Fifty years ago today the New York World’s Fair opened its doors to the public along with one of the featured attractions, Walt Disney’s “it’s a small world.” (Yes, those lower-case letters are there on purpose.) In the ride, water-borne passengers drift through an enchanted world of audio-animatronic dolls dressed in national costume, singing the eponymous song. And in 50 years people still can’t get that darn song out of their heads. But if you’re one of those goofballs who really, really loves that tune, you can record yourself singing along and have it broadcast on Disney’s site devoted to the anniversary.
Meantime, while you’re warming up your vocal cords and focusing your laptop cam, here are 10 facts that you probably didn’t know about the most famous travel-related ride in the world.
1. “it’s a small world” relocated from New York to Anaheim in 1965, where it opened as a major attraction at Disneyland the following year.
2. Although Disneyland in Anaheim, California, was a smash from Day One when it opened in 1955, Walt Disney wasn’t so sure the amusement park concept would translate to other parts of the country. So Uncle Walt built “it’s a small world” for the New York World’s Fair in part to see if East Coast families would enjoy the Disney experience as much as West Coasters. They did.
3. The theme song was written by Robert S. and Richard M. Sherman, who also wrote the music for Mary Poppins. Yes, those are the guys to blame.
4. The original plan was to have each “nation” in the ride represented by its own national anthem, but Richard Sherman said ithe result was “a cacophony.” You know, as opposed to Sherman's song sung simultaneously in seven different languages…
5. During the average 16-hour operating day, the theme song plays an average of 1,200 times.
6.”it’s a small world” is now in operation at five Disney theme parks around the world, including those in Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, Hong Kong, and Paris.
7. The original ride in New York was intended to salue UNICEF and the welfare of children around the globe.
8. The famous animal-style topiary plants outside the entrance to the ride often take up to five years to grow before they’re ready for display.
9. “it’s a small world” at Walt Disney World has a clown in a hot-air balloon near the ride’s "finale." Today, after a refurbishment, the clown smiles and holds a ballon. Originally, he had a frown and held a sign that read “Help”--probably from having to listen to the song 1,200 times a day.
10. If you play the "it's a small world" theme song backwards on an old-fashioned record player, the lyrics say exactly the same thing as when played forward. Not really, but try it anyway. It might be the only way to get that dang melody out of your head.