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Ride / "it's a small world"

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You can hear it already, can't you?

"When we completed It's a Small World for presentation at the New York World's Fair, we felt that we had accomplished what we'd set out to do. We wanted to foster a better understanding among nations of the world by showing the dress, the customs, the language, the music, and a little of the culture of our neighbors around the world, and we wanted to show it to be a very happy one. I think it's safe to say that having fun has universal appeal."
Walt Disney

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 a cheerful song.

The ride's history began in the early 1960s 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 Magic Skyway. The attraction was originally going 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 the 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 was announced in 2014; no details have since been announced. A 1964 recording of the titular song "It's a Small World (After All)" as performed by the Disneyland Boys Choir was chosen by the Library of Congress in 2022 to be added to the National Recording Registry for preservation as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".

These are small tropes after all...

  • all lowercase letters: As mentioned, the ride's title is usually written as "it's a small world", with quotes around it. (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.
  • Americans Are Cowboys: The only American character seen in some versions of the ride (not counting a lone Eskimo) for some reason actually dresses up in stereotypical cowboy garb that is found only in the last part of the attraction.
  • 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 Chilean broad-brimmed hats.
  • Balloonacy: Many dolls in the ride can be seen floating in the air with the help of just a couple of balloons. One of the dolls in Disneyland Paris is a child who's been carried away by a balloon, with two dolls on the ground, one looking alarmed and the other carefully aiming a harpoon to burst it before the child gets too high.
  • Beat: The music works its way up to a crescendo, then there's a beat of silence, then the music continues. The reason for this is that the original sound system used dozens of tape decks playing tape loops. It would be impossible to keep them all synchronized through a full day; some would run faster or slower and fall out of sync. The solution is for all the tape players to stop at the end of the loop, then simultaneously restart on a clock signal. This kept them in sync, and the beat of silence covered the restart.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Several oversized butterflies can be seen flying around in the Hawaii scene.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Same with the Title Drop.
  • The Cameo:
  • 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.
  • Culture Equals Costume: Used as the main way of visually distinguishing between cultures; see the aversion to Facial Profiling below.
  • 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.
    • The Hong Kong version features all of the above (minus Hollywood Hills), a gondola for Venice, Italy, the Taj Mahal for India, and the Central side of Victoria Harbour with the Peak in the background (complete with a Star Ferry and a junk boat) for Hong Kong itself.
  • 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 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.
  • The Hyena: An actual one appears in the Africa scene and has the exact same laugh as the hyena in Lady and the Tramp.
  • Jungle Jazz: Listen closely or you'll miss it, the end of the African wing at the Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland has the titular song played in this swingin' style by three children sitting on the tusks of an elephant.
  • 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.
  • Long-Runners: The attraction celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2014, and still continues to go on strong to this day.
  • 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.
  • National Animal Stereotypes: Several countries in the ride are represented with, among others, their national animal. The Hong Kong version, at least, features a kangaroo and her joey for Australia, kiwi birds for New Zealand, a tiger for India, a panda for China, a camel for the Middle East, a variety of animals native to the savanna (e.g. zebras, hyenas, elephants, rhinos, hippos, giraffes, etc.) for Africa, llamas (or something along those lines) for the Andes in South America and penguins (presumably Magellanic penguins, though the coloration is more like generic-penguin) for presumably the continent's southern tip, a cow (presumably a Highland cow) for Scotland, etc.
  • 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.
  • Sombrero Equals Mexican: Most all of the male dolls in the Mexico scene wear sombreros.
  • Spectacular 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.
  • 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 and Tokyo Disneyland versions of the ride were changed in 2009 and 2018, respectively, to have Disney and Pixar characters added into the different scenes of the ride. In Disneyland's case, it 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 Paris, Hong Kong and Anaheim's versions of the ride depict the country in its Old West days, complete with cowboys and Native Americans. Before it was updated, the only representations of the U.S. in Disneyland (and Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland) came at the ride's finale, with a cowboy and an Indian chief.
  • 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.

With all due apologies if reading this page has made you start humming that song.