Save Small World, ride creator’s family begs Disneyland

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An “idiotic plan” to add Mickey Mouse and other Disney characters as well as an American tribute scene to Disneyland’s It’s a Small World represents a “gross desecration” that would “bastardize” the stylized artwork and “marginalize” the original theme of the boat ride, wrote the family of the classic attraction’s creator in an open letter to Disney executives.

Disney Imagineers are considering changes to Small World that include adding Mickey Mouse, Minnie Mouse, Peter Pan, Belle, Simba, Nemo, Lilo and Stitch to locations throughout the ride while replacing the Papua, New Guinea, rain forest scene with an American tribute, reported MiceAge’s Al Lutz.

“Ripping out a rain forest (imaginary or otherwise) and replacing it with misplaced patriotism is a public relations blunder so big you could run a Monorail through it,” wrote Kevin Blair, son of Small World creator Mary Blair, on behalf of the family.

Disney officials said some additions — known as “plussing” in Imagineering parlance — will be made to Small World but that no decision had been made on specific creative changes to the 14-minute ride despite the speculation.

“No one approaches our classic attractions with more reverence than Disney Imagineers who take great care when refreshing beloved attractions,” said Marilyn Waters, a Disney Imagineering spokeswoman. “As with all our classics, any enhancements made to It’s a Small World will be in the original spirit of celebrating the children of the world.”

Re-Imagineering, an unofficial online forum for past and present Disney Imagineers to catalog missteps and debate solutions, called the “egregious and downright disgusting” proposed Small World changes a “brutal dismissal” of Mary Blair’s “profound and enduring influence on the Disney aesthetic.”

“This is not a change at Disneyland to take lightly,” the Re-Imagineering editorial stated. “Letters should go out to all corners of the company pleading for a halt to the desecration of Small World once and for all.”

MiceAge’s Dateline Disneyland columnist Andy Castro has championed an online campaign to “Save the Rainforest,” urging Small World fans to call, write or e-mail Disneyland, Walt Disney Imagineering or Disney’s corporate headquarters to put a halt to the proposed changes.

Kevin Blair sent snail-mail versions of his protest letter to Disneyland President Ed Grier, Disney Imagineering’s Marty Sklar and Tony Baxter and Pixar chief John Lasseter.

Small World went down for a 10-month rehab in January to replace the original flume and fleet of boats used at the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, where the ride debuted.

The Mouse still insists the Small World overhaul has absolutely nothing to do with the ever-increasing waistlines of Americans.

— Brady MacDonald, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer