Small World America Scene Draws Inspiration From Mary Blair

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Once again from the LA Times Travel Blog:

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With the debut today of the rehabbed It’s a Small World ride at Disneyland, the public gets its first look at the controversial new “Spirit of America” scene — the focus of much angst and anguish in chat rooms and blog posts.

On one side of the boat ride, the new scene features an American West tableau with cowboys, Indians and “Toy Story” characters Woody, Jessie and Bullseye. On the other side, farmer dolls in overalls and straw hats populate an agricultural heartland montage.

“Spirit of America” replaces a tropical rainforest scene, which got severely truncated and unceremoniously tucked into another room on the ride.

Walt Disney Imagineer Kim Irvine, who oversaw the Small World rehab, explained her approach to the new American scene during a boat ride through the attraction today.

Irvine based the new scene, in part, on original concept art by Small World ride creator Mary Blair. Fellow Imagineer Tony Baxter accidentally discovered the sketch at a recent Comic-Con event.

“It just confirmed our suspicions that she always meant to have a scene for America,” said Irvine, who says the scene may have been cut from the original attraction because of time constraints.

The original sketch includes many elements — buttes, cactuses and the sun — incorporated into the new American West scene.

“It really helped me get the color tones right,” Irvine said of the sketch. “The hardest part for me was really capturing Mary Blair’s style. It really has an innocent, childlike quality.”

A lasso-twirling cowboy, familiar to many Small World fans, was relocated from the finale to the American scene.

The goal of the renovation, Irvine said, was for the changes to be as seamless and unobtrusive as possible.

“We stuck to Mary’s story,” Irvine said.

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