“It’s a Small World” is a water-based boat ride located in the Fantasyland area at various Disney theme parks around the world, including Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California; Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World Resort in Bay Lake, Florida; Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland, with its first version premiering at the 1964 New York World’s Fair before permanently moving to Disneyland.
Over 300 audio-animatronic dolls in traditional costumes from civilizations all over the world dance in a mood of international harmony while singing the attraction’s title song, which has a theme of global peace. According to Time.com, “It’s A Small World” by the Sherman Brothers is the most widely performed song of all time. Small World attractions at several Disney parks have been altered in recent years to feature images of Disney characters, but in a design suitable with Mary Blair’s original 1960s design, alongside the original characters. The North Pole, Norway, Canada, Sweden, Denmark, England, Wales, France, Spain, Scotland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Russia, Greece, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Indonesia, Thailand, China, North Korea, South Korea, Japan, Egypt, Uganda, Kenya, Chile, Argentina, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Hawai’i (United States), Australia are among the countries represented in the Disneyland version.
The attraction’s working title was “Children of the World.” Its crude soundtrack, which can be heard on the record, had the national anthems of each country represented along the voyage all playing at the same time, creating a disharmonic cacophony. “I need one song that can be readily translated into multiple languages and performed as a round,” Walt said during a walk-through of the attraction scale model with his staff songwriters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman. Following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the Sherman brothers wrote “It’s a Small World (After All)”, which influenced the song’s theme of peace and togetherness. When they initially performed it for Walt, it was a slow ballad. They sped up the speed and sang in counterpoint since Walt demanded something more upbeat. Walt was so pleased with the outcome that he christened the ride “It’s a Small World,” after the Sherman Brothers’ song.
Robert J. Sherman, Robert B. Sherman’s youngest son, claims that this song is the most performed and translated piece of music.
In 2014, it was projected that the song had been played approximately 50 million times on the attractions alone, surpassing radio and TV estimates for “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin'” and “Yesterday,” which were thought to have been played at least eight and seven million times, respectively.
A third verse was written and popularized to commemorate the attraction’s 50th anniversary, but it was not included in the ride.
In 2022, the Library of Congress designated a 1964 recording of “It’s a Small World (After All)” sung by the Disneyland Boys Choir for preservation in the United States National Recording Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically important.”
Next Point of Interest: Pirates of the Caribbean