Wonderland Music Co., Inc.
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's a Small World after
"There is just one
moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship to ev'ryone
Though the mountains
And the oceans are wide
It's a Small World after
Although Disney agreed to design
a ride for Pepsi-Cola and UNICEF at the last minute, the creation
of the music for "It's A Small World" was not hindered
by this time constraint and the result was the most memorable
song to come out of the '64 World's Fair.
On July 5, 1963, the Disney finance
department opened a new account labeled "Music and Lyrics
for Pepsi-Cola Exhibit." Prior to this date, discussions
about music for the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion had revolved around the
idea of children from many nations singing their respective national
anthems. But no one could figure out a way to have dozens of
songs playing simultaneously without creating cacophony. Walt
then came up with the idea, probably not too long before July
5, to have the Sherman Brothers write a simple tune that could
be sung like "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," or as a "rondelet"
to use Walt's malaprop. The tune had to be simple and catchy,
but also had to have enough variety so as not to become redundant
over the course of the ride. The Sherman Brothers quickly came
up with a song. Too quickly, they thought. It seemed too simple.
Perhaps they could rework it, refine it. And if Walt didn't like
it, they had better have alternates. So they wrote two additional
songs for possible use in the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion. But they still
didn't feel they had "the song." After postponing their
pitch to Walt for two weeks, they received a call from Walt's
secretary and, ready or not, he was on his way down to hear what
they had come up with. The Shermans wisely chose to pitch the
first song they had written. When they were done singing "It's
A Small World," Walt turned and said, "That'll work."
And with those two words, the Sherman Brothers' fate in World's
Fair and Theme Park history was sealed.
The Sherman Brothers, Richard
and Robert (standing) go over the music and lyrics of their composition,
"It's A Small World."
A Small World - Complete Souvenir Guide and Behind the Scenes
Story © 1964 Walt Disney Productions. All rights reserved
throughout the world.
The Sherman Brothers solution to
Walt's initial request was an ingenious one. They wrote the tune
"It's A Small World" to be sung as a round, with the
verse (It's a world of laughter...") sung in counterpoint
to the chorus ("It's a small world after all...") Additionally,
the song would be orchestrated and performed in musical styles
appropriate to each section of the ride, insuring that the appeal
of "It's A Small World" would not be diminished by
Creatively, it was decided that all
of the music for It's A Small World" would remain at a constant
tempo throughout the ride. To do otherwise would result in the
sort of cacophony that "It's A Small World" was written
to avoid. Speakers would be placed on the sets, rather than in
the boats. As long as the tempo stayed constant and the regular
pattern of the song remained intact, an interesting phenomenon
would result as the "FantaSea" boats passed through
each land. Because the source of the music for each land was
stationary, it appeared to grow louder as each boat approached,
and appeared to fade as the boat moved on to the next land. For
example, as the boat moved away from France and toward Switzerland,
the "ooh-la-las" diminished in volume as the "Oo-dle
Ah-dee-ay" would begin to increase in volume. So each boat,
along with the passengers on board became, in essence, a giant
fader. This illusion of fading audio up and down via stationary
speakers and moving passengers would continued to be exploited
by Disney rides at Disneyland and beyond.
On October 7, a piano guide track
was recorded of "It's A Small World." This piano track,
played in strict tempo to a metronomic click, along with the
written melody line and lyrics, was copied and sent to Italy,
Japan, and Mexico, where the lyrics would be translated, and
children would be recorded singing "It's A Small World"
in their native language. Locally, a Los Angeles schoolteacher
began translating the song into Swedish, and British children
were sought to add their accents to the Small World roster. Although
a search was made in the Los Angeles area to find children between
the ages of 8 and 12 with true British accents, the lack of success
resulted in requests to the Disney London office for assistance.
By early November, the Disney studios received recording of "It's
A Small World" in Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and from London,
with the authentic British accents.
At this same time, a copy of "It's
A Small World" was sent to a local musician to determine
if the tune was suitable for bagpipes. It was.
