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Disneyland Article
Crews Work 24 7 To Reopen Its A Small World After The Flood

It's A Small World
Orange County Register
Brady Macdonald
December 2, 2021
December 5, 2021
It took a small village of more than 20 Disneyland departments to repair and reopen It’s a Small World in time for Christmas after a flood threatened to shutter the classic boat ride for the entire holiday season.

It’s a Small World is expected to reopen next week, according to Disneyland officials. Disneyland began testing Small World boats along the water canals of the attraction on Thursday, Dec. 2.

Disneyland facilities asset project manager Joelle Medina and ride systems manager Jason Tomlin helped lead the Small World project team that was swiftly assembled after an underground maintenance room was inundated while the water ride was being refilled.

The flood happened in the early morning hours on Nov. 10 just before It’s a Small World Holiday was set to make its 2021 Christmas debut at the Anaheim theme park.

“I don’t think you could have planned this to happen at a worse time,” Tomlin said during an online video interview.

The initial shock of the Small World flood was followed by disbelief and denial.

“Once the water level metaphorically and literally drained, we got some clarity on what we had to do,” Tomlin said. “We’ve had to really embark on a scale that we’ve never done before in such a short amount of time.”

The “brains” of the attraction were damaged when the 8-foot-deep maintenance room under the Small World load/unload station filled with water, submerging the electrical equipment and ride controls that operate the water pumps and load station conveyor belts.

The fix — which would normally take months — needed to be finished in weeks if the holiday version of It’s a Small World was going to open during the Christmas season.

The first step: Pump all the water out of the subterranean maintenance room.

An industrial-grade dehumidifier the size of an Autopia car was lowered by crane onto the Small World loading station to help remove moisture from the maintenance room as fast as possible.

“We just opened up all the panels and turned on the dehumidifier for 48 hours,” Medina said during an online video interview. “It really dried out the space.”

After assessing the damage, crews figured out what could be salvaged and what needed to be replaced. Then the race was on to find replacement parts and get them delivered quickly amid supply chain issues exacerbated by the pandemic.

“We’re reaching out to the other Small Worlds and other rides around the world at Disney parks and saying, ‘Hey, do you guys have this part and can you have it here by tomorrow?’” Tomlin said.

Heavier items like motors and gearboxes needed to be lowered by crane into the relatively tight confines of the underground vault.

Once all the new components were installed, they needed to be tested and inspected.

It’s a Small World was created for the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and shipped back to Disneyland after the international expo. The popular water ride with the catchy theme song has been recreated at Disney theme parks around the globe.

It’s been a worldwide effort — stretching from France to Florida and China to Japan — to get Small World up and running again at Disneyland.

The 24/7 operation had to contend with visitors in the parks by day and after-hours special events like a stage set up in front of Small World for overnight filming.

“You have the ABC Holiday Special filming right there and you’re 20 feet away trying to get the equipment in and out,” Medina said.

During the past three weeks, the Small World project team held a daily meeting seven days a week at 7:30 a.m. to assess progress and plan the next steps.

“We had 20-plus different departments working on this,” Medina said.

All told, more than 75 Disneyland employees worked on the Small World refurbishment project.

“It literally takes a village and we’ve had to talk to almost everyone in that village in such a short amount of time.” Tomlin said. “That’s the exclamation mark on all of this: The scale of what we’ve done in such a short amount of time that’s involved so many people.”

Disneyland teams worked around the clock to get Small World repaired and reopened as quickly as possible — and finished a project that normally would have taken months in about three weeks.

“Small World equals Christmas at Disneyland,” Tomlin said. “That theme really brought the team together towards the common goal.”

“It’s just one of those attractions that it doesn’t feel quite like Christmas time if it’s not working and guests can’t enjoy it,” Medina said.
Attractions Referenced


It's A Small World

It's A Small World Holiday

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