Spaceship Earth at Epcot

Sights and Sounds of Disney Parks: It’s a Classic Attraction. It’s Turning 50. ‘it’s a small world!’

posted on March 25th, 2014 by Greg Ehrbar, Writer/Author, Disney's Yellow Shoes Creative Group


To some of us, it seems like only yesterday that Walt Disney first opened one of his best-loved ride-through attractions on April 22, 1964. There are others who have never lived in a world without “it’s a small world.” Either way, our lives are all the richer for it. But like many creative miracles, it almost never came to be.

WED Enterprises, as Walt Disney Imagineering was then known (the letters stood for “Walter Elias Disney”), was feverishly working toward a one-year deadline for three World’s Fair attractions: Progressland, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln and Magic Skyway. When the Pepsi Cola Company asked for a fourth pavilion — encouraged by Hollywood star and Pepsi board member Joan Crawford — Walt agreed, once again, that he and his artists would do the impossible and take on this tremendous challenge.

“Walt enlisted Imagineers Marc Davis for figure design and animation, Alice Davis for the intricate international costuming and Claude Coats for the attraction’s overall layout,” wrote Disney Historian Stacia Martin for the book and compact disc album, “Walt Disney and the 1964 World’s Fair.” All are bonafide Disney Legends in their own right, but many fans agree that it is Mary Blair whose visual style is so dynamically showcased in “it’s a small world.”

If you watch the Los Posadas sequence of Walt Disney’s “The Three Caballeros,” you’ll see what some call the “Mary kids.” Take a look at “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland” and “Peter Pan,” as well as the “Johnny Appleseed” portion of “Melody Time,” and delight in her unmistakable use of color, whimsy and humor. Cherished Little Golden Books with Mary Blair’s illustrations are still in print. Her magical handiwork also towers (literally) in the famous mosaic at Disney’s Contemporary Resort. It’s an endlessly fresh look that has inspired generations of admiring artists.

Walt and Mary Blair

Next time you enjoy this attraction, take note of a couple of cool things. In the finale, the young lady doll wearing glasses is a nod to Mary Blair herself. The entire finale scene is done in white because, according to John Canemaker in “The Art and Flair of Mary Blair,” she considered it the most “festive” of colors.

The artists whose musical style most infuses “it’s a small world” are Disney Legends Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, most recently portrayed in the acclaimed film “Saving Mr. Banks.” Before they were involved, the attraction was called “Children of the World,” featuring a series of national songs sung by children. The problem was that the sounds overlapped each other in a confused cacophony.

Walt and Shermans

Stacia Martin continues: “Richard Sherman remembers that the answer ‘came all of a sudden when we said … all these people grow up to be people and start having big differences and defiances and wars … but in the small world of children, everybody loves each other.’” Pretty heavy stuff, but when you focus on the lyrics, which mention tears, fears and division between the people of the world, this seemingly simple song has profound meaning indeed. The attraction’s name became the name of the song, “it’s a small world.”

Another fun fact: if you didn’t know that the yodeler’s voice was done by singer/actress Roberta Shore (“Mickey Mouse Club,” “The Shaggy Dog“) well, neither did she at first. She told me that, years ago, several Imagineers had hired her to yodel (one of her specialties) for a project they were working on. Then she moved on and forgot about it. Some time later, when she bought the “it’s a small world” record album for her kids, she recognized herself. “I was the yodeler!” she recalled. “I thought, so that’s why they asked me to yodel!” Roberta couldn’t be more pleased and proud to be part of such a classic Disney experience, one that has brightened the lives of countless millions.

Roberta Shore and Annette

“Currently, the sun never sets on the performance of this song playing in “it’s a small world” rides in California, Florida, Paris and Tokyo,” wrote Robert B. Sherman in his book, “Moose: Chapters from My Life.” “In fact, it’s the most translated, most performed song in the world.”

