May 28, 1966
it’s a small world Opens at Disneyland
On this day in 1966, people from all over the world joined together under the golden sun at Disneyland for the opening of it’s a small world. The group included young performing groups from America and abroad, and more than 50 consul generals, consuls and vice consuls representing nations worldwide. Amongst the opening day festivities was a phone call between Walt, who was at Disneyland for the dedication, and Disneyland Ambassador Connie Swanson, who, in keeping with the international theme, was in Sweden, to be heard on the loud speakers via an international phone call. Connie recently told D23′s Scott Wolf, “I opened [the event] from Sweden. I was over in Skansen, which is a cultural amusement park in Stockholm, and I was with the Minister of Communication, Olaf Palma, and when I said the dedication words in that office in Sweden it went on the loud speaker. I could hear Walt saying, ‘There’s some difficulty, we can’t get it through,’ and I thought, ‘Oh dear, here I am in Stockholm with the press and this Minister of Communications and the line is going down, so I just read my script as I was asked to do.’” Another aspect of the festivities was the brainchild of Jack Lindquist who recently said, “We needed something to open the attraction. Walt was going to be there and Louis Lundborg, the chairman of Bank of America, and I came up with the idea of going to Disney reps all over the world and saying, ‘Send me a bottle of water,’ and they did a great job. Pretty soon my office had about 15 different bottles. Water came from Thames, Seine, Amazon, Danube, Nile, Volga, Rhine, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, among others. To me, it was just a symbolic way to open the ride. Here was water from all over the world, and we got kids representing those countries to pour some water into the moat. It was symbolic and it worked fine… and it was cheap. It also gave me an opportunity to get to know the Disney reps around the world.” In his dedication speech, Walt said, “I’d like to welcome all of you to the dedication of it’s a small world, and I’d like to thank all of these wonderful children who have performed here to make these dedication such a success. Thank you, children! Beautiful children! 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.”
posted at the Disney Parks blog on May 27th, 2011 by Jim Ames, Manager, Food and Wine Events, Disneyland Resort
Saturday, May 28, marks the anniversary of one of the most endearing attractions to ever open at a Disney park when “it’s a small world” celebrates 45 happy years at Disneyland park.
When he originally imagined this attraction for the 1964 New York World’s Fair, Walt Disney tasked a talented team of Imagineers, including artist and Disney Legend Mary Blair, to bring his vision of brotherhood and friendship to life. Mary’s concept was that of a “pop-up book” that looked like the children within the story had designed their worlds themselves.
Mary Blair also designed the iconic facade when the attraction was moved to its new home at Disneyland park. With whimsical representations of the Eiffel Tower, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Big Ben and the Taj Mahal, the exterior is no less impressive than the ride itself.
Of course it is the playful music, by legendary songwriting team Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman that keeps us humming long after we have exited the attraction. Walt asked the duo to write a simple piece that could be repeated and sung in different languages. The Sherman Brothers succeeded creating quite possibly the catchiest Disney attraction theme song of all time.
In 1966, Walt Disney presided over the opening ceremonies of the attraction in its new home at Disneyland park. Children representing countries from around the world came together to pour water from all seven continents into the “Rivers of the World.”
Since that moment, more than 233 million Disneyland park guests have joined “the happiest cruise that ever sailed” – enough to circumnavigate the Earth more than 190 times. “it’s a small world” has opened in the Magic Kingdom park at Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disneyland park, Disneyland Resort Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland Resort, proving that “though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide, it’s a small world after all.”