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“it’s a small world” Ride Review | Disney World

4.7

The “it’s a small world” boat ride is one of the most iconic and enduring attractions across all Disney Parks worldwide. First created by Walt Disney himself for the 1964 New York World’s Fair UNICEF pavilion, this musical boat ride celebrates the spirit of hope and unity through singing children dolls from cultures around the world. After its huge success at the World Fair, the ride was replicated at Disneyland in 1966 and has since been added to every Disney resort globally.

The catchy Sherman Brothers theme song “It’s a Small World (After All)” promotes friendship and understanding between all children of the world. At Magic Kingdom’s version, guests board pastel-colored boats for a 10-minute journey along the Seven Seaways canals traversing seven regions representing North America, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia, and the South Pacific islands. Over 300 audio-animatronic dolls dressed in traditional costumes dance and sing as riders float by.

This comprehensive review will cover everything you need to know about the “it’s a small world” ride at Walt Disney World, from general ride information like wait times and rider requirements to the complete history and original World’s Fair creation. The fascinating design and facade details will be explored along with what the experience of riding is like. Tips for riders are also included to help make the most of your visit to this beloved family attraction.

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Table of Contents

  1. General Ride Information
    • Average Wait Times
    • Height Requirements
    • Single Rider
    • Ride Duration
    • Genie+ and Lightning Lane
    • Rider Switch
    • DAS
    • Location
    • Early Entry Ride
    • Best Times to Ride
  2. History and Design
    • Original Creation for 1964 World’s Fair
    • Move to Disneyland
    • Later Additions at Disney Parks Around the World
    • Architecture and Facade
    • Mary Blair’s Distinctive Design Elements
  3. Ride Experience
    • Queue
    • Boarding
    • Seven Seaways Waterway
    • Regions and Represented Cultures
    • Animatronics and Dolls
    • Music and Song
    • Unloading
  4. Tips for Riders
  5. Comparing Rides
  6. Holiday Overlay
  7. Conclusion

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General Ride Information

“it’s a small world” is a classic Disney boat ride located in Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom theme park. It takes riders on a 10-minute journey past over 300 audio animatronic dolls representing cultures from around the world, all singing the iconic theme song promoting peace and unity.

Average Wait Times

The average wait time for “it’s a small world” is around 20-30 minutes. As one of the original Magic Kingdom attractions, lines can get longer during peak seasons but generally move steadily. The indoor queue provides relief from the hot Florida sun at least!

Height Requirements

“it’s a small world” has no height requirement, so guests of any size can ride. This makes it an ideal attraction to enjoy with small children.

Single Rider

No single rider line is offered. All riders must board in parties.

Ride Duration

The total ride duration is 10 minutes.

Genie+ and Lightning Lane

“it’s a small world” is eligible for both Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane purchase if available, allowing riders to bypass the standby queue. Return times are typically available in the afternoon hours.

Rider Switch

Rider switch is available so one adult can wait with non-riders while the rest experience the attraction, then switch without having to wait in the full line again.

DAS

Guests with disabilities can utilize the Disability Access Service (DAS) to access a return time.

Location

“it’s a small world” is located in Fantasyland, nearby other classic dark rides like Peter Pan’s Flight and Mickey’s PhilharMagic. The facade with clock tower is visible from central Fantasyland.

Early Entry Ride

This attraction is not currently included as an early theme park entry ride. Guests must wait for official park opening, even with early entry tickets.

Best Times to Ride

The best times to ride “it’s a small world” with lower wait times are:

  • First thing in the morning right at park open
  • During the afternoon parade(s) when crowds gather on Main Street
  • At night during fireworks shows

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History and Design

Original Creation for 1964 World’s Fair

The “it’s a small world” attraction was originally created by Walt Disney and WED Enterprises as a boat ride for UNICEF’s pavilion at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The theme of children and global unity fit the international nature of the World’s Fair. After the fair, it was so popular that it was relocated to Disneyland in 1966 as a permanent ride. This original version is still in operation today.

Move to Disneyland

Given its success at the World’s Fair, Disney reproduced “it’s a small world” to become an anchor attraction when the new Fantasyland area opened at Disneyland on May 28, 1966. Guests were delighted by the happy singing animatronic children representing cultures from all over the world. It aligned perfectly with Walt Disney’s vision of family entertainment through technology and storytelling.

