When I was a kid my cousins lived in Anaheim, California, just down the road from Disneyland. Not understanding the essentials of municipal regulations, I thought they lived in Disneyland. Like, Disneyland was the name of a place, same as Cleveland or the Catskills, and they lived there. My cousins. That put me, like, three degrees of separation from Mickey Mouse and thereby, I won. I wasn’t sure what I won, but it felt good to know I had a one-up on everyone else in Kindergarten.
Further adding to the confusion, it seemed like every time our family went to visit them, we would all go to Disneyland. In retrospect, I think they had some sort of local resident discount deal and an amusement park was an efficient way to exhaust four small children, but at the time, I just thought that was how they spent Saturdays. That was their park. My park had a tire swing and monkey bars and a homeless looking man who liked to rub his inner thigh a lot. Their park had a castle and a Matterhorn and a Bear Country Jamboree.
I liked their park better.
On our outings to their park, my Aunt Annie usually served as the lion tamer. To thank her for her kindness in facilitating the journey we demanded she take us to the one ride she hated more than all else: It’s A Small World.
As a ride, it sucks. It’s not even a ride, it’s just a 16 person boat that floats in a moat sort of thing that winds through a soundstage filled with racially homogenized puppets dressed in America’s 1965 concept of native garb. The only part anyone remembers –not that you could forget it, as it’s carved into your ear cavity for all eternity— is the song, “It’s a Small World After All.” Not only does the song play for the ten minute duration of the ride, it plays the hour or so spent waiting in line beforehand. And so while Aunt Annie was stuck be tortured by jingle (and four kids singing along as loud as we possibly could), I was enjoying myself while looking at the murals.
This is not one of the the murals. But it’s similar.
*Tangent. Weird thing – I can describe those murals down to the palm frond, but I can’t find a photo of them anywhere on the internet. Google, wtf? I don’t get it. Were they temporary? Did they move the waiting line to make room for some devil trash Mulan ninja exhibit? (I hate her) (No, I really hate her). Also, I cannot find a photo of the exterior of the ride as I remember it – it was pink and blue with gold trim. Now it appears to be white. Am I making this up? Someone tell me I am not making this up. I swear to Barbra Streisand, it used to be mostly pink. And there were murals. I haven’t been to Disneyland in 20 years, and suddenly I feel some sense of indignant inner rage that they refurbished without asking me.
Anyway. Lucky for me, the artist behind the murals, Mary Blair, was downright prolific and made all sorts of art for me to gawk at and get nostalgic about. Lookahere….
And when Mary Blair wasn’t making stuff for Disney’s theme park, she was working as an art director for Disney’s movies like Cinderella and Alice in Wonderland.
As a kid, I was never all that big on Disney movies, but I always gravitated toward certain threads of illustration. Certain colorwaves. Certain cubist-esque style blocking shapes. I always assumed that was Walt Disney reflecting trends from the midcentury, but what I now realize is that was the midcentury reflecting Mary Blair. Granted, design influence is an odd thing to measure – creative types are all swimming around in the same stimulus soup. Things get muddled. But as an adult with a decent grasp on concepts like form and composition, I know how to recognize a visual groove when I see one, and I am so grooving on Mary Blair right now. I see her influence rippling all over 1960’s – everything from advertising and product design, to my favorite home goods manufacturer, Vera Neumann, to my own graphic design work for clients. Weird.
It’s a small world after all.
PS: Read more about the awesome Mary Blair.
PPS: Read more about my favorite thing at Disneyland: the army of feral cats.
PPPS: Now I dare you to watch this and get it out of your head…
Mary Blair is amazing. I love her work so much.
And now I’ve got that song in my head for the rest of the day! Thanks, Aunt Peaches!!
How awesome are the murals?! How not awesome is “It’s a Small World” on constant loop….?
You are not making that up. We lived in Oxnard in the 80s and went to DL a few times a year and I absolutely remember it being pink. Murals sound familiar but I more recall waiting around and looking at topiary hedges. There were a bunch of those tile mosaics ion the fureistic area with Space Mountain. It’s been years since I have been back and now I want to go!!!!!
Thank you for confirming I am not crazy. And yes, I remember the topiaries too!
I grew up.just’m down the.road in Costa Mesa. We went on school field trips.to Disneyland, grad night etc. I don’t remember it being pink. Maybe that was an 80s thing.
She is my favorite! Quite an inspiration for young feminists as well. Not many women were working, or had such amazing careers during her hay day.
Have you seen the exhibit at The Walt Disney Family Museum in SF? They have an exhibit of her art work until October. The Disney website has lithographs of It’s a Small World because it is the anniversary this year.
