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Disneyland Article
California vs. Paris: It's A Small World
Hugh Allison
This month, in my article comparing the two Disneylands closest to my heart (California and Paris), I shall be looking at "it's a small world", the ride which according to Walt Disney Imagineering's international Ambassador Marty Sklar- has a "song [which] will drive you bananas if you hear it often enough, but from a message standpoint is a timeless attraction".

Both versions of the attraction keep the title in lower case and enclosed in quotation marks. For this article however, I shall use the abbreviation of iasw, although I have known several Cast Members use the initials FAD instead. (F-ing Annoying Dolls).

Both rides last approximately fifteen minutes and feature the titular song as composed by the Sherman Brothers for the "Children of The World" pavilion at the 1964 World Fair. However, the song was re-recorded for the Paris' park, using choirs from around Europe.

iasw in Paris was an opening day attraction. It has only had one sponsor (France Telecom) which has been funding the ride from park-opening until 2009. Over the years, California's iasw (which opened in 1966) has had several sponsors, including Bank of America, Mattel and (currently) Sylvania. At the World's Fair, it was sponsored by Pepsi-Cola but promoted UNICEF.

The "America" scene in Paris is much bigger than the equivalent room in California's counterpart; this scene was in existence in Paris long before it was added to the one in Anaheim. Paris's iasw also features a Middle-Eastern section (not appearing in Anaheim) in which the dolls sing in Arabic.

Paris's iasw doesn't feature the nightly digital projection show The Magic, Memories and You on its exterior, and (with the exception of Ariel) does not feature any of the 29 Disney/Disney*Pixar characters added to the California version in 2009; however, France's ride does feature Slinky Dog from Toy Story (who doesn't appear in the Anaheim ride). Both versions feature Hidden Mickeys and Magic Carpet from Aladdin.

Whereas California's iasw annually turns into "it's a small world holiday", France's becomes "it's a small world celebration". However, I shall leave discussing the differences between these variants until a more seasonal time of year.

Further differences include: the Great Britain scene in France doesn't feature the song being performed in a (bad) cockney accent; the French version doesn't feature a "hidden Mary Blair" halfway up its Eiffel Tower; the French attraction is completely covered so as to help protect it from the elements; the French ride is made up of one big interconnected room, rather than lots of little rooms; the floor is flooded in Paris whereas the water only exists in troughs in Anaheim; the clock face outside the park (with a display every fifteen minutes) in France is shaped like the sun and the moon, whereas in California it is based on the dolls' faces. (The clock and the identical faces were both designed by the same man: Gregory S. Marinello).

In terms of similarities, both versions of the ride feature a sun or moon in virtually every scene, both are continually loading mass capacity attractions (with the one in California being the first Disney ride which could feature this description), both feature topiaries around the exterior (although France's version also features fountains), both feature the Disneyland Railroad visibly traveling between the queue area and the show building and both feature the "please remain seated" spiel at the end of the ride in English, French and Spanish.

Neither version features Fastpass (although California's "it's a small world holiday" was the world's first attraction ever to offer this service, back in 1999).

Both rides start with a "hello room" and end with a "goodbye room" with the penultimate scene being the "Finale" where representations of dolls from previous scenes wear white and sing together. In the version in California, all dolls sing in English in this section; in Paris this scene also features verses in French and German.

Whereas iasw in California exits into the "it's a small world" Toy Shop, the French equivalent of the ride led into a similar shaped structure built to house The World Chorus Post-Show. This sub-attraction has recently been closed possibly due to the end of the France Telecom sponsorship- and is to be replaced with a meet-and-greet entitled Disney Princesses: A Royal Invitation.

The interior of the room featured colorful replicas of international landmarks, with a scale model of the Eiffel Tower in the center. You would go from each one to the next, looking into the window of each structure; in each one would be an animated holographic-effect sequence (similar to a video version of Pepper's Ghost) lasting approximately fifteen seconds.

The main concept of this post-show was to show that (using telephones, faxes, videos etc.) distances would seem minimal. Therefore, each animated section featured someone contacting someone else (with the message's recipient appearing elsewhere in the room) and lights would be seen along the walls, showing the communications travelling from place to place.

Although different languages were used, the message being passed on was the same at all points. Unsurprisingly, this message was that "it's a small small world".

I caught up with Chris Bailey, the director of the iasw post-show. He was an in-house animator for Disney who had expressed an interest in directing and was offered the job as his first break. (Among other projects, he later directed It's Tough to Be a Bug and the pre-show for Le Visionarium at Disneyland Paris).

HA: What briefings were you given?

CB: The project was well defined by the time I was brought in. The object was to create several 15-second cycling animations that showed a kid in one country using an item of France Telecom to communicate a musical message to a friend in another country. Both Disney and France Telecom were very involved. I recall pitching the boards at least once a day for two weeks to the various people concerned.

HA: Do you think it fitted with the ride as a whole?

CB: Of course. Modern technology makes communication across the world as simple as calling next door.

HA: Did you feel any pressure, as iasw is a very iconic attraction, and Disneyland Paris's version was the first (and so far only) one to get such a postshow?

CB: I felt the pressure to deliver entertaining animation but not so much in reference to the ride it-self. Our animation needed to stand on its own.

HA: What feedback did you get about the post-show?

CB: All positive. Kids loved to look into the many miniature buildings to view the animations and it was positively reviewed as an attraction even though it was really a highly produced commercial for France Telecom.

HA: How do you feel about the attraction being removed in order to put in a Princess Meet & Greet area?

CB: They removed it? The bastards! I kid I'm OK with that. It had a great run.

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