Thursday, April 17, 2008

Save the Rain Forest

Most everyone who frequents the Disney Blog-o-sphere is familiar with the "It's A Small World" debacle. If you're not and want the long version, you can read up with the various links to all sides of the issue at the bottom of this post. The short version is that there are rumors of proposed changes to "It's A Small World" which include the adding of Disney characters, the removal or reduction of the Rain Forest scene, and the addition of a tribute to America scene replacing the original finale.

I have many issues with each of these rumored additions, and I don't have time to cover all of them to the degree they deserve.  What bothers me the most is the mindset that the ride is irrelevant to younger generations, and that it is in need of being enhanced in order to resonate with people. I don't understand how the theme of children around the world uniting becomes more relevant to a child riding "It's a Small World" if there are Disney characters in it. It's a non sequitur, much like adding a figure of Captain Hook to Pirates of the Carribean- it's out of place and detracts thematically from the story being told.

Disney's recent history of making attractions more relevant by adding Disney characters hasn't been the resounding success they say it has been. To people like Disney archivist Dave Smith, who site such examples as the updating of the Tiki Room to the "Under New Management" version and the transformation of the "Swiss Family Tree house" to "Tarzan's Tree house," I would ask why haven't those upgrades been made to their various counterparts at the other parks if they are such relevant and successful changes? Is it because they don't want to change the original, classic version or is it because the change wasn't deemed worth adding in the end?

There is a certain percentage of the general public that will never like "It's a Small World" regardless of what is added or changed. You can't please all the people all the time. Case in point, my wife's cousins from Germany, whom, after we lured them onto the ride remarked, "that would have been fun with a shotgun." It's not for everyone, I understand. But to think that it needs a Disney tie-in to broaden the appeal and make it more popular than it has been is myopic.

To those who use the "Walt Was for Change" arguement... yes, yes, and yes. We all know Disneyland is and was a work in progress for Walt, and that he always wanted it to evolve and grow. But when Walt said those things about Disneyland there was only one Disneyland at the time. Today there are multiple Magic Kingdoms on many continents. There are various "Small World" rides amongst the parks world wide, some of which have already adopted these changes, but there is only one Mary Blair original. Isn't there some room, and value, to preserving some of the things that are unique to Walt's original sandbox?

If I were in charge at Disney I would use the fact that Disneyland is the original, and as such has many characteristics and attractions that are worth leaving untouched as historical centerpieces in the collection of their counterparts. I would use it as a selling point and even quite literally as a marketing campaign.

Related Letters, Articles, and Opinions:

-Animation Community Speaks from Re-Imagineering.
-World of Tears from Re-Imagineering
-Letter from the Blair Family.
-KCRW Interview with Imagineer Kim Irivine.
-Save the Rain Forest web site.
-Letter from Marty Sklar (courtesy of The Disney Blog.)
-Letter from Dave Smith at
-"It's A Sacrosanct World After All" from Your Souvineer Guide.