And! Golden Book has put out an anthology of her children’s books too. She is the “It Girl” this year!
Really? I had no idea she was trending! Glad to hear it. Sad I missed her exhibit though — I was in San Fran earlier this year. Fingers crossed it travels soon!
Thank you for the introduction to Mary Blair. I think she may be my spirit guide.
And, yes, I remember It’s a Small Pink World. I am also old enough to remember when the rides were categorized by alphabet letter. At admission, you bought a ticket book – the more expensive the book, the more tickets. The not-so-exciting, borderline dull-to-a-12-year-old rides (ie. the carousel) were “A” tickets and had a low dollar value, the awesome rides (ie. The Matterhorn) were “E” tickets and were the most expensive. Thus the old-timey phrase “Definitely an E-ticket ride” Or maybe that was just a local phrase? Perhaps your aunt adeptly steered you all towards the rides at the top of the alphabet?
Thank you again for steering attention to Mary – I must got stalk her now.
Yay — another person remembers it was pink! I’m not crazy! That’s interesting that the tickets were sliced up like that. Who would waste good tickets on the carousel!?
I remember it being different colors too when I was a kid (we would visit every few years from San Francisco) but it is white now – at Christmas it is covered in lights and at different points in the night they dim the lights and project images on it so that’s probably why it is white now. I don’t remember any murals on it though. Mary Blair’s work is amazing – if you ever get a chance to go to San Francisco the Disney Family Museum has a lot of information about her in the main museum and this summer they have special exhibition just of her work in exhibition space. I was just looking up information about her last week and discovered these murals that used to be in Tomorrowland and there are differing reports about whether they were just covered up or if they were taken down completely. The picture here claims to be from Disneyland in 1983 – the sunglasses and hair look like the 1980s and it is outside so it can’t be Florida. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/It's_a_Small_World
Interesting, interesting! I’m interested to know what happened to the murals. I seem to recall a few abstract ones around Tomorrowland as well. Why would anyone cover them up? Now I’m all in the mood to visit CA to compare in person!
Peaches, Lindsay over at makelyhome.com is doing Mary Blair inspired wall murals in her home. You should check it.
I remember those ticket books! I still have partially used ones in my old jewelry box. Believe it or not I honeymooned there 40 years ago come July 19th and your right it was not just white. We went back 5 years in a row and I HAD to go on that ride. Ahhhh the memories.
I’ve never been to Disney World, but the painting of Cinderella and Charming on the steps gave me major déjà vu. I’m pretty sure I had a book as a child with her illustrations/artwork in it.
I went to Disney World four times. I’ve never been to the “-land”. Once was as a family group before my daughter and I lost the male; once was as a chaperone for the marching band; once was just the daughter and I and once was with my English pen pal. The last 3 times (Had to do the ride as it was for the, then, 2nd grade child.) we got into a boat at this ride, I would wait until the doors closed behind us and sing the “Duff Beer Song”, The Simpsons parody of this ride from Duffland. The best time was when it was 3 chaperones and a bunch of band kids all singing “Duff Beer for me. Duff Beer for you. I’ll have a Duff. You have one, too.” Then, I yelled, “Lisa! Drink the water!” and a designated female looked over the side and said, “I’m not sure that is water.” We resumed singing as the doors opened and we exited the ride. The staff gave us rather stern, disapproving looks. You could tell they have heard this before. Our “Lisa” said, as she exited the boat, “I am the lizard queen!” and we all ran off happily to the Haunted Mansion next door. My daughter’s gone to “-land” and WDW more than I have. If she’s there without me, I’ll get a phone call from the middle of the ride. “Hi mom!” and she holds up the phone. I hope, when I’m 97 and she’s taking the great-grand kids, they will still call me from the middle of the ride and hold up the cell phone or whatever it is by then.
Love this post! I adore Mary Blair too! I was in California over Spring Break and when we went to San Francisco we went to the Disney Family Museum. It was amazing but the point of the story is that while we were there they had an extra exhibit up which was completely dedicated to Mary Blair! So we got to see all sorts of her work, from the South American tour she did with Walt Disney, to Small World and the Disney movies she worked on AND some of her own work! It was by far one of the coolest exhibits I’ve seen! I actually worked for the Walt Disney Company (still do) at Disney World and I agree that “Its A Small World” is awful. lol New follower!! 🙂
What a hoot! We got STUCK in the It’s a Small World ride at Disneyworld. The tram thing completely broke down. You couldn’t hear babies crying over that song! I remember my mother threatened to swim out! We sat there well over an hour, the song droning on and on! Why couldn’t the music part break? Why couldn’t it have been the Haunted Mansion??? Or even The Tiki Room? In the tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki, tiki room….
It was so much prettier pink!