Robert’s book reveals a third verse, written at the request of Disney Legend and Imagineer Tony Baxter for the attraction’s 45th anniversary: “It’s a world of wonder / A world of worth / And in years to come / We’ll know peace on earth / We will open our eyes / And we’ll all realize / It’s a small world after all.”

Cheers to the next 50 years, “it’s a small world!” But why stop there? Cheers to the next 350 years—or more.

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This Week in Disney History: ‘Love Bug’ Day at Disneyland Park, 1969

posted on March 24th, 2014 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


Forty-five years ago this week, 101 decorated Volkswagen Beetles made their way down Main Street, U.S.A., in Disneyland park to celebrate the release of the film, “The Love Bug,” the story of the 1963 racing Beetle (and one of my favorite movies). On March 23, 1969, Beetle owners gathered at Disneyland to show off their decorated bugs and parade them through the park.

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The cars were judged in the categories of most psychedelic, toylike, comical and best personality. Morton and Barbara Allen of Studio City, Calif., won the grand prize – a brand-new 1969 Volkswagen Beetle, presented by “The Love Bug” stars Dean Jones and Michele Lee. Other prizes represented the pinnacles of 1969 technology: portable color televisions, Kodak Super-8 movie cameras and projectors, and new Polaroid cameras.

I was so inspired by this nugget of Disneyland history that I even created a costume for my own 1968 Volkswagen Beetle. Check her out!

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Which category do you think she would have won? And can anyone guess what name I call her by?

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Step In Time: ‘Mickey Mania’ Celebrates the Mouse at Magic Kingdom Park

posted on March 24th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


In the summer of 1994, a new procession called the “Mickey Mania Parade” hit the streets of Magic Kingdom Park to celebrate the one and only Mickey Mouse.

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The parade featured larger-than-life Mickey Mouse gloves and ear hats, appearances by classic Disney characters, stilt walkers and other parade performers. Floats reflected the colors of the Mouse – styled in red, white and yellow.

Do you remember this parade? Let us know in the “Comments” section below!

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Vintage Disney Parks Video: Take a Trip Back to the Beginning of ‘it’s a small world’

posted on March 21st, 2014 by Valarie Sukovaty, Disneyland Public Relations


As Thomas Smith just announced, we are celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the debut of “it’s a small world” at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. This, of course, means a trip to the archives! We found historical footage from both the 1964 New York World’s Fair and the attraction’s opening day here at the Disneyland Resort, two years later on May 28, 1966. Imagineer Kim Irvine takes us down memory lane, along with co-composer of the attraction’s unforgettable theme song, Richard Sherman. You’ll even hear from Walt Disney himself, as he shows off the plans for “it’s a small world” in a clip from the “Wonderful World of Color” television show. I hope you enjoy this trip back in time, and make sure to join the celebration at SmallWorld50.com!

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The History of the Disneyland Monorail: Mark V, 1986-2008

posted on March 20th, 2014 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


I love when we can have a Disney Parks Blog series that spans both Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts, so many thanks to my fellow author, Nate Rasmussen, for the excellent story on the Mark IV Monorail. Today, we return to the Disneyland Resort to continue our look at the history of the Disneyland Monorail with the Mark V.

Disneyland Monorail - Submarine Voyage

The most recognizable difference with the Mark V, compared to its predecessor, the Mark III, was its look. Designed to resemble the Mark IV monorail at Walt Disney World Resort, this new model was white with an accent color stripe running along the side. The four different colored stripes along the Mark V Monorails were red, blue, orange and purple.

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Another major difference was the new path the Disneyland Monorail would travel. In 1994, the path was diverted to run above the Eeyore section of the original Disneyland parking lot (remember that?) to accommodate the construction of Indiana Jones Adventure. Then in 1999, when construction began on Disney California Adventure park, Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa and the Downtown Disney District, portions of the track were re-routed to accommodate these additions.

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The opening of the Downtown Disney District also provided an opportunity for a brand-new station to be constructed for the Disneyland Monorail. When the station opened in 2001, it provided a convenient second entrance to Disneyland park, which is still available for guests today.