On October 16, a music breakdown
was completed for "It's A Small World." Each country
would have to have its own geographically identifiable version
of "It's A Small World." Not all countries would have
singers. Some countries would be combined thematically into larger
groupings, for example Central Africa or Scandia. For the ride
itself, 29 separate regional versions of "It's A Small World"
would be required in addition to the Grand Finale. For the queue
line outside the ride, two large and lengthy symphonic treatments
of "It's A Small World" would be needed as well.
Because he had to repeat the title
song for the duration of the ride, [conductor and arranger Bobby]
Hammack worked hard to find ways harmonically and orchestrally
to distinctly identify a country or region. Some countries were
easy. Scotland for example, could be instantly identified by
the drone of the bagpipe. Japan, by the use of pentatonic scales.
Other musical distinctions, such as Spain from Mexico, or India
from Bali, required more thought - particularly if they were
to be perceived by the mostly untrained ears of fairgoers. Although
the original idea had been to include music from each nation
represented in the ride, Bobby Hammack managed to avoid interpolation
of national tunes in the ride proper, with one exception. The
Ireland section of "It's A Small World" makes use of
the Renaissance dance tune "Dargason," more familiarly
known as "The Irish Washerwoman." The arrangement for
each country lasted 48 seconds. They included one statement of
the verse and one statement of the chorus of "It's A Small
World" as well as an additional 16 bars which repeated either
the verse or the chorus, or overlapped verse and chorus, or mixed
elements of both verse and chorus. By purposefully obfuscating
the last third, or 16 seconds, of each regional arrangement,
Bobby Hammack added unpredictability and coruscation to the overlapping
elements of "It's A Small World."
With the recording on January 16
of the Finale and queue music vocals, utilizing 15 children and
eight adults, "It's A Small World" was almost done.
The Finale, like the other "Small World" cues was 48
seconds in length. It began with the children singing the verse.
Then, joined by the women, they sang the chorus, while the men
sang "bum, bum, bum" on the melody of the verse. It
ended with seven part harmony on the chorus of "It's A Small
Unlike other pavilions, there are
no horror stories about "It's A Small World." The ride
had been set up on the [Disney] studio lot, and there the basic
levels between musical cues had been set. Aside from minor adjustments
to levels in the show building, the ride functioned beautifully.
Both the Sherman Brothers and Bobby
Hammack had to have been pleased with their work. Certainly the
World's Fair attendees were.
For those unable to attend the Fair
in person, "Disneyland Goes to the World's Fair" brought
not only the sights, but also the sounds of the Fair into their
homes. This May 17, 1964 broadcast of Walt Disney's Wonderful
World of Color made use of several cues from the Ford Pavilion,
"There's A Great big Beautiful Tomorrow" from Progressland,
and multiple Bobby Hammack arrangements from "It's A Small
For those lucky enough to attend
the Fair, and who wished to take home a souvenir, Walt Disney
Productions willingly obliged, in the form of records and sheet
music. Long after the Fair had closed, one could still hear the
strains of "There's A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow"
on the 7" 33 1/3 RPM "Exciting souvenir record from
General Electric's Progressland." "It's A Small World"
could be relived on either the 12" 33 1/3 narrated tour
on Disneyland Record LP St-3925 or the "Official souvenir
record from Walt Disney's 'It's A Small World' at the New York
World's Fair" 7" 45 RPM, tucked into its own mailing
envelope. Sheet music for both "There's A Great Big Beautiful
Tomorrow" and "It's A Small World" was also available.
"Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln," in an expanded version
of the show, was available on Vista BV3981, a 12" 33 1/3
LP (in either stereo or mono), accompanied by a full color booklet.
An abridged version of the show, labeled an "Official souvenir
of the New York World's Fair," was also available, packaged
for mailing, on a 7" 33 1/3 Vista Ster-804 release. Sadly,
none of the [Ford Motor Company's] Magic Skyway music was ever
released on vinyl.