope that Kim Irvine is still around then to help guide that committee. Show them how to make changes with heart.

Disney’s damned lucky to have her.”

It's a Small World
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

So long story short here: If Alice Davis is okay with the changes that have been made to Disneyland’s newly-character-fortified version of “it’s a small world,” then I’m okay with them too.

And as for those of you who still have your knickers in a twist over this non-issue … I believe that William Shatner – in his somewhat infamous appearance on “Saturday Night Live” back in December of 1986 – put it best: “Get a life, willya?

It's a Small World
Copyright 2009 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Your thoughts?

Blog - Post Feedback Form
Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment
  • * Please enter your name
  • * Please enter a comment
  • Post
  • I made my first ever trek to Disneyland just a couple weeks ago. At the time, I noticed the characters in Small World, and thought it was very tastefully done and kept nicely with the original theme of the ride. I had no idea that people were up in arms about them being there... I just thought they were a nice subtle addition not unlike hidden mickeys.

    Contrast that with the Enchanted Tiki Room... the older Disneyland version was a joy to recall as compared to the painfully characterized version running at WDW. If you need a cause to champion, how about getting Iago and company out of the WDW Tiki room? Please?!?! Heh

  • I've gotta say.   I agree with her.

    Though I might've preferred that they stayed with the characterized version, what I've seen, for the most part, is really nice.

    My favorite is probably the ones that were obviously based on Mary Blair's designs -- especially Alice and the White Rabbit.   Those are ripped from the Mary Blair artworks, so they fit the attraction perfectly.  Not only that, but they just seem like they have always been there.

    That's what's making it work -- they're including a lot based on artwork that Mary Blair actually did.  Not exactly the same in cases of human figures; they are still blends of her small world characters.  But the animal figures (White Rabbit, Jaq, Gus Gus) are pulled directly from her work.

    Meanwhile, Aladdin & Jasmine don't really look *that* different from what was there before.   It's a rather subtle addition.  There were always flying carpets in that scene, there were always clothes that looked like that.  Great job of integration there.

    Lilo -- obviously just a redressing of the established Hawaiian girls.   Would we be able to say "hey, it's Lilo!" if Stitch weren't involved?  Maybe.  But it definitely wouldn't be so obvious.   And as for Stitch, might stick out more, but at least he's been redone in a Blairesque style.  Would have loved to see how Mary Blair would've actually done Stitch...

    Think my biggest complaint might be Woody and Jessie.  Not quite sure about them...   sure, there were some toys in the original attraction that looked similar, but still -- they seem a bit off.

    I haven't really seen much of the redo of the attraction outside of what we see in the article.   I do quite want to give it a ride and be able to form other opinions.

    Besides, at least Disneyland only got 29 characters.   Hong Kong got 38...   much more of that version being films that Mary Blair had nothing to do with.  Disneyland gets 4 Blair films out of 12 films represented, Hong Kong got 3 out of 15.

    All in all, a lot of complaining over nothing.  They did have a good hand and did a great job for much of it.

  • There's plenty of causes to champion at Disney Parks, and this certainly isn't one of them. Save Pleasure Island I can get behind. Bring back the single rider line to Toy Story Mania I can get behind (I don't care what anyone else says, it was perfect for the ride, and now I'll never be able to go on again unless I get there at 9am or wait in a three hr line, but I digress). These people think they are championing Walt's dream, but really they are squashing it. He never wanted his parks to be a stale place where attractions rested on their laurels. This is exactly the kind of update he would like, something that freshens up the attraction while keeping with the original soul.

  • The ride is about uniting the nations, so if they pick a Disney character to represent France or England or India, that's fine (especially if it's a character derived from indigenous culture, i.e. Cinderella). They haven't altered the style of the ride.

    The only bit that gets me is including Stitch in there. I love the movie, but Stitch isn't at all part of the great culture and history of the Kingdom of Hawai'i, and shouldn't be a representative of their people.

  • Bald Melon Tim:  

    Gonna have to disagree with that.    Stitch is as much of a part of Hawaii's culture and history as Donald Duck is a part of Mexico's culture and history.

    Stitch and Donald both represent the tourist...   And since Stitch made his home in Hawaii, you could even say that he's representative of all the different cultures that have made Hawaii their home in the past hundred years.

    Lilo and her family is very much a part of modern Hawaiian culture and history.   Stitch is part of her family...   taking him away and leaving her would go against what they drilled into our heads about ohana during the course of the movie.

    Maybe he would be better suited for the "its a small universe" ride....  but he still fits well enough with Hawaii.

  • I concur with Ms. Davis:

    "Some things I like. Some I don’t like."

    What was nice about 'it's a small world' was that it was one of the attractions that was not based on a licensed property (like a movie or television show). It was neutral ground. And while the re-work maintains the color and pageantry of the original concept it still seems like its the company exploiting another opportunity to pi,p the characters. (Are collectible, 'it's a small world' edition Disney character figurines on sale at Fantasyland gift shops ... yet?)

    BUt ultimately I am a company guy (my wife is a CM). What works for the company's bottom line is okay with me.

    So (again), "Some things I like. Some I don’t like."

  • RE: Stitch... I think he's more in the vein of the mermaids. And perhaps a first in being an alien.

  • I agree about the Tiki Room. I never saw the original attraction, so I can't compare it with the new version. But what I CAN say about the new version is...IT'S A LOUSY SHOW! Lame, loud, obnoxious, unfunny...and not a whit of charm. A truly hideous AA of Iago the parrot too. Doesn't look like the character at all! WTF???

    As for Small World...last time I visited it at WDW, it was looking very shabby. A full refurbishment, plus a touch of new magic, wouldn't hurt it a bit. A similar treatment didn't hurt Pirates (in fact, it could do with a bit more, IMO.)

  • From videos I've seen - and I admit they're only videos - the characters didn't bother me nearly as much as the seeming awfulness of the America scene. That's what stuck out to me as being just thrown in there without the same craft.

  • This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the changes. It's a great endorsement of Kim Irvine, but Alice Davis seems rather critical of Disney's current leadership overall and this project in particular.

    I think either side of this debate could take Ms. Davis' words and select some of them to support their position.

  • Having just seen the new Small World, I can say that I absolutely loved it. Yeah, I know...some folks don't like it when things change. I am one who loves routine. I think that they did a great job.

  • Frumious Boojum said: "Stitch is as much of a part of Hawaii's culture and history as Donald Duck is a part of Mexico's culture and history.

    Stitch and Donald both represent the tourist..."

    Good point. Not that we see totally eye to eye, but I can see where you're coming from.

  • I strongly disagree with ParrotHead. I think that Alice Davis IS praising the changes in a way.

Page 1 of 1 (13 items)