More Behind the Scenes Stories

‘it’s a small world’ Holiday Transformation at Disneyland Park

Shannon Swanson

by , Public Relations Manager, Disneyland Resort

Valarie recently shared a few videos showing how some of the magical holiday transformations happen here at Disneyland park. Getting into the spirit myself, I had the opportunity to take our Disney Parks Blog camera inside ”it’s a small world” to see how the iconic attraction becomes “it’s a small world” Holiday. It was amazing to get a glimpse at the Technical Services cast members painting, building, rigging and lighting the sets. They were working on the finale scene when we taped this video, finishing the 18-day merry makeover. Being in the attraction during this process gave me a new perspective and appreciation for the detail and work that goes into making “it’s a small world” Holiday so special. Next time my tree lights go out at home I will happily replace them, even if I have to do it one at a time!

“it’s a small world” Holiday Fun Facts:

  • “it’s a small world” Holiday – The holiday version of this Disneyland classic debuted in 1997. The original attraction was inspired by Mary Blair’s storyline: a group of housebound kids on a rainy day create an international art project using all their dolls, toys and decorations.
  • All That Glitters – Each holiday season, an estimated 50,000 Christmas lights are installed on the façade. The breathtaking and intricate lighting design calls for six brilliant colors that interplay with clear twinkling lights. The nighttime splendor comes aglow with more than 300,000 watts of light.
  • Yuletide Treats & Merry Surprises – As you float along the canals of Europe, the scent of freshly cut pine lingers near a 20-foot Christmas tree in a scene that pays homage to “The Nutcracker.” The sweet smell of candy canes will tantalize as you pass by Italy’s hanging candies. (Both are enhanced aromas, added to the attraction.) Merry bubbles float down as you voyage through the South Seas, where a plate of fish has been left out “for Santa” (by Ariel and the mermaids).
  • A Sparkling Seasonal Wish – Wishing you “Happy Holidays” in the attraction’s final scene is a 14-foot sparkling snowman, dressed in his wintery best with a gold top hat, golden scarf, and hundreds of twinkling lights. A frosty snowflake mobile twirls over his head, flickering with an icy translucent glow. The snowman’s “Happy Holidays” sign is a jolly sight, too. It’s sculpted out of ice that changes color.
  • Storage Space – 100 percent of the holiday overlay props and scenic elements used are actually stored inside the attraction all year ‘round!
  • Up On The Housetop – Santa’s reindeer can fly to the top, but the elves that make holiday magic at “it’s a small world” Holiday use four high-reaching lifts, including one that stretches to 80 feet into the air. Riggers repel off the back wall using special safety rope access.
  • Secret Elf Society – It takes 12 Technical Services cast members 5 nights a week for 7 weeks (35 days!) to install the glittering yuletide façade. Inside the attraction it takes more than 20 Technical Services cast members 18 days in a row to decorate the holiday attraction’s dazzling interior!
  • “Fa La La La La” – The attraction’s soundtrack is a merry mix of “Jingle Bells” and “Deck The Halls” in counterpoint with the classic “it’s a small world” tune. Children’s voices sing along in English, French, Italian, Spanish and Scandinavian languages. If you listen closely, you’ll hear the South Seas Mermaids singing their own holiday carol: “Jingle Shells.” Holiday greetings in many other languages – French Canadian, Dutch, Chinese, Asante (of Ghana) and Hawaiian to name a few – can be discovered on banners and signs throughout the entire attraction.


  • I concur with everyone above!!! Why oh why hasn’t this made its way to Disney World????

  • I absolutely loved seeing this video! This is a ride my whole family loves to get on together :D. I found this very fun to watch because I am actually taking a lighting class and I hope to one day be a cast memeber at Disneyland in technicial services. Thanks for giving us a look at all the hard work those technicial services cast members do every year.

  • Thanks for the video! It’s always fun to see behind the scenes.

    I love It’s A Small World Holiday (it’s my favorite holiday thing at Disneyland!), but it’s always bothered me that they have the lyrics mixed up for Deck the Halls. After they sing “follow me in merry measure,” it’s supposed to be “while I tell of yuletide treasure.” They sing “heedless of the wind and weather,” which goes with a different verse! I’d love to know if there’s a reason for the switch.

  • How exciting. Thanks so much for the behind the scene peek. We always love this attraction at Christmas time.

  • Wow that is amazing…. sure wish Walt Disney World would do these overlays over here!

  • #6 – This is my absolute favorite holiday make-over at Disneyland! I always look forward to seeing all the fun changes.

    I’ve heard that the “yellow boat” for those in wheelchairs is back in use. That’s so great to hear, since I can’t go on this attraction without it, since I have to use a wheelchair to go to DL.

    We’re really looking forward to seeing this year’s version!! Thanks for the interesting video and thanks to all those hard-working cast members who make this possible!

  • It’s a Small World Holiday is incredible!

    I wish that overlay would come to Walt Disney World, especially since all the other Disney parks around the world have that particular Xmas overlay except WDW.

  • i love the video thank you for a behind the ride is there a way to show us haunted mansion holiday please i just love how they do behind the scenes for disney parks rides we love to learn how they do it for the holidays or when movies come to life into the parks.

  • Its a Small World Holiday is awesome!

    Thanks for the video. 🙂

  • interesting facts!

  • Okay, let me get this straight: Ariel leaves out a plate of fish? For Santa to EAT? I hope they weren’t friends of hers.

    Seriously, though, this looks absolutely amazing and I can’t wait to see it later this year.

  • Wait a second, It’s a Small World has a story?

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