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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

"it's a small world" at 50 Part 2: The New York World's Fair

When the 1964/65 New York World's Fair was announced, many people at DISNEYLAND saw it as a potential rival for domestic and international tourism. The park was on solid footing by this time, but a rival enterprise was seen as something that could reduce its progress. Walt Disney, on the other hand, saw things differently. Many critics had finally accepted DISNEYLAND's success, but were skeptical that it would translate outside California. Ignoring the fact that the majority of the park's guests came from outside California and even from outside the United States, this way of thinking was still active at the time and Walt Disney feared that it could hurt his secret plans to build a city of the future in Florida.

So Walt Disney announced to the corporate world that his organization was ready and eager to take on the challenge of building amazing new attractions for them in New York. Despite the misgivings of his organization, several companies signed on, including Ford and General Electric. Not only could Walt Disney guarantee exposure through his weekly television show, but the attractions could be  relocated to the Magic Kingdom on a permanent basis after the fair closed. It was an amazing opportunity and soon Imagineers found themselves fabricating dinosaurs and writing show scripts.


It was already a race against time to get these and other projects completed on time. That's why when Joan Crawford came calling on behalf of Pepsi, many at Disney figured that Walt would turn her down. Joan's conundrum was this- Pepsi had signed a deal with UNICEF to build an attraction that would fit a theme of world peace and togetherness. It would be great publicity and a daring shot at the number one soft drink company Coca-Cola. Unfortunately, the board of directors had become fractious after Ms. Crawford's husband had passed away, leaving his seat to this seemingly crazy woman. The board fought and argued about what this attraction would be like and eventually threw up its arms. Desperate to save face and stave off the inevitable bad publicity that would come from walking away from UNICEF, Joan approached her long time acquantaince Walt Disney. Could he help her out by pulling a rabbit out of a hat in a short time frame?

This time, Walt's staff was certain he would say no. But he surprised everyone by agreeing to rush the attraction through. He already had an idea that he was sure would work for Pepsi (while providing his beloved Fantasyland with an amazing new E-Ticket.) Joan soon released a flood of funding and Walt Disney Productions would begin planning and construction of an attraction that would overshadow the others immensely- Children of the World.