It's a Small World (Disneyland Paris)
The following review will go into explicit detail regarding the attraction and the surprises it may conceal. If you choose to read on, be warned that it may detract from your first ride on the attraction.
Although hated in certain rings, if
only because of the infectiously catchy theme tune that goes with it (…it’s
a small world after all…), love it or hate it, It’s a Small World is one of
Disney’s trademark attractions that no Disney park seems able to open without.
Each one at each park is slightly
different from the point of view of approaching it, but the concept
remains that it is a gentle boat journey through the countries of the world,
with dancing and singing native dolls resident at each turn.
The one at Disneyland Paris is
perhaps the most impressive yet. The park had it good from the start, being a
new park, more technology, more thought, and more style is evident from the main
And so the trend continues, every
ride uses better animatronics, is more aesthetically pleasing, and from the
outside, more impressive. This goes for most of the rides, despite many being
virtual clones, and It’s a Small World, to look at, is one of the best yet.
The Fantasy Land skyline is dominated
by the cardboard cut out style, candy coloured wonders of the world that front
the building that your journey will take place in. It looks great, and upon
inspection you can see the windmills of Holland and pyramids of Egypt.
In the middle, a clock tower, and
upon every fifteen minutes bursts into life with a small carnival of figures
parading around the front. The park’s Disneyland Railroad is also cleverly
built into the front, weaving in and out of the landmarks fronting the building.
The main photo point here is the
globe, topped by a comical boat, captained by various dolls with water bubbling
out from under and flowing down over the globe. It’s a nice water feature, and
with the building behind, provides a good photo opportunity should you be that
The queue is off to the right hand
side, and takes you over some neatly manicured lawns, and along the front of the
building. Here the boats disappear into the building, the sides of the small
pool that the boats pass through surrounded in flowers and perfect topiary
animals and characters.
Two boats at a time are unloaded, and
two boats at the same time are loaded. The boats are just like any other dark
boat ride, consisting of four or so benches in a row, each brightly coloured.
Upon leaving the station, you turn to
the left, covered by a glass roof, past the queue line, and into the building.
You go through a corridor, on each side, signs welcoming you in various
languages. You then enter the main room of the ride.
It is truly overwhelming. The ride
takes place inside what is essentially one huge room. It is the clever use of
the set pieces that means through every turn you make, the next scene is hidden.
Each country has a host of native
dolls dancing, parading and singing along to the world famous theme. Each scene
takes place on set pieces of brightly coloured wonders, buildings or landmarks
that each country is famed for.
You pass under the famous London
landmark, Tower Bridge, soon after, to your left, Paris’ Eiffel Tower and
Can-Can dancing dolls strut their things on a bridge that you go through.
It is after this that the ride
continues. You go through Egypt with its pyramids, India and the Taj Mahal,
Holland and its windmills behind fields of tulips. Each country is larger than
life, each hosting legions of dancing dolls, all themed to their respective
Although the ride does nothing but
stereotype each country with dolls donning clogs in Holland, lederhosen
respectively in Germany, there are always the politically correct token black
dolls interspersed with Disney’s perception of the world.
The scenes continue. All are large,
colourful and undeniably spectacular. With each country, music styles change,
despite it being the same, infamous ‘It’s a Small World’ theme. In
Scotland, for example, bagpipes drone the tune, whilst in India sitars play the
With the building being so
gargantuan, the ceiling is high above you, and often from it hang more parts of
the scenery, plus coloured spotlights bring the scenes to life. As you pass
through the American section, with a Wild West style scene, you pass under a
final archway into the ride’s finale.
The theme here is of a world brought
together. Dolls from all around the world converge, donning their best attire of
pure white suits and bow ties, and in a magical fairground with more glitter
than Las Vegas, carousels, big wheels and other rides, the dolls ride, sing and
lay on the feel-good factor to sickening extremes.
After this climatic ending, a muted
Small World theme plays as you cruise through a tunnel similar to the one you
entered through, this time each flag or banners salutation is wishing you well.
From here you leave the boat, and
pass through a magical room full of buildings. Through the windows, more treats
for the children and parents alike before you are cast back into the
candy-coloured normality of the park.
It’s a Small World is a ride people
love to hate. Often, on the inside though, people do love it, if not the
theme-tune. The French version is much more opulent than the American versions
taking part in a huge cavernous hall, yet, with the clever use of backdrops and
set pieces, it still retains the charm synonymous with all other incarnations
The animatronics are rather
endearing, each with a rather bleak repertoire of turning, leaning, dancing or
the ability to repeat some other basic movement over, and over, and over… The
sets are beautiful too, each a work of art and perfectly complementing the last.
Lighting is used to the riders’ advantage too, and clever contraptions like
the kites that continually circle, rising and falling as they do are ingenious.
The ride is so Disney it can make you
green about the gills. It shows what a blinkered view Disney wants you to think
they have. We may leave the ride thinking that Disney does actually believe that
the world does from time to time unite in love. Whilst in some vague cases it
may, it is a ride that perhaps was very meaningful a few decades ago, but now is
so thin and dogmatic that you can only come off and think ‘ahh, how cute’.
This is by no means a bad thing, and
in-fact probably adds to the innocence of the whole ride, it is just a
happy-happy, joy-joy smoke screen on the face of one of the most cajoling and
inveigling companies ever to grace this galaxy, which again, isn’t necessarily
a bad thing, it is just Disney – as is the ride.
4/5 Marcus Sheen