It is the joyous notes of that catchy tune and the giant white and gold façade that draws children and adults alike to the iconic ‘It’s a Small World’ attraction at Disneyland. When we cross the plaza towards one of Walt Disney’s World Expo attractions, we know what we are going to get – brightly dressed dolls and the voices of children from around the world singing one of the quickest earworms in the world. And we love it, as demonstrated by the lines at this voyage.
But what happens when the holidays come and the ride has had its holiday makeover? Any fan of the end of year holidays and of the attraction will say, ‘pure magic’. But for those of us who have never been to Disneyland during the holidays, what are we missing? Let us take a walk through the attraction: It’s a Small World Holiday
During the daylight hours, there is very little difference from the outside. We still see the bright white and gold façade and the topiary animals greet us in their dark green perfection. Perhaps, the guest will notice that the music surrounding them has changed slightly; the real changes from those visiting in the daylight happen inside the show building. So, let us visit after the sun has ducked below the horizon.
Walking through it’s a small world plaza we are welcomed forward by a changed façade. It is brightly lit with cheerful colors and the music becomes noticeable over the din of happy children sounds. It’s a Small World has been melded with Jingle Bells to create a new and better earworm and the jovial guest will hum along to the tune.
The cues for this attraction can become long but it is a fast loader and there is quite a lot to see which will help to keep the excited, smaller guests in our party entertained. Here we will see that the façade’s geometric patterns have been lit by hundreds of Christmas lights (reminiscent of its Mary Blare façade of old). The clock face ticks with an enormous Santa hat upon his head – lending an even more inviting air to the attraction. Even the wonderful topiary animals are showing their holiday cheer with colorful lights dotting their foliage rather than the white fairy lights from the rest of the year.
As we step into the boats, we sit and the music swells – perhaps the gentleman behind us is now singing quietly a round of Jingle Bells. We are all seated and our Cast Member smiles down at us from her tower and says, ‘enjoy your cruise around the world’. And we are deployed along the waterways to meander and splash along our merry way.
As we enter the show building we find that the show building has been transformed into a holiday celebration straight from a child’s dream. As we enter the Arctic Circle, we find we have been transported to the North Pole. Here the children’s voices sing the It’s a Small World/Jingle Bells melody and Santa himself can be heard welcoming us along our cruise.
Each country is decked out with paper cut outs showing their unique styles of celebrating at this time of year. Somehow, the already joyous attraction seems merrier and brighter and the children in our boat are wide eyed and smiling. Soon they will be singing along with the dolls (and perhaps their parents will be too).
Perhaps the best thing about this attraction overlay is that they do not remove any of the key elements (the entry and exit room placards are changed to fit the new storyline). You will see all of your favorite dolls and the added Disney character dolls are all there for us to find. The boy behind us will point out the Mushu kite flying high above us.
We have been in our boat, traveling the world’s waters, and we enter the end scene. Here the room has transformed from the white and gold (and other muted colors) multi-cultural conclusion of the voyage into a world culture wish for Peace on Earth and goodwill to all. Hanging lights, new signs, and those happy dolls impart us with the spirit of the season. The music here has changed. We are still singing ‘It’s a Small World’ but we have added ‘Deck the Halls’ to it and as our hearts swell, we gently sail out through well wishes of the season.
We slowly cruise back to the dock were we are welcomed back by our Cast Members. As we disembark the boat, smiles on our faces, we vow to make this attraction a holiday tradition.
If you are visiting Disneyland sometime during the holidays, make sure to make It’s a Small World Holiday a stop on your itinerary – even if you are not a fan of the attraction. It is most certainly something to experience at least once. And it will put you into the holiday spirit.
What’s your favorite part about it’s a small world holiday?