it's a small world reopens at Disneyland

by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix, staff writer

"it's a small world" reopens at Disneyland; photos and video from the AP preview

Disneyland Resort Annual Passholders had the opportunity to preview the enhanced "it's a small world" attraction at Disneyland yesterday, just ahead of the public reopening this morning. The attraction closed last February for a lengthy renovation, during which the ride's entire flume and all of the boats were replaced.

Take a ride through the enhanced "it's a small world" attraction.


The ride briefly reopened in November for the holiday season before closing once more in January to allow Imagineers to complete the refurbishment. Some additions, like an enhanced soundtrack in the China scene, are so subtle that most riders won't even recognize the change. Other changes, including an all-new "Spirit of America" scene and the addition of 30 Disney characters into the attraction, are far more noticeable, and have been the subject of much controversy among Disney bloggers and fans.

Most of the exterior of the attraction was repainted during the long refurbishment in 2008, and workers have now finished a few remaining details, like the faded toy soldiers inside the clock tower. The opening scenes of the attraction look unchanged, but the sets sport fresh coats of paint and glitter. The first characters appear just at the entrance to the Europe room.

Disneyland's "it's a small world" attraction reopened for an Annual Passholder preview on February 5. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

A child doll dressed as Alice in Wonderland is accompanied by a toy White Rabbit as they stand on the corner of a chess board just beyond the bridge. Some riders have complained that those characters look a little awkward and out of place, as if they were just dropped in that setting. By contrast, many riders overlooked the figures of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell flying almost directly overhead.

Alice in Wonderland and the White Rabbit appear in the England scene. Photo © Disney.

A very noticeable child doll dressed as Cinderella appears just ahead at the front of the country scene, accompanied by toy Gus and Jaq mice. But apart from these first two examples, the rest of the characters blend—or even disappearright into their respective country scenes.

A child doll dressed as Cinderella is accompanied by two toy mice dressed as Gus and Jaq. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Musical "counterpoints" were added throughout the ride to incorporate music from Disney films into the attraction's famous song. As you pass Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket in the Italy scene, you'll likely hear a few notes from "When You Wish Upon a Star." Similar musical cameos appear along with Alice in Wonderland and Aladdin and Jasmine.

Pinocchio and Jiminy appear in the Italy scene. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Aladdin and Jasmine sit on a flying carpet at the entrance to the Middle East scene, and a toy Abu peeks out of a nearby basket. (Some reports count the Magic Carpet as a 31st character) Across the room, a large Mushu kite fills the "sky" of the Asia scene. The kite-handler doll is dressed as Mulan in her warrior costume. Disney Imagineer art director Kim Irvine told MousePlanet that the music in this section was enhanced with an instrumental arrangement recorded for the "it's a small world" attraction in Hong Kong Disneyland.

Aladdin and Jasmine ride the Magic Carpet through the Middle East scene. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Abu hides in a nearby basket. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

A Mushu kite flies above the China scene. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The kite-handler doll is dressed as Mulan. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Simba, Pumbaa and Timon have taken up residence in the Africa room. Most people overlook Timon—who pops out of an ant hill—on their first trip through the attraction.

Simba, Timon and Pumbaa appear in the Africa room. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

A little Timon can be hard to spot as he peeks out the anthill behind and above Simba to the right. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Laurie Newell, Principal Concept Designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, places pipe cleaner whiskers on Simba. Photo © Disney.

The South America room features Donald Duck, Panchito and Jose Carioca from The Three Caballeros. Despite concerns expressed by some critics, Donald is actually the only member of the so-called "Fab Five" (Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Goofy, and Pluto) that appears in the attraction.

Donald Duck is the only one of the "Fab Five" to make an appearance in the attraction. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The doll dressed as Ariel sings the "it's a small world" theme song in the Pacific Islands room, while a toy Flounder swims nearby. Nemo (or Marlin) and Dory appear on the other side of the flume, but these characters are easy to miss if your attention is focused on the Lilo and Stitch figures perched atop a surfboard.

Ariel sings the attraction theme song in the Pacific Islands scene. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Some claim the painted image of a sea turtle is Crush, and count that as a 32nd character in the attraction. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

The surfing boy has been replaced by Lilo and Stitch. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

When "it's a small world" reopened for the holiday season, it was immediately noted that a few characters from the Rainforest room had been relocated into the South America room. As expected, the space was used for the all-new Spirit of America room. Kim Irvine explained that the new room was designed to portray America in the idealized way that children might imagine it, with cowboys and Indians and fields of corn. The mesa set is based on concept art by the late Mary Blair, the Disney Legend who art directed the original attraction. Woody, Jessie and Bullseye appear at the exit of this room.

The Sprit of America is represented by farmland and a desert vista. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

This set is based on concept art by Disney Legend Mary Blair. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Each room of the attraction has a representation of the "just one moon" or "one golden sun" mentioned in the song lyrics. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Woody, Jessie, and Bullseye represent the Spirit of America. Photo © Disney.

Disney purists will be relieved to know that the Finale room remains entirely character-free, and the giant sun, restored to the attraction during the 2008 refurbishment after a many-year hiatus, is still in place. Irvine explained that the room's original lighting system, which she described as similar to the color wheels that are used to illuminate Christmas trees, was replaced with a new lighting system that provides a better "wash" of color across the room. A "Farewell" banner hangs across the exit, re-creating a banner that appeared in the World's Fair presentation of the ride.

The Finale room features intense new lighting effects. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

A sign at the exit of the room bids you farewell. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Crowds were light for the first two hours after the previews began, and it was difficult to find someone who expressed displeasure with the changes made to the attraction. Many children seemed to make a game of finding the characters during the ride, and several people got right back in line to try to spot the characters they missed. The attraction opens to the public on Friday, February 6.

Walt Disney Imagineering Art Director Kim Irvine. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.

Alice in Wonderland and the Mad Hatter board for a trip through the renovated attraction. Photo by Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix.