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Disney's 'It's a Small World' celebrates 50 years with sing-along (w/video)

 

 

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears.

It's a world of hopes and a world of fears.

There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware...

 

It will now be lodged in your head all day long: chirping, looping, NEVER EVER STOPPING.

That's the gift and the curse of Disney earworm It's a Small World (After All), which Thursday celebrates 50 years of driving a significant swath of our world absolutely bonkers.

Not that we also don't secretly love the song, which was written for, and debuted with, Disney's namesake boat ride at the 1964 New York World's Fair. Singing brats, gurgling water, that cute hippo with the blinky eyes. C'mon, fun.

For a lot of us, generation after generation, that was our first ride at a Disney park. Space Mountain was way too dark, too terrifying — or we were way too short — but It's a Small World was just the right size and sound.

To commemorate Thursday's milestone, Disney parks everywhere will host a global sing-along. At 8:30 a.m., in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, cast members from Epcot's countries will belt that sucker, one of the most performed and translated tunes of all time.

And we will sing along.

We have no choice.

That thing is relentless.

 

There is just one moon and one golden sun.

And a smile means friendship to everyone.

Though the mountains divide

And the oceans are wide...

 

Written by Uncle Walt's go-to songwriters, brothers Richard and Robert Sherman, whose Mary Poppins soundtrack was recently feted in the movie Saving Mr. Banks, the song It's a Small World was inspired by the Cuban missile crisis. It was meant to convey peace and calm in a world where that was increasingly not the case. At first it was slow, a ballad; the boss, however, wanted peppy. And the boss always got what he wanted.

The Shermans are brilliant, no doubt about it. But that hasn't stopped It's A Small World from being hailed as the Most Annoying Song of All Time by such jaded periodicals as The Week, The Atlantic and Stereogum.

"All negative lists occur because something works," Counting Crows frontman Adam Duritz told me when I asked him about the ditty. The pop songwriter knows it well after visits to California's Disneyland, which inherited the World's Fair ride. (It didn't set sail in Orlando's Walt Disney World until Oct. 1, 1971.) "It takes popularity to get you to love something; it takes popularity to get you to hate something. It's a catchy, catchy, catchy song."

Film director David Lynch, however, had nothing nice to say about It's a Small World when talking to online's A.V. Club: "It got stuck in my head, and it was like having a disease. ... It's like the swine flu or something."

Disney, of course, is having none of that on the big day, which, if you can't make it to a Disney park, you can also celebrate at smallworld50.com.

"I think the allure of the song is that nearly 1 billion people have been on the attraction in a Disney park somewhere around the world," says Duncan Wardle, vice president of Creative Inc. for Disney Parks and Resorts. "Everybody remembers riding it with their parents when they were very young, and so everyone has a very special place for it in their hearts."

But even Disney has acknowledged the song can get on your nerves. Case in point: 1994's The Lion King, which features a self-referential gag in which chief baddie Scar reprimands plucky bird Zazu for squawking the tune: "NO! No. Anything but that!"

We love It's a Small World for the 12 to 15 minutes we're on the ride, for the few years when we're young. Then we grow older, and like everything else in life, our feelings get more complex.

Or, as Times reader Libby McGroom Pelham remarked on Facebook after hearing about the song's golden anniversary: "Rode the ride at Disneyland, and for the first 5 minutes, it was so much fun. Then, I thought I was gonna have to kill someone to get off the damn boat to escape the song!"

All together now:

 

It's a small world after all.

It's a small world after all.

It's a small world after all.

It's a small, small world.

 

Sean Daly can be reached at sdaly@tampabay.com. Follow @seandalypoplife on Twitter.

IF YOU GO

At 8:30 a.m. Thursday, a choir of cast members from Epcot countries will lead a group sing of It's A Small World in front of Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom in Orlando. Throughout the day, on Main Street and more, other salutes to the song will be heard. Included with admission to the park. Call (407) 939-5277 for more information. You can also follow the fun at smallworld50.com.

Disney's 'It's a Small World' celebrates 50 years with sing-along (w/video) 04/09/14 [Last modified: Thursday, April 10, 2014 12:19pm]
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