It's a Small World (stylized as "it's a small world") is a water-based dark ride at the Disney Theme Parks, themed as a boat trip through the various nations of the world, filled with all the earth's children celebrating together in international unity and global peace, by continuously singing what is arguably the most famousnote Ear Worm of all time.
The ride's history began in the early 1960's, when it was among the many Disney attractions designed for the 1964 New York World's Fair, along with Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, Carousel of Progress, and CircleVision 360. The attraction was originally to be called "Children of the World", and the initial idea is that it would feature the national anthems of the different countries of the world all playing at once, but upon testing it, Walt felt that it wasn't working. Desiring a single song that could be easily translated and played repeatedly, he asked the Sherman Brothers to come up with the best they've got, and thus that song was born. Mary Blair, an art director who had previously collaborated with Disney on several of their films, also proved instrumental to the ride's development, overseeing its set design and color style.
Upon opening, the ride was an overwhelming success with the public, resulting in it eventually being brought over to Disneyland in 1966, and over the next few decades it also found its way over to Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland.
To this day, the ride stands as one of the most instantly-recognizable aspects of the Disney parks, which has naturally led to it being a subject of numerous references and tongue-in-cheek parodies in the media, including some made by Disney themselves. The popularity of the attraction has also resulted in getting a big line of merchandise and an online animated series, among other things.
A movie for the attraction is currently being developed by Disney.
Tropes shown in It's a Small World include:
- all lowercase letters: As mentioned, the ride's title is usually written as "it's a small world", with Scare Quotes. (Hey, the ride is named after its song.)
- Amazing Technicolor Wildlife: Varies. Some of the animals are colored normally, while others are colored purple, blue, orange, red, pink...any color you can imagine.
- The Amazon: Among the many locations is the rainforest in New Guinea, where the forest's inhabitants can be seen holding up umbrellas to protect themselves.
- Amusement Park: The finale takes place in a small amusement park, with Ferris wheels, roller coasters, and hot air balloon rides.
- Accessory-Wearing Cartoon Animal: All of the dancing penguins in the Antarctica scene wear straw hats.
- Balloonacy: Many dolls in the ride can be seen floating in the air with the help of just a couple of balloons.
- Big Creepy-Crawlies: Several over-sized butterflies can be seen flying around in the Hawaii scene.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Same with the Title Drop.
- The Cameo: The current versions in California, Tokyo, and Hong Kong include "small world" versions of Disney characters in the corresponding areas. Some are really obvious (Ariel and Lilo & Stitch in the tropical area, The Three Caballeros in South America), some not so much (you specifically have to be looking to find Peter Pan and Tinkerbell flying way overhead in Europe, and it may take a minute to realize some of the jungle's animals are Simba, Pumbaa, and Timon).
- Civilized Animal: Zigzagged. Certain animals in the ride are depicted normally, while others are shown being very human-like, standing on their hind legs and playing instruments, some even wearing clothes.
- Clock Tower: The ride's facade is a giant clock tower with a moving smiley face; which will display the current time every 15 minutes.
- Christmas Special: It's a Small World Holiday, an overlay held during November-January, which not only adds in Christmas decorations, but also has the dolls sing Christmas carols alongside the main song.
- Comically Cross-Eyed: In Disneyland's version, Dory appears cross-eyed.
- Cool Boat: Disneyland's opening "Welcome" scene shows a variety of unique-looking boats sailing in from all around the world, most of them matching the style of their respective countries.
- Creator Cameo: The attraction's art director, Mary Blair, can be seen in doll-form in the Western Europe scene.
- Dressed to Plunder: Among the many things in Disneyland's "Welcome" scene is a pig dressed as a typical pirate with a captain's hat and coat.
- Disney Acid Sequence: Every room of the ride
- Eiffel Tower Effect: Many landmarks are used in the ride to represent certain locations, such as the Big Ben for the United Kingdom, the Eiffel Tower for France, and the Leaning Tower of Pisa for Italy. The Paris version goes even further and includes the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Hollywood Hills to represent the United States.
