photo by Stacy Conradt
The ride is currently under major renovations at Disneyland, and while I admit it's not one of my favorite rides, I was disappointed that my sister-in-law didn't get to experience it on her first-ever Disney trip last month. And now, she may never get to experience the original World's Fair version that has resided in Fantasyland for the past 40 years.
Disney says that the main change is a change of boats, but according to insiders in the know, it's actually going to be much more. We'll get to that in a second.
The original IASW is based on the idea of world peace. No, really. Walt Disney attended a conference held by President Eisenhower in 1956 about promoting world peace and cultural understanding through world travel. Inspired, Disney recruited Mary Blair to design the attraction, Marc and Alice Davis to design the scenes and the doll outfits respectively, and Joyce Carlson to design the dolls. At first, the ride included the national anthems of all of the different nations represented, but Disney decided he needed one uniting song. Robert and Richard Sherman wrote the now-famous tune and that was that.
photo from feministJulie on Flickr
A couple of quick facts:
• The attraction debuted at the 1964-65 World's Fair in New York.
• Major themes of the boat ride include Europe, Asia, Africa, Central/South America, South Pacific Islands, the Finale and the Good-bye Scene.
• Throughout your 10.5 minute boat ride, you'll hear the repetitive song in Spanish, French, and Japanese, to name a few.
And now the changes: The changes are going to see the rainforest scene – a really detailed, colorful and innovative representation of Mary Blair's artwork – replaced with a massive "Hooray for the U.S.A." scene. Right now, the only American characters represented are a cowboy and an Eskimo. This might seem like the U.S. isn't very well represented, but when you consider that the point of the ride is to explore other cultures, it makes sense.
Another big change is that Disney is going to stick its characters in scenes where they "belong". So you might see the Hunchback of Notre Dame in the France section, Simba and Rafiki in the African section and Ariel with the gurgling mermaids at the beginning of the ride (at Disneyland, not Disneyworld). Commercialism at its worst, I guess. I get that it's Disney and its bread and butter is its characters, but the original IASW was not designed to sell Disney product. Walt himself commissioned it with the idea of promoting global understanding, not global marketing.
photo from Re-Imagineering
I guess I'm torn – I can understand the need to update and improve the ride, but maybe not to the lengths they are going. Can't they up the America factor by adding a few more characters instead of destroying an entire classic scene? And what about subtly putting Disney character references into the ride instead of the actual characters themselves, which won't match the dolls in the rest of the ride? For instance, make one of the French dolls wear the simplistic blue-and-white Belle dress and carry a book. Give one of the mermaids red hair. I think it can be done in a way that doesn't rip the integrity of the original design away.
What do you guys think? Horrible updates, or is Small World long overdue for some modernization?