Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Small World Got Larger

Forgive the off-topic post, but I am a Disneyphile and this news makes me so, so sad. As some of you know, It's A Small World has been closed for a few months and is scheduled to remain closed until the Christmas season of 2008. The excuse given for the closure was a need to redo the flume. You might remember there was some suggestion that heavier riders were causing damage to the flume and it needed remodelling? That wasn't entirely true - in reality, the flume leaks like a sieve and, to patch it, an apoxy is added to the cracks and holes. Over the years, this layer of apoxy and sealers got pretty thick (almost 50 years of repairs will do that). The boats weren't riding low because of the weight of riders, the actual depth of the flume had been changed by years of layered "fix-it" materials. But, I digress... so... the claim was that the ride was being shut down to replace the flume.

It's come to the attention of Disneyphiles that this was not the only reason to close the ride.

Mary Blair became a Disney artist and stylist in the forties. She was one of a pioneering group of women hired by Walt Disney to bring feminity and color harmony to his movies. Saludos Amigos is a prime example of her talent. Later, she was moved to WED Enterprises and put in charge of designing a ride for the World's Fair, partnered with UNICEF, that would highlight the community of nations and, especially, the unifying concept of children making the world better through common ground. When you think about that...that's just not an easy task to take on. But, take it on she did. Blair used color harmony which, admittedly, looks dated to modern eyes, but...she also had/has a unique flare for design. Certain elements of IASW are signature Blair- the dancing tiki boys, the crocodile with the umbrella, the ceiling decorations of wonderful flowers and birds that most people don't ever look up to see, etc.,. In fact, the whimsical nature of the ride is a credit to her brilliance.

It has emerged that the remodel for IASW was capitalized by those in the Imagineering department. Three major decisions have been made:
1. The New Guinea Rain Forest scene is going to be completely scrapped. In it's place, the Imagineers have planned a America/Patriotic/RahRahUSA display.
2. After the remodel and the Christmas season, IASW will feature appearances from movie characters. Example: Finding Nemo in the mermaid's lagoon. Or, Belle and Beast in the Paris scene. Or, Mulan and Mooshoo in China. Jasmine and Aladin in Arabia.
3. Most, if not all, of the original dolls and color schemes will be replaced so that the addition of feature characters will not look out of place.

To say that I have problems with this decision is a gross understatement. In fact, it makes me a little sick to my stomach.
I'm a Disney purist. I've been a cast member at Disneyland. I've gone, as a guest, so many times that I have lost count. I love the rides that made Disneyland special in the beginning: the canoes, Tom Sawyer's Island, Country Bear Jamboree (which, by the way, I'm still not over them replacing that with Winnie the Pooh), America Sings (only slightly made better by putting the characters in Splash Mountain), Dumbo, Casey Jr. Trains...etc.,. It's classic Disney!! Small World has never been my favorite ride, was the Velveeta of Disneyland. It was the cheese in the grilled cheese that you expected. If you replace the crappy cheese in a grilled cheese with something like Provo or Meunster, it's NOT the same!!! It may be new. It may taste better. But, the sandwich has been irrevocably altered. It's A Small World will not be the same when you take out Blair's designs and influence.

Taking out the Rainforest scene will result in the destruction of Blair's whimsy. And, probably more disturbing, it's a little eerie that they're destroying a rainforest in a ride that's supposed to encourage global community. Replacing it with a Rah-Rah-USA scene is completely jacked up. THE WHOLE POINT of It's a Small World is to encourage children to consider the cultures of the world. Yes. The United States is one of those cultures. But, the USA has always had a place in the showcase that left it on equal footing with every other culture displayed. EQUAL! Not better. Not more. Not less. EQUAL! What does it say to the spirit of global cooperation and childish hope when you hold a post-9/11, "America Rules!" mentality? There goes the whole point of the ride!!!

More disturbing...I have a problem with taking a ride that is about CHILDREN (or ugly child puppets) coming together in global cooperation and turning it into, yet another, marketing scheme! With the exception of a plushy Nemo being stashed secretively in the Christmas finery, this is unprecedented. Highlighting movie characters devoids the ride of it's purpose and innocent message. When did global marketing and branding become a central theme for It's a Small World? What are they thinking? It's not like Disney is struggling for cash revenue and needs a global booster shot of Jasmine belly dancing alongside the harem girls. And, dear awkward is THAT going to look? 1960's dolls in Blair-inspired outfits and colors next to a voluptuous, 1990's Madonna inspired persian princess? HOW does that work? It doesn't! Joyce Carlson (the doll maker) is flipping in her grave! Enough with the marketing!