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Monkeys seem to be the most represented animal in the attraction, in particular appearing quite prominently in the Africa scene.
- Everything's Better with Rainbows: Fittingly, the Ireland scene in the Paris version shows a rainbow coming out of a pot of gold.
- Everything's Better with Sparkles: Most of the ride contains a very high ratio of glitter to total surface area, especially on its facade.
- Everything's Better with Spinning: There's always some form of spinning in each scene of the ride, usually coming from the dolls dancing in circles. Even the facade of the attraction itself features several objects that are always spinning.
- Everything Dances: The smiling and dancing is not limited to just the children and animals.
- The United Kingdom scene has a couple of dancing chess pieces.
- In the Paris version, several of the cacti are shown dancing; some of them can even be seen playing instruments.
- The Face of the Sun: Almost every scene features some kind of sun; several of them having faces.
- Facial Profiling: Averted. The same mold is used to make the faces for all the dolls, regardless of ethnicity. This is of course entirely deliberate, since the idea being promoted by the ride is that humans are all essentially the same no matter where they come from.
- Fantastic Flora: The dancing cacti, as mentioned above.
- Fluffy Fashion Feathers: Worn by several of the dolls, particularly the can-can dancers in the France scene.
- Genie in a Bottle: The Middle East scene in the Paris version shows a girl releasing a genie from a magic lamp.
- Hula and Luaus: The Hawaii scene contains several hula dancers.
- Instant Awesome: Just Add Dragons!: The Medieval Europe scene in the Paris version features a kid riding on a green dragon. Anaheim and Hong Kong's versions also feature Mushu alongside Mulan.
- Leprechaun: The Ireland scene (naturally) features Leprechauns among the Irish children.
- Living Toys: The attraction's clock tower facade includes wooden toy soldiers that will pop out from the side every 15 minutes and play their drums.
- The Man in the Moon: The facade of the Paris version has a half-sun/half-moon with a face.
- Magic Carpet: The Middle East scene includes several dolls riding flying carpets overhead.
- Nice Hat: An ungodly amount of the dolls in the ride wear elaborate hats, usually a country-appropriate one.
- Panda-ing to the Audience: Pandas are used in the ride as the main animals representing China.
- Scenery Porn: Much of the design of the ride was by Mary Blair, who's previous worked for Disney films including The Three Caballeros, Melody Time, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland, brings her trademark vibrant colors to the ride.
- Shout-Out: The Disneyland Paris version features the Loch Ness Monster peering into a sailor's periscope, a reference to EPCOT's now-defunct World of Motion attraction.
- Snake Charmer: The Middle East scene shows a man hypnotizing a snake with a flute.
- Sentient Vehicle:
- Society Marches On: Although the show has always attempted to be culturally sensitive, one exception was the original Africa section. Not only did they have Jungles Sound Like Kookaburras, but the music was American jazz. The current version uses more authentic African music.
- Stock Ness Monster: A smiling Loch Ness Monster appears in Disneyland's "Welcome" scene.
- Sugar Bowl: The ride takes place in a colorful earth where everyone is united and in peace, along with being happy all the time.
- Tagline: "Join the happiest cruise that ever sailed 'round the world."
- Title Drop: Literally throughout the entire ride.
- Updated Re Release: The Disneyland version of the ride was changed in 2009 to have Disney and Pixar characters added into the different scenes of the ride, and also had the Rainforest scene compressed into a corner of another room and replaced with a U.S. scene.
- The Wild West: The United States scenes in both Paris and Anaheim's versions of the ride depict the country in its Old West days, complete with cowboys and Native Americans.
- World Tour: The ride takes guests all throughout the world.
- Yodel Land: Switzerland in this ride is represented with several large cuckoo clocks and a couple of dolls yodeling along to the tune of the song.