Check back next month, when I hand the controls back to Nate Rasmussen, who will tell us about the Mark VI Monorail, which currently travels the “highway in the sky” at the Walt Disney World Resort.

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Vintage Walt Disney World: Blizzard Beach, 1994

posted on March 20th, 2014 by Nate Rasmussen, Archivist, Marketing Resource Center


Finally, it’s the first day of spring! While everyone up North begins to officially thaw out (hopefully), it’s the perfect time to celebrate the place at Walt Disney World Resort that was created by thawing out – Disney’s Blizzard Beach Water Park.

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Covering over 60 acres, this one-of-a-kind themed water recreation area is home to the thrill slide Summit Plummet, as seen above, still under construction back in December 1994.

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It’s the perfect place to chill out on a warm Florida day, and all you need is a bathing suit. No gloves, boots or heavy coats required!

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A Look Back at Celebrated Disneyland Resort Guests: Nat King Cole – 1963

posted on March 17th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


The great singer Nat King Cole was born on this day in 1919, and today we look back at a visit he made to Disneyland park more than 50 years ago.

Nat King Cole and His Son, Nat Kelly Cole, in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland Park in 1963.

Pictured with his son, Nat Kelly Cole, the legendary voice behind such timeless hits as “Mona Lisa,” “Stardust,” and “Unforgettable” was photographed in front of Sleeping Beauty Castle in June of 1963.

Do you have a favorite Nat King Cole song? My personal favorite also has the distinction of being featured in a Disney film. Can you guess which one?

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Step in Time: Magic Kingdom Park Marks 20 Years With ‘Surprise Celebration Parade’

posted on March 17th, 2014 by Jennifer Fickley-Baker, Social Media Manager


Beginning in September 1991, Magic Kingdom Park kicked off its 20th anniversary celebration early with the debut of a new parade – the “Surprise Celebration Parade.”

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The centerpieces of the parade were towering balloons (some measuring as tall as 35-40 feet) depicting Disney characters celebrating festivals from around the world, including balloons for Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, Goofy, Pluto, and Roger Rabbit. The parade also featured festive costumes and floats. Other Disney characters walked the parade route carrying red Mickey balloons.

Do you remember this parade? Tell us in the “Comments” section below!

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A Look Back at Celebrated Disneyland Resort Guests: Jerry Lewis – 1955

posted on March 14th, 2014 by George Savvas, Public Relations Director, Disneyland Resort


Legendary entertainer and humanitarian Jerry Lewis celebrates his birthday this weekend, so today we’re looking back at a visit Jerry made to Disneyland park in August 1955, just a few weeks after we first opened our gates.

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This first photo is a triple treat for Disney fans. Television star Milton Berle, aka “Uncle Miltie,” joined Jerry outside the Main Entrance, along with future Disney Legend, Tom Nabbe, who was holding a custom edition of The Disneyland News with a headline that read, “Welcome Miltie & Jerry To Disneyland.”

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Then it was over to Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, where Jerry was joined by his son (and future musician), Gary Lewis. When I see this photo, I think can actually hear that iconic voice going through Toad Hall!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Lewis!

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Today in Disney History: Fantasy Faire Opens at Disneyland Park, 2013

posted on March 12th, 2014 by Erin Glover, Social Media Director, Disneyland Resort


One year ago today, we celebrated the expansion of Fantasyland at Disneyland park with the addition of Fantasy Faire, featuring the Royal Hall (where Disney princesses meet guests each day), the Royal Theatre (featuring the tales of “Tangled” and “Beauty and the Beast”) and Maurice’s Treats (serving delicious pastry twists and the wonderful Boysen Apple Freeze). I recently stopped by the Royal Theatre to chat with Mr. Smythe and Mr. Jones, who join Rapunzel and Belle onstage each day, about the one-year anniversary of this new Disneyland park guest favorite.

What is your favorite part of Fantasy Faire? Tell us in the comments!

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