Later Additions at Disney Parks Around the World

The Magic Kingdom version opened with the park on October 1, 1971. Later versions were added to Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. It remains one of the few Disney attractions present at every Disney resort around the world. While each version differs slightly in layout and length, they all share the same spirit and theme of global harmony. The catchy theme song plays simultaneously in various languages at each location.

Architecture and Facade

The Disneyland facade was designed to resemble a giant toy set made of colorful building blocks, with large candy-striped smokestacks and the iconic clock tower. The smiling clock face has become a symbol of both Disneyland and the ride itself. At Magic Kingdom, the facade recreates a picturesque alpine village with European-influenced architecture surrounding the clock tower. The vibrant colors and topiaries lend a whimsical, fantasy feel leading into the attraction.

Mary Blair’s Distinctive Design Elements

Walt Disney tapped artist and designer Mary Blair to create the distinct look and feel of “it’s a small world” attraction.Her signature style featured brightly colored, two-dimensional shapes, backdrops, and characters. This visual style was first seen in her work on several animated Disney films in the 1940s and 50s.For this ride, Mary Blair designed the dolls’ faces, the scenery of the regions, and even the boats guests ride in. Her creative vision brought joy and whimsy to the entire experience. Many of her color choices, patterns, shapes, and settings are featured on the ride to this day, over 50 years later. Her artistic talents left an indelible mark on this classic Disney attraction.

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Ride Experience

The experience of riding “it’s a small world” is filled with music, vibrant colors, regional scenery, and singing animatronic dolls dressed in traditional cultural costumes.

Queue

The indoor queue first passes by large set pieces and cutouts while hearing the main theme song play overhead. There are some interactive elements like spinning postcards and mechanical clapping hands to entertain waiting guests. The queue makes its way downstairs to the loading level where guests can see the flume and ride vehicles before boarding their boats.

Boarding

Guests board colorful boats seating up to 6 people that gently drift through the water channel. Wheelchair accessible boats are available upon request. Safety guides remind guests to remain seated with hands, arms, feet, and legs inside the boats at all times. Then it’s time for the happy cruise around the world!

Seven Seaways Waterway

The boats drift along the Seven Seaways Waterway passing through seven regions representing the continents of Asia, Africa, North America, Latin America, Europe, Australasia, and the South Pacific. Each region has representations of countries within that continent through iconic architecture, scenery, and traditionally-dressed singing dolls.

Regions and Represented Cultures

Some of the represented countries and cultures seen along the waterway journey include:

Asia – Japan, India, Middle East

Africa – Egypt, African Plains

North America – United States, Canada

Latin America – Mexico, Costa Rica

Europe – Spain, Italy, Germany, United Kingdom

Australasia – Australia, Easter Island

South Pacific – Hawaii, Fiji

Animatronics and Dolls

There are over 300 audio animatronic human figures on the ride representing children from cultures all around the world. The dolls were designed by Mary Blair to have identical faces but wear traditional clothing reflecting their represented nation. They dance and sing the theme song in native languages as guests float by. In 2009, Disney added 37 Disney character dolls to the mix as native children. Guests now spot Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Donald Duck, and more dressed in regional costumes throughout the ride.

Music and Song

The centerpiece of the attraction is the classic theme song “It’s a Small World (After All)” written by the Sherman Brothers. The song promotes unity and friendship among the children across cultures.As riders traverse the regions of the world, they hear the song sung in various languages like Spanish, Japanese, and Swedish. It was translated into these languages to reinforce the ride’s message of hope for global harmony through the children. The finale scene brings all the regions together with a multi-language version of the song. It concludes with a message of the shared hopes and dreams children have around the world.

Unloading

A conveyor belt helps guests exit the boats after disembarking. There is an up ramp that leads back to the Fantasyland area. Guests exit through an indoor gift shop with a large selection of “it’s a small world” plush characters, spirit jerseys, holiday ornaments, home goods, and more.

