Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

Jim Ames

by , Event Manager, Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

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.

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope 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.

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park

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.”

Celebrating 45 Years of Laughter and Hope at Disneyland Park


  • Small world is so special, it captures the joyous naïvety of childhood even for the most cynical of us oldies. Just wish it still said Merry Christmas (at least in British part) in Holiday dress up. Many Happy Returns It’s a small world, here’s to the next 45.

  • Warren–
    I agree, I think they did a great job with the enhancements!

  • Happy birthday!
    Will there be a Chinese character soon?

  • I love how my children reacted to small world. Their heads couldn’t stop moving as they were trying to soak it all in.

  • I grew up visiting Disneyland, and my favorite ride was It’s A Small World. Much to my parents’ chagrin, we would ride it over and over. I loved the song so much that I had a record that I would play in my room whenever I missed Disneyland. (I lived in the Midwest.) Whenever I thought it was time to go back, I would play that record at top volume over and over until my parents got the hint! As I type this, I realize how truly patient my parents were with me. Wow.

    I always took the beautiful facade of the Disneyland version for granted, and was appalled that the WDW version lacked this stunning detail. Although I love WDW, the Disneyland version of this ride will always be my favorite! I can’t wait to share it with my son this fall.

  • My first visit was at the age of 12 in 1977. Wow, what an experience to remember!!
    I next returned in May 2009, now with my 9 yr old daughter. I could’nt wait to get on a Smalll World as it stuck out so much after 32 years. It did’nt disappoint thats for sure.
    Its a ride that can make me cry. If the outside world was as joyous and acceptable of all people as a Small world is , this really would be a perfect world!!!
    Thank you for making people realize that hope, dreams and love for humanity is alive and well!!

  • Oh and by the way, I’m a 48 year old male. If I love it,
    so will you other guys!

  • One of my all time favorite Disneyland attractions.
    For those who haven’t seen it since the last refurbishment, it’s absolutely fantastic! There was an online debate about the addition of Disney characters that turned out to be a non-issue. I thought it was fun to see Disney characters done up like Mary Blair might have done them! Plus the music was redone in spots and thus it doesn’t become as mush of an ear worm that people sometimes joke about.
    The addition of the USA scene is nice. The rain forest scene is smaller and some bits were moved around but all in all, a very lovely addition.

  • Happy 45th birthday to “The Happiest Cruise That Ever Sailed!!” You bring me a world of laughter every time I experience this beautiful attraction!! And yes, it is my favorite Disneyland attraction!! And thank you to the Sherman Brothers for writing a beautiful song that was meant as a prayer for peace!! 🙂

  • i love the artwork of Mary Blair. even her little golden book art work. i just saw the Mary Blair exhibit at disneyland this week. fantastic.

  • The music sounds marvelous on a player piano.

  • No trip to Disneyland is complete without a few rides on Small World. You know it’s a good ride when my 16-year-old brother asks to go on it! We just love it. Happy birthday, Small World! We’ll be riding you in 24 days!

  • I am a Small World fan (that is to say, a Mary Blair and Richard Sherman fan), and I don’t care who knows it.
    Most people cram the lines for Peter Pan before leaving MK in the evening, I always take one last Small World ride for the road, for the same reason some people like to take one last Mexico boat ride before leaving Epcot: There’s just something about an upbeat musical boat ride to wraps up the experience.

    (Yes, first childhood trip in the 70’s, I was one of those survivors who got a stuck-line boat for five or ten minutes…I STILL like the song. 🙂 )

  • Wow. Thanks so much for sharing this, Jim! I’ll never forget seeing this attraction as a little kid at the World Fair, so many years ago. I still enjoy this ride very much, both the regular version and the holiday version. It’s definitely one of the best, and truly timeless!

  • Happy early birthday Small World! 🙂

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