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Disneyland Resort Press Release
DISNEYLAND SALUTES 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF ‘IT’S A SMALL WORLD’ AND ONE OF POP CULTURE’S MOST ENDURING (AND UN-ENDING) SONG HITS
Thanks to Disneyland, The Sun Never Sets on the Song “It’s A Small World (After All)
ANAHEIM, Calif. (May 25, 2006) - - This Sunday May 28, 2006, marks the 40th anniversary of the opening of the classic attraction “it’s a small world” at “The Happiest Place on Earth.” One of the most popular Disney attractions of all time, the show is a fun-filled and whimsical salute to the children of the world that conveys its message of peace and harmony through the international language of music.
The water-borne journey originally debuted on April 22, 1964, at the New York World’s Fair, but it was its move to an elaborate new home at Disneyland that firmly cemented its place in pop culture and created, literally, an unforgettable theme song (much to the chagrin of many).
Although it was a hit with visitors to the fair, “it’s a small world” did not gain widespread fame as a must-see Disney experience until after Walt Disney himself presided over its official opening ceremonies at Disneyland on May 28, 1966. The attraction’s new address in Fantasyland provided a platform where millions of guests from around the world would be annually introduced to its visual charms and catchy title tune (by the Academy Award-winning songwriting team of Richard M. and Robert B. Sherman).
The new Disneyland version of the attraction, with its 900-foot long gleaming white, blue and gold façade, a fanciful 30-foot high chiming glockenspiel clock tower and over 300 singing and dancing Audio-Animatronics performers, became an instant favorite with park guests from around the globe. Through initial merchandise tie-ins (toys, records, music boxes, etc.) and the sheer popularity of its new incarnation, the attraction’s theme song became an international sensation (performed by everyone from top-name performers to local school and church choirs), so much so that today it is purported to be one of the most performed and recognized songs in the world.
“Disneyland was the springboard for making our little tune a phenomenal hit,” said songwriter Richard M. Sherman whose current projects include successful stage adaptations of his musicals “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” and “Mary Poppins,” soon to debut on Broadway. “The song was originally written as a slow ballad and a prayer for peace and in 1966 the world was in a bad state of affairs so I think the song sparked and resonated even more . . . highlighting that we’re all together in this world and we’re more alike than we are different.”
Due to its popularity at Disneyland, “it’s a small world” has been duplicated with similar success at the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida (1971), Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan (1983) and Disneyland Paris Resort in France (1992), ensuring that during every minute of the day its happy anthem is playing somewhere on the planet. Since 1966 more than 100 million people have enjoyed the four different versions of the attraction around the world, resulting in numerous Internet articles citing its title tune as one of the greatest “earworms” (songs or melodies you just can’t get out of your head) of all-time.
Inside the attraction the song and melody are repeatedly featured within a soundtrack loop. The loop is played, on average, 1200 times a day during a 16-hour operating day at each Disney Park. It is estimated that the song and melody are therefore played over 4,800 times around the world during any 24-hour period!
The song and attraction have even taken on a holiday motif through the years. On November 27, 1997, Disneyland unveiled “it’s a small world holiday,” a spectacular seasonal make-over of the attraction (exclusive to Disneyland) that celebrates the winter holidays around the world. Each year the attraction’s famous façade is adorned with hundreds of thousands of holiday lights while the interior and its cast of international children receive a festive overlay. Even the familiar “it’s a small world” soundtrack gets into the holiday spirit as the attraction’s famed song becomes part of a medley featuring “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls.”
“Of the many great songs and scores created by the Sherman Brothers, for such classic films as ‘Poppins,’ ‘The Jungle Book,’ and ‘The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh’ to name a few, none have the gravitas of international fame as ‘it’s a small world,” stated Jeff Kurtti, co-author of the book “Walt’s Time: From Before to Beyond” (a biography of the Sherman Brothers). “From its start as a song for UNICEF at the New York World’s Fair to a hit tune synonymous with Disneyland and the Disney parks, the song has become both a beloved and parodied pop culture song staple.”
A mainstay of childhood music education, the song has become both cherished and derided. Disney itself has even parodied the song. In the hit 1994 animated feature “The Lion King,” the villain, Scar, requests to be serenaded with a bouncy tune to improve his bad mood. His lackey Zazu begins to sing “It’s a Small World (After All),” prompting Scar to shout in apparent agony, “No, No! ANYTHING but that!” The song is also playfully poked fun at during the madcap “MuppetVision 3D” attraction at Disney Parks in California and Florida.
“The song’s perpetual cheery disposition may be grating on some nerves but there’s no denying it’s a catchy tune,” adds Sherman, with a wink (who confides as an aside that his home doorbell also plays the first few bars of the song). “If this were the only song my brother Bob and I ever wrote we would be most grateful songwriters – to have your song play virtually every minute of the day around the world with a message of peace, childhood hope, understanding between peoples and joy – I don’t think it gets any better than that!”
More information about the continuing Disneyland 50th anniversary celebration, and vacations at the Disneyland Resort, is available at www.disneyland.com, by calling (877) 700-DISNEY, or by visiting local travel agents. Additional insights can be found on the Official Disneyland Resort Podcast at www.disneyland.com/podcast.