More than 40 years after the "It's A Small World" ride opened to promote world peace and showcase the cultures of the world, Disney is populating one of its most beloved attractions with its own trademark vision of the planet: Aladdin, Nemo, Ariel and more than two dozen cartoon characters plucked from its movies and those aren't the only changes visitors found Thursday when the ride reopened: Disney has woven a few bars from some of its hit soundtracks into the classic "Small World" melody and added a new America section that includes a nod to Los Angeles' famous Hollywood Bowl, a quaint farm scene and "Toy Story" characters. Disney says it supplemented the human dolls with make-believe figures to keep the aging ride appealing to younger generations and give it a new twist.
The "Small World" ride debuted at the 1964 World's Fair in New York as a benefit to the United Nations Children's Fund, and moved to Disneyland two years later. When Walt Disney dedicated the ride in 1966, he invited children from around the world to pour water from their homelands into its flume in a gesture of unity.
Since then, more than 256 million people have visited the original ride, and the "Small World" song has played 4.3 million times. Replicas have opened at Disney theme parks in Florida, Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong, and company research shows that a quarter of all Disneyland guests consider the ride a family tradition.
Disney says it hopes adding what it calls "new magic" to the 43-year-old attraction will attract even more riders and create new traditions for young families who don't identify with "Small World" as strongly as previous generations.
Designers insist the changes to "Small World" are even more subtle and conform to Walt Disney's original philosophy and style while keeping the attraction from becoming "like a museum," said Kim Irvine, director of concept design for Walt Disney Imagineering.
Here are some of the new changes: