There aren’t many people who haven’t heard the song “It’s a small world.” And if you have ever been to Walt Disney World ® with children, then you‘ve probably rode the attraction of the same name. But as you glide past the nearly 300 dolls and animals dressed in costumes that represent more than 100 nations singing "it's a small world" song lyrics in 5 languages you may be surprised to know the attraction was first designed for the 1964 New York World's Fair and was one of Walt Disney’s most passionate projects.
Walt Disney’s idea for “it’s a small world” was to create some sort of show that featured the children of the world singing in harmony and peace with one another. Disney’s chance to finally bring his idea to fruition came in 1964, just one year before the New York World’s Fair where he and his team created the ride, which later became a tribute to the children of the world for the UNICEF pavilion at the fair. Afterwards, the ride came to Disneyland, where it is still one of the park’s premiere attractions. It even is decorated for the holiday season. In 1971 it finally landed at Walt Disney World ® where it has entertained guests ever since.
We can’t talk about the ride without talking about that catchy and completely unforgettable tune. The original concept of “it’s a small world” was to have dolls singing the national anthem from each country represented. Unfortunately the idea was a little overwhelming for the ride and was eventually scraped. To ensure the ride offered a catchy and up-beat tune that incorporated the nations, Walt Disney commissioned staff composers Robert and Richard Sherman, who were working on the upcoming Disney ® film, Marry Poppins, to write the theme song for “it’s a small world.”
The duo’s first attempt at the song was written as a ballad. Disney requested something more cheerful, so the song was sped up and sung as a round, which is why you continuously hear it throughout the ride!
And because of that repetition and because the Sherman Brothers used a musical technique called counterpoint, where the same chords are played over and over again but with different melodies, “It’s A Small World” is truly unforgettable, so much so it’s pretty hard to get out of your head once you hear it.Robert and Richard went on to present the song to Walt Disney as they walked through a scale model of the new attraction. The entire time the brothers sang and clapped their hands as they sang. Walt was more than pleased.To ensure the song was as international as the ride, it was recorded in various studios around the world. The song was sung by a church choir in London, TV performers in Mexico City, a school chorus in Rome, Italy, and by children from Tokyo, Japan and Burbank, California.
Now that you know the history of “it’s a small world” you just may enjoy singing it all afternoon after your trip to Walt Disney World ®!