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Tips for Riders

  • Arrive early or use Genie+ or Lightning Lane if you want to minimize waiting in line
  • Pay attention to detail in each region’s scenery and doll costumes
  • Listen to the song in different languages as you float through the regions
  • Wave back at the dancing dolls – they love interaction!
  • Keep an eye out for Disney characters mixed in with the dolls
  • Ask a cast member about the clock tower out front and when it transforms
  • Catch the attraction at night when it’s all lit up – it adds a beautiful magical quality

Attraction with clock tower and foliage

Comparing “it’s a small world” Rides

Facades and Queues

  • Disneyland: Vibrantly colored facade designed to look like a toy set, with whimsical towers, turrets, and smokestacks. Outdoor covered queue features beautiful topiaries.
  • Magic Kingdom: Facade designed as a quaint Alpine village with European-style architecture and clock tower. Mostly indoor queue.
  • Disneyland Paris: Elaborate gold and white facade incorporating different architectural styles from around the world. Outdoor queue features kinetic sculptures. Has an operational clock parade show.

Ride Layout and Scenes

  • All three feature boat rides taking guests on a 10-minute journey past singing animatronic dolls in scenes representing cultures around the world.
  • Disneyland has more elaborate sets and scenery in some regions like Asia and Latin America. Recently added Disney character dolls.
  • Magic Kingdom is more basic with scene sets but follows same layout. No characters.
  • Disneyland Paris has a more open layout with dolls visible across regions. Vibrant lighting effects throughout.

Song and Languages

  • Theme song plays in multiple languages at all locations.
  • Disneyland has the newest audio tracks in native languages.
  • Magic Kingdom version sounds more dated.
  • Disneyland Paris features the song predominantly in French.

Overall Experience

  • Disneyland remains superior with its classic original charm, elaborate outdoor facade and sets, and modern updates like characters.
  • Magic Kingdom feels dated but still has a nostalgia factor.
  • Disneyland Paris has strong visual appeal with a bright, open layout and kinetic elements.

It's a Small World façade

Holiday Overlays: Disneyland vs. Magic Kingdom

Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom take different approaches when it comes to overlaying “it’s a small world” with holiday decor for the Christmas season.

Disneyland’s Festive Version

Disneyland has an elaborate holiday overlay called “it’s a small world Holiday” that transforms the ride:

  • Over 300,000 colorful lights on the facade and surrounding topiaries
  • Themed holiday version of the song with “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls”
  • 10 different elaborately decorated regions inside featuring global Christmas traditions
  • Real snowfall effect in the finale scene
  • Runs from early November through early January

This started in 1997 and has been expanded over the years with new scenes, sounds, and effects. It is incredibly popular with guests.

Magic Kingdom Stays Classic

The Magic Kingdom does NOT have a holiday overlay for its version of the ride. The attraction continues playing the regular theme song, and there are no decorations or effects added inside.The only seasonal touch is wreaths and a tree outside the entrance. So guests experience the classic year-round ride.

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Conclusion

While “it’s a small world” has a reputation among some guests for its repetitive song, there is something endearing about this Disney classic that keeps fans coming back year after year and decade after decade. It remains one of the few attractions Walt Disney himself helped design and oversee construction of in the 1960s. There is a sense of nostalgia that permeates the experience. Beyond the history, it is an attraction that can be enjoyed by visitors of all ages.

The delightful scenes, dancing animatronic children, and message of hope and world peace create a joyful, family-friendly journey perfect for Disney magic making. The dynamic visual style of Mary Blair paired with the Sherman Brothers’ memorable theme song crafted an iconic Disney ride that has stood the test of time.So whether you are a first-time rider or looking to re-live childhood memories, don’t miss the happy cruise past singing children from around the world on “it’s a small world” during your next visit to the Magic Kingdom.

Location

Location Map

Nearby Attractions

  1. The Haunted Mansion – Classic Disney dark ride featuring ghosts and supernatural elements. Located in nearby Liberty Square land.
  2. Peter Pan’s Flight – Indoor fantasy dark ride based on the Peter Pan story. Located in Fantasyland near “it’s a small world”.
  3. Mickey’s PhilharMagic – 3D film attraction featuring Disney characters. Also located right in Fantasyland.
  4. Prince Charming Regal Carrousel – Traditional carousel ride themed to Cinderella. In front of Cinderella Castle in central Fantasyland near the “it’s a small world” entrance.
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“it’s a small world” Ride Review | Disney World
The Final Word
At the end of the day, "it's a small world" continues to delight guests after over 50 years because it brings joy and whimsy through its charming musical boat ride around the world. The vibrant colors, dancing animatronic dolls, and iconic Sherman Brothers song create a cheerful experience that the whole family can share together.
4.7