Disney announces Small World celebration
Anniversary • It’s been 50 years since the “Small World” ride opened.
Published: March 23, 2014 07:33PM
Updated: March 21, 2014 06:23PM
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RICHARD SHERMAN – Academy Award-winning composer Richard Sherman poses at Walt Disney’s piano at The Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, Calif., in February, 2014. Along with his brother, the late Robert Sherman, they composed the theme song, “It’s A Small World,” to accompany the iconic attraction of the same name which debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair. The song is purported to be one of the most performed and recognized songs in the world, and has become both a beloved and parodied pop culture song staple. Disney Parks is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its iconic “it’s a small world” attraction with a global celebration that benefits UNICEF. (Paul Hiffmeyer/Disney Parks)

Readers, be warned. This story could have you singing the theme song from “It’s a Small World” all day.

This marks the 50th anniversary of the iconic Disney ride and song that made their debut at the 1964 New York World’s Fair as a tribute and benefit to UNICEF’s work for children around the world.

Disney Parks announced Friday that it has created an interactive website, www.SmallWorld50.com. Visitors to the site will be able to record and share an online video of themselves singing the iconic “It’s a Small World” song. They also can create a virtual “It’s a Small World” doll to share with friends.

As part of the promotion, the Walt Disney Company will donate $150,000 to benefit UNICEF in honor of the 50th anniversary of “It’s a Small World,” plus $1 for every sing-along video recorded on SmallWorld50.com and another $1 for every virtual doll created, up to $100,000.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, provides health care, immunizations, clean water, sanitation, nutrition, education and emergency relief to children around the world.

The website now features a video of people from more than 25 countries — including the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, bagpipers in Scotland, Bollywood movie actors in India and a firefighter from New York City — performing the classic Richard and Robert Sherman “Small World” theme song.

“It is a delight to be part of today’s announcement,” said Ron Jarrett, president of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, in a statement. “This iconic song and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir both cross generational and cultural boundaries to unite people through music.”

The ride is a boat cruise past singing and dancing animatronic dolls, representing the world’s children. According to Disney Parks, the song is sung by children in their native languages, including French, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and English.

According to a Disney website, Walt Disney originally envisioned the world’s children singing the national anthem from each country they represented, but he discovered that resulted in cacophony. So he asked the Sherman brothers, who were working on “Mary Poppins” at the time, to create the song.

Another popular feature of the Disneyland ride is an outdoor façade that includes topiaries in the shapes of animals, spinning flowers, icons of famous world landmarks and a 30-foot-tall clock tower, which opens every 15 minutes for a multinational parade of 24 animated figures. Two toy jesters appear and herald the current time when the procession ends.

After its debut at the World’s Fair, the original ride was moved to Disneyland, where, according to Wade Sampson from www.MousePlanet.com, it opened on May 28, 1966. Versions now can be found at Walt Disney World, Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland.

On April 10, visitors to all those parks will come together to sing the theme song to what Disney describes as “the happiest cruise that ever sailed the seven seas.”

wharton@sltrib.com

Twitter: @tribtomwharton