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Disneyland Article
Bah Humbug Disliking Disneyland Its A Small World Holiday Version

It's A Small World Holiday
Robert Niles
November 30, 2016
December 19, 2016
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Disneyland's It's a Small World Holiday debuted 20 years ago and today remains a favorite of theme park fans for its fun overlay of a classic attraction.

So of course I'm going to go full curmudgeon on it.

Complaining about It's a Small World is to writing about theme parks what the layup line is to a basketball game. It's a can't-miss warm-up that everyone else just ignores anyway. So before I lose you, let me tempt you with the thought that It's a Small World - the regular version - is actually one of the more important, and even profound, attractions ever created for a theme park. It ought to be a must-do on everyone's visit to a Disney theme park.

The thing that annoys everyone about Small World - that theme song - ought to be its greatest strength. If you've ever had the pleasure to hear composer Richard Sherman (who wrote the song with his late brother, Robert) play the song at a slow tempo, it's a revelation. Played deliberately, as originally written, "It's a Small World (After All)" is a wistful hymn, an engaging plea for human unity in the face of all that can divide us. Read this to yourself, but slooooowly ...

It's a world of hope and a world of fears. There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware it'' a small world after all.

A lovely thought. Once I heard the song at its original tempo, I became a diehard Small World fan. But I get why people who haven't heard the song that way avoid this ride on their Disneyland trips. At its organ grinder tempo, repeated ad nauseam over the 10 minutes of the ride, the song becomes an earworm that our brains try to shut out, instead of admitting to hear to that lovely message.

I also get why, when Disney first installed a holiday overlay of It's a Small World and also replaced the incessant audio assault of that repeating chorus with a couple of popular holiday songs, fans rejoiced.

The visual joy of Mary Blair's iconic production design, a manageable helping of the Sherman Brothers' theme song, cut with beloved holiday tunes - what's not to like? Well, how about this? A Christmas version of It's a Small World undercuts the original's unifying theme.

The original Small World found an admirable balance in acknowledging and even celebrating the world's diversity while appealing for its peaceful unity. A holiday version that reinforced Small World's original theme would celebrate the variety of holiday traditions around the world - something that the Disneyland Resort at least is now nodding toward with its Festival of the Holidays event at Disney California Adventure. Instead, we get the presumably Muslim children of Morocco, the Hindus of India and the Buddhists of Thailand all dancing along to "Jingle Bells."

Okay, I guess that's still a message of unity, but I don't know how fair it is. I doubt that "we're all going to come together ... to celebrate Christmas" really holds much appeal for people in the non-Christian communities of the world.

Or maybe it does. With its business-friendly message of "buy lots of stuff for everyone you know," Christmas has become the world's secular year-end holiday. You can find Christmas displays in stores, decorations on homes and Christmas-inspired songs on speakers around the world - from Japan to India to Africa.

So maybe the message of It's a Small World Holiday isn't that of a Christian celebration taking over the world - it's the world taking over that Christian celebration. Whether that perspective makes the ride's message better or worse, I'll leave for you to decide.

Me? I can't wait until the overlay goes away for another year, and I have the chance to enjoy It's a Small World again in the way its brilliant creators intended.
Attractions Referenced

It's A Small World

It's A Small World Holiday

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