ANAHEIM (CBSLA.com) — One of Disneyland’s most iconic rides – and its unmistakable theme music – celebrated its 50th anniversary Thursday.
KNX 1070’s Mike Landa reports park-goers took part in a global sing-along of “It’s A Small World” in Anaheim to mark the ride’s opening.
Composer Richard Sherman, who wrote the song with his late brother Robert, was on hand at Disneyland to conduct a sing-along, which was at all five Disney resorts, including Orlando, Tokyo, Hong Kong and Paris.
“And that’s what it’s all about; it’s a small world, after all,” Sherman said. “Let’s not kill each other.”
Park visitors around the world participated in the sing-along at SmallWorld50.com, where fans can record videos of themselves singing the song and create virtual dolls to benefit UNICEF.
“After all these years, it’s still just as popular, so it’s good to see,” Christine Gray, visiting from Australia, said.
The “Small World” attraction stems from a 1963 request to Walt Disney to create an exhibit for the 1964 New York World’s Fair saluting UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, and children around the world.
“It’s just great to see all the different lands in the world throughout the ride, and you see that children are what bring together the world,” visitor Christopher Haug. “It’s the commonality.”
After the ride drew over 10 million visitors at the Fair, Marc Davis, one of the original Disney animators, was commissioned to designed the boat ride attraction that transports riders through various regions and nations of the world.
Disney also asked the Shermans to create a simple yet catchy song about universal harmony that could be sung in many different languages while guests traveled by boat through the attraction.
The attraction eventually made its debut at Disneyland on May 28, 1966, and featured hundreds of colorfully dressed Animatronic dolls representing children from many regions of the world singing “It’s A Small World” in five languages: English, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and Swedish.
Disney’s Duncan Wardle said while many fans openly embrace the song, for others it’s more of a love-hate relationship.
“Every time you talk to somebody about ‘It’s a Small World’, you see it in their eyes. They become a six-year-old, and they remember holding mommy’s hand, going on that ride. I think people have a secret love for ‘Small World’, but it’s probably not cool to suggest that they do,” Wardle said.
In honor of the anniversary, the Walt Disney Co. announced last month it would donate $150,000 to UNICEF, which provides health care and immunizations, clean water and sanitation, nutrition, education, emergency relief and more to children around the world.