“It’s A Mall World After All”
Disneyland’s famous attraction, "It’s A Small World," is known for its iconic song and themes of world peace and harmony through the eyes of the children of the globe. Mary Blair designed the attraction to be a charming display of children dressed in their traditional costumes singing about global harmony and unity. An upcoming change to the attraction however, causes many to see these themes of harmony and unity change into themes of commercialism. In January of 2008, the attraction went down for a refurbishment on its canal. Later however, the news was spilled that Disney was planning to add over thirty-six Disney characters, remove its classic rainforest scene, and replace it with an “Up with America” scene. Such a change is against the themes of the ride and against the wishes of its creator, Walt Disney. Changing It’s A Small World by removing its rainforest scene and adding Disney Characters is detrimental to the ride’s theme and integrity, therefore the project should be stopped immediately.
Disneyland’s “It’s A Small World” owes its theme to Mary Blair’s vision of children at peace in the world, therefore Disney characters have no purpose in the attraction. “It’s A Small World” was originally created for the 1964 World’s fair as a tribute to UNICEF (Sampson). The attraction was designed to star only the children of the world. Adding these characters will take the focus away from the children of the world who are the rightful stars of the attraction. When the ride reopens in November, it will no longer be focused on children celebrating peace in the world, but will be a ride of “Where’s Waldo” proportions. Children will be busy looking for their favorite Disney Characters and leave the ride thinking only of taking home their own “Small World”-style Cinderella or Pinocchio. Conveniently, Disney will have these dolls available for purchase in the gift shop located right next to the exit of the attraction. Some of the characters will even have their own retrospective theme music playing behind them in the updated attraction. This will be the first time that the music will ever have deviated from the classic “It’s A Small World After All” song in the attraction’s entire history. The children of the world and their melodious song will be pushed aside for marketing to bring in the big bucks on some of their most popular Disney movies. Mary Blair’s Artistic vision is one that can’t be duplicated; the characters will be but a feeble attempt at her style. The Characters look like plastic and not similar to the lifelike and geometric styles of the original attraction. Dolls such as Baloo from The Jungle Book, Woody and Jessie from A Toy’s Story, and Bambi are abominations. The themes of global unity and peace through the eyes of children will deteriorate, leaving a stale and heartless advertisement of Disney franchises, the only gain will be to advertise the Disney brand to children. It is just a step back for the park and the attraction in so many bitter ways.
The attraction’s rainforest is an original scene designed especially for Disneyland; replacing it with an America scene is against the principles of the ride and its creators. Walt Disney never wanted “It’s A Small World” to feature America. The attraction was created with the theme of visiting the rest of the world and all of its exotic wonders, and therefore Walt Disney didn’t find America appropriate to the theme (“It’s A Small World”). Walt decided that America should only be represented in the finale with the rest of the world’s children together and it is still represented today with a cowboy and Native American chief. Mary Blair’s rainforest scene represents a major portion of the world. Removing this classic scene is disrespectful to the native peoples who have lived in the earth’s rainforests for centuries and to the people of Papua New Guinea, who are also represented in the scene. The rainforest room is the last room in the attraction until the finale. It is a profane gesture to place America at the end because it makes a statement that says, “We saved the best for last”. The America room will be flashy, loud, and glamorous (Lutz). The changes will also make America the only country in the attraction to have a room all to itself, destroying the themes of global equality. The rainforest is one of the attraction’s most classic and majestic scenes and doesn’t deserve to be removed for a cheep representation of a corporate, rich America.
Though Walt Disney Imagineering explains that Disneyland’s attractions should be constantly evolving, the changes must always respect the original visions of the attractions. Disneyland is always trying to keep its attractions fresh so that the guest will always have something new to see when they ride their favorite attraction. One way to accomplish this while still maintaining the attraction’s theme would be by adding new children and new countries. Over the years, many new countries have been formed and many more less known nations have never gotten the chance to be represented. Perhaps a child dressed in the traditional clothes of Iraq could be added to the attraction, and another child, dressed in the traditional costume of the Samoan peoples could be added to the Polynesian scene. This will help to freshen the attraction up while making the themes of world peace and global unity even stronger. The changes that Disney currently wants to impose have nothing to do with those themes. Disneyland is place of change; in fact Walt Disney stated that it would never be completed. However, if the changes do nothing to help add to theme and quality, then they are a waste of time and effort to the park.
“It’s A Small World” is a tribute to world peace and unity through children and should remain as such. The addition of Disney Characters and the removal of the rainforest in favor of America are both disrespectful and detrimental to the attraction. Disney Characters are nothing but a corporate advertisement and do nothing to improve or help the theme. The loss of the rainforest will be replaced with a vain look at America, a country never meant to be in the attraction at all. These changes are disrespectful to the people of the rainforest and two of the world’s greatest artists, Mary Blair and Walt Disney. Even Mary Blair’s son, Kevin Blair sent an open letter to the Walt Disney Company in the name of the entire Blair family speaking out against the changes (Blair). Currently, Disney is so afraid of the anger of the general pubic, that when the attraction reopens to guests in late November, every change that has already been installed will be hidden from view, covered in black cloth in a feeble attempt to confuse the media and to stop the harsh criticism from hurting their holiday season tourism (Lutz). Disney is a company that thrives on guest feedback. People should make it a point to contact Disney and tell them how much of mistake these changes are. Until the world is fully educated of these great wrongs, Disney will not feel the pressure to stop these changes. “It’s A Small World” is the world’s most lasting gesture of world peace; the messages that this attraction stands for should be protected by the world from the jaws of a money hungry corporation for many years to come.
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