Featured Attractions

Saturday, May 25, 2024

it’s a small world Part Five: Mary Blair Takes Control

Walt Disney had been a longtime admirer of Mary Blair’s artwork, enlisting her to produce concept art for such films as Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.Walt had long sought to apply her skills to something at Disneyland. The opportunity to do so in a perfect project with Pepsi’s money was too good to pass up. Mary was given the full resources of Walt Disney Imagineering to put something together that would dazzle World’s Fair guests and (hopefully) Disneyland guests in the distant future. Mary began the design process immediately.

There were three elements that had already been decided on and didn’t need Mary’s input to get started. The ride vehicles were going to be boats that would be propelled past the attraction scenes. The main “stars” of the show would be adorable robotic dolls that would perform for the guests. While Mary’s designs would inform how the dolls would be dressed, Imagineers could work on figuring out how to make the dolls move before the costume designs were finalized. Lastly, the music that would accompany the show could be recorded as well.

Mary Blair took control of the design work and quickly oversaw the construction of the set pieces and worked with fellow future Disney Legend Alice Davis to get the elaborate costumes sewn and assembled quickly. Despite the fact that the attraction would be located thousands of miles away in Flushing Meadows, New York, Walt Disney insisted on using the same process used to construct Disneyland attractions: the attraction would be setup on a sound stage in Burbank or Glendale so that he could see how things worked before the attraction was disassembled and shipped back east.

When this happened for Children of the World, the ride looked amazing, the dolls of all nations were adorable, everything seemed okay- except for the sound. While having the dolls sing their national anthems sounded like a good idea in theory- in practice it was a nightmare. Walt Disney was beside himself- with its disastrous soundtrack, his high profile new attraction was not ready for primetime. How could he fix this mess? With the help of two songwriting brothers who he grew to trust with his biggest projects- Richard and Robert Sherman.