When I was a kid, I had a little record and book set (Read-a-Long) about It's a Small World. In the story, a little orphan named Timmy is at Disneyland with the orphanage and finds himself on the ride wondering where, in this world, he belongs. The message, by the end of the story, was that he was a child of the world and belonged anywhere and everywhere he ever wanted to go. Apparently, the story will have to be re-written for Timmy. As, he'll be allowed to go everywhere and anywhere, but he'd better remember that he's an American child and America RULEZ for pity's sake!!!! And, Timmy better pony up some cash on the way out of the park because if he really wants to know Paris, he'd better pick up Hunchback and Beauty and the Beast on the way out.

Ugh. So disgusted.


Toni said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Poodles said...

*Head Desk*

Sorry the above was my idiocy.

Anonymous said...

This is the ride in the Disneyland park in CA right? How does this affect the ride in Orlando? Has it already been changed? We didn't get to ride it last year because they were having tech difficulties.

spajadigit said...

I know what you mean. I was horrified to hear of the changes. But I'm really not surprised. I mean, how is it that different from putting Johnny Depp into Pirates of the Caribbean? Or Iago and Zazu into the Tiki Room in Florida?


Wineymomma, this change is only in Anaheim for now, and this version of the ride is the one going into Hong Kong as well.

PipesUp said...

Hey there,

Whilst I respect anyone's opinion on the tradition of IASW, you have to have been aware (right?) that Disney has been trying to shut it down/replace it/reuse the real estate for, like ever. C'mon, PM; it must be time to let this one - like the original submarines, Rocket to the Moon and that Monsanto-thingo from the 70s - go.

Not everyone who visits the park is a six-year-old girl, and ever since I was seven (fourty years, folks) I've thought IASW was cheesy, old and lame.

Personally, I think Disney should get rid of the whole plasticky, technicolor mess and move on. Seriously... dancing dolls and a song that will drive you to drink? That's all it is.

Thank you for the chance to speak my mind. You may now come at me with sharpened blades and righteous wrath. (LOL)

Jennifer said...

In a way I kind of agree with pipesup. Memories and sentimentality are nice, but the fact is that even when I was a kid in the eighties, I thought the ride was cheesy*, and I KNOW that most kids today probably get nothing out of it. If the whole "purpose" of the ride is to "highlight the community of nations and, especially, the unifying concept of children making the world better through common ground", then I would suggest that it hasn't been fulfilling that purpose for some time. Most people who go on the ride today don't do it to be inspired, they go to mock it. And that is not a good tribute to the original designer any more than sexing it up with movie characters and other out-of-place additions would be.

Now, of course, I think the whole "Rah Rah America" concept IS obscene and contrary to the whole purpose of the ride, as is including the watered-down, Americanized Disney characters who are supposed to "represent" the various ethnicities. Too many kids already think that everyone in the Middle East is like Aladdin or Jasmine, and that all Native Americans were tall, statuesque babes with big "tomahawks" and mini dresses who lived in perfectly benign harmony with nature.

In other words, although I think you're clinging a little too tightly to the past, which is understandable, Disney is just disgusting me right now.

If anything, I think the ride should just be let go entirely--preserved in memory the way it was originally, not diluted or reconstructed. Perhaps set up a tribute/monument to the original ride and designer, but break down the ride itself and consign it to the past. Auction off the dolls and give the money to humanitarian causes. That sort of thing.

I understand if you disagree, though.

*Of course, I am also a person who prefers a cheddar grilled cheese sandwhich, because American cheese is icky. Sure, it may not be the way it's "supposed" to be, but it sure tastes a whole lot better. And anyways, when have you been a stickler for tradition? ;)

April said...

I am of the opinion that IASW's sole purpose is to let the parents sit for a good 15 minutes in air conditioning and regain their composure. So long as they don't take that away (or add rap), I'll be fine.

Anonymous said...

After I read this yesterday Bubba came in humming the song. I almost burst into tears! His little five year old class is going to sing this to the mommies for mothers tea!

Anonymous said...

I loved IASM. :( We rode it three times when my husband and I went to DL without the kids. As said above, it was a good escape from the crowds and heat and gave us a moment to just sit and relax.

When we went back with the kids, we rode it at least once a day (sometimes twice), and we were there for 7 days--and on the last day my son wanted to ride it three times in a row. It was his favorite ride.

I don't like this new development, but meh. It's Disney. It was going to happen sooner or later.

milukfrog said...

I love Mary Blair's designs - I think they are interesting. And my todder loves IAASM. This is sad. And a Rah Rah USA? Ugh that is so out of place in the whole theme of IASW.

Kazim said...

The USA part is disappointing, but even more so is the recent news that they plan to replace the "It's a Small World" song with "America, Fuck Yeah!"

Anonymous said...

They're also changing hte colors? I hadn't heard that part before! This is wacky. Completely wacky. Can't they just leave this one alone? I can deal with the changes to Mansion and Pirates, but this one doesn't make sense. Most of those characters are found in their own ride(s) already -- why add them in another one? Plus, it completely blurs the message of the ride, as you said.