There are numerous classic attractions at Disneyland, but none may be as well known, for better or worse, as It’s a Small World. The ride is most known for its earworm theme tune, which people either love or despise. Even if the song drives you insane, There’s Something Undeniably Special About It’s a Small World, which is why every It’s a Small World lover should thank Oscar winner and classic film icon Joan Crawford. Because It’s a Small World is entirely due to her efforts that we have It’s a Small World at all.
An episode of the Disney+ series Behind the Attraction tells the tale of how It’s a Small World came to be. The episode tells the story of the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, which was extremely important in the history of Disney Parks because Walt Disney Imagineers created four different attractions for the event, three of which, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, the Carousel of Progress, and It’s a Small World, would be transplanted into Disneyland following the fair’s conclusion. The technology from the fourth would be utilized for Peoplemover.
It was a huge task for Walt Disney’s relatively small team of Imagineers to create four attractions for the World’s Fair. This is why, according to the latest episode, when the Pepsi Cola Business approached Disney wanting to sponsor a pavilion with three attractions already in development, the company was told no without even consulting Walt. With only about a year until the fair, it was thought that completing four separate attractions would be difficult.
However, because Walt Disney was as great a celebrity as anybody in the early 1960s, he happened to be at a Hollywood party with a lot of other major personalities. Joan Crawford was one of them. Crawford was married to Alfred Steele, the CEO of the Pepsi Cola Company until his death in 1959, and following his death, Crawford was appointed to the company’s Board of Directors. She had been the one who pushed the firm to employ Disney for their World’s Fair project, so she expressed her disappointment to Walt at the party that they wouldn’t be able to collaborate.
Of course, Walt had no idea what she was talking about, but as someone who has been quoted as stating that it’s “fun to accomplish the impossible,” he added the fourth pavilion to the list of tasks to be completed. Whether it was because Walt wanted to make Joan Crawford happy, or because the attraction’s earnings were to be donated to the United Nations children’s charity UNICEF, Walt put the Imagineers to work on coming up with a concept.
It’s a Small World would begin to take form, a boat ride attraction that saw children from all over the world brought together in one location, singing in harmony to a tune composed by the Sherman Brothers, the same team that was working on the music for a new Disney film named Mary Poppins.
Whatever your thoughts are on It’s a Small World, Disneyland and the other Disney parks just wouldn’t be the same without it. It’s a classic journey with a classic tune. And the new Behind the Attraction episode has a special rendition of the song that you won’t want to miss.
Sid Philips is a father of two and a loving husband. He currently resides in Pennsylvania and has been a fan of Disney since his parents took him there in 1980! Sid has visited multiple Disney parks around the world and loves each one!
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