Thursday, October 03, 2013

"It's a Small World", 1964 World's Fair

People seem to love it or hate it, but "It's a Small World" has been around for a looooong time. Next year it will be 50 years old, because (as you know) it debuted at the 1964 New York World's Fair as part of an exhibit sponsored by both Pepsi Cola and Unicef (the Disneyland version opened in May of 1966). 

Here are some photos from the attraction as it looked at the Fair, in the order that they would have been seen (I think!). I wish I had side-by-side pictures to show the same scenes as they looked at Disneyland circa 1966, because I'm sure there were differences, even if they were minor.

This scene of a British military band (wearing those cool bearskin helmets) is one of the first that guests see on their trip around the world.

After visiting Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Denmark, and Germany, we finally see these adora-bobble Scandanavian singers.

Moving through the rest of Europe, we find ourselves passing Israel, Indonesia, Bali, Arabia, and this grinning tiger in India. 

After passing the wonders of the African continent, we find ourselves in South America, where these silly penguins in purple gaucho hats wobble like weebles.

I wish I had a more complete record of IASW at the Fair!


Nanook said...


Some pretty spectacular color in these images-! It's definitely a love-hate thing with me, too - but mostly love. It's not the sort of thing I want to see all the time, but every so often, it's a complete joy.

And as far as the song is concerned, it's horribly maligned and hardly deserving of it. The song is a round, for crying out loud, and a damn good one at that. Perhaps the chorus is what drives folks nuts; but listening to orchestral versions of the song confirms its simple, yet brilliant construction.

Thanks, Major.

K. Martinez said...

One of the things I love about "it's a small world is the short repetitive mechanical movements of the dolls and characters along with the repetitive and simplistic beat of the song. It's like being inside the clockwork of a giant timepiece. Even the exterior clock façade implies that.

I still love this attraction and try to ride it every trip I take down to the Disneyland Resort. Thanks for posting the NYWF version.

Cousin Orville said...

The Small World segment from Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair provides a surprisingly thorough and very high-quality ride-thru of the 64/65 version if you are looking to do comparisons. Here's a newly packaged version from a YT fan with some cleaned-up audio:

And then the full special is here:

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, there's no hate at all from me regarding IASW! I do get a bit upset when I see changes that I think are lame. The old finale, which was primarily white, is now full of colored lights so that nothing looks white. And I have never had a problem with the song either, maybe I'm too dumb to have it get stuck in my head.

K. Martinez, you're right, it really is like being inside a clockwork machine, I never thought of it like that before!

Cousin Orville, sheesh, I even have the DVD with that episode, but forgot about it. Thanks for the great links!

Omnispace said...

I've enjoyed this ride since I was a kid. To me it resonates with a very optimistic time concerning our world's cultures. I recall reading that the sets and flume were shipped back to California after the fair but the building was much bigger than in NY. Rolly Crump had to use a lot of his creative genius to "expand" the show, adding set pieces and a few scenes. So perhaps the NY show was a bit more intimate.

I love the analogy of being inside the clockwork of a giant timepiece. ^^

Melissa said...

Count me in the Love It Brigade. It's a pure piece of Gesamtkunstwerk, and although it scared me a little as a kid, as an adult it never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

I can't say how much of my childhood fear was due to the actual ride and how much of it was from a 1983 Saturday Night Live sketch where Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman got trapped in the ride, some loose Hall of Presidents robots came rampaging through, and Walt Disney's cryogenically frozen body (no Snopes back then to debunk the myth) was thawed out and came over the loudspeaker to announce his plan to take over the world. "M-I-C; See? It's useless to resist. K-E-Y; Why? Because I'm all-powerful. M-O-U-S-E!" I also think Eddie Murphy was having a Vietnam flashback in the back of the boat, and Jim Belushi got sucked down into the water trying to fight off a doll. Pretty grim stuff, but that's what happens when you stay up late watching grownup TV.

Every year I propose to my Halloween friends that we go as it's a small world dolls, but nothing doing. Not even when I ramp it up to "creepy, broken it's a small world dolls with eyeballs hanging out on springs, heads on backwards, arms hanging loose at odd angles, gears pouring out of chest cavities, pet geese with twisted necks, and unpleasant fluids leaking from frozen joints." Me, I just want to wear a dirndl and a starched cap for one brief, shining moment, while still imparting existential dread and leading a doomed expedition through the uncanny valley and belting out a Sherman Brothers classic. Is that so wrong?

I think one of the reasons people get sick of the song is the copyright status. Because people don't have to pay royalties to perform or record it, kids have usually heard it performed badly a brazillion times before they ever even hear a well-done, official Disney version.

Dean Finder said...

FoxxFur goes into some detail on the differences between the 1964 version of iasw, the Disneland version, and the Walt Disney World version
Also, there's a pretty good explanation of why people hate the ride - the DL version uses the English song a lot more than the other versions.

dennis said...

II've loved IASW ever since I saw it for the first time at the Worlds Fair in 1964. Seeing it at Disneyworld always brings back good memories. Looking forward to seeing it at Disneyland this January!
Levittown NY

Sasradust1 . said...

I Love those pictures, Is There More

Unknown said...

That tiger in the "India" section always reminded me of the 1960's Sambos Restaurants. As I kid I always enjoyed the artwork with the turbaned boy and the tiger. Shame they didn't just change the name of the kid and the restaurants to something else (maybe Hadji as in "Jonny Quest"?)and keep the terrific googie style coffee shops with their unique décor.

Major Pepperidge said...

Unknown, oh yes, I ate at Sambo's many times. My grandparents liked to take us there, and I remember discovering that I liked dipping french fries in A-1 steak sauce there. I miss the place.

Bo and Denise said...

Good post! Just want to add a small correction. The guards that you show in the first picture are actually from Denmark, not Britain. If you google British guards, you will see that they wear black pants and do not have the "x" suspenders. The blue pants and "x" suspenders are definitely the Danish guards.

Major Pepperidge said...

Thank you Bo and Denise, I had no idea (obviously)!