The day before "it's a small world" reopened at Disneyland, I had the opportunity to go on a ride-through of the attraction with Imagineer Kim Irvine, art director for the "small world" project. What follows is a transcript of Ms. Irvine's comments while we were going through the attraction.
(Ms. Irvine was asked what changes were made.)
Kim Irvine: "A big part of it is the lighting, our WDI lighting designer worked really hard to come in and enhance the sets with colors that actually boost the color instead of putting it...You know there's a tendency if you're a painter to try to put complementary colors but it usually turns things brown. You push the colors with these wonderful hues that accent what was there - it makes a huge difference. When you turn the show lights off, and go into work light, it's 'Oh, what happened', you know it just looks so much better.
"Have you noticed how bright and fresh it looks as well? The team did a great job of doing an overall lighting, repainting and reglittering."
(On deciding which Disney characters to use and where.)
KI: "Well, we looked at the ones that were done for Hong Kong and then we pared them to the ones we felt comfortable in the existing scenes because we did not want to change. So England was perfect for Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan. Cinderella fit perfectly in France. So there's stories that were written in all of these different countries - Pinocchio in Italy - they just fit. That's how we picked.
"With the Disney dolls and with America, it was so easy to seamlessly blend that in with the existing ride since it is about all the different lands, and all of those stories come to us from all of those different countries. And you know [someone] used to tell me research is 90% of your job. Looking back into Mary's files -- everytime we've done anything in here we've looked closely at all of her original concept art. That was actually done collage-style, torn tissue, they're just beautiful, you know how bright her color choices are. She had done a lot of illustrations for Cinderella, for Peter Pan, for Alice in Wonderland, so it was easy to see how her style would lend itself to doing the Disney characters."
"I refer back to Marty's original guide of small world, it has a lot of really great pictures in it that are historic. And also, we have a thing called image browser, we can look at pictures that have been taken through the years of an attraction to see if anything is missing."
"We ourselves feel very responsible for making sure that we do things carefully, in reverence to the original attraction. In anything we do down here at Disneyland being the on-site WDI Team, the charge is kind of to keep things relevant and keep improving the park and especially when we have these really long rehabs, trying to come back with something new. John [something] was my mentor and he impressed on me constantly, you gotta keep refreshing things - put new color schemes on Main Street, add things to the attractions - that's what the park is all about."
"That doesn't mean change the story. But that's what we have to do is make sure that we're sticking to the story, we understand exactly what the original intent was, when we add something it needs to seamlessly fit in like we tried to do here. And I do understand when fans are concerned because like I said, if I just heard the basics of what was happening I'd be concerned too."
"Can you hear the little musical threads? Some people hear them and some people don't. It's like a hearing test. It was meant to be subtle."
(While passing through the China scene.)
KI: "By the way, there's a recording there of Chinese instruments that was done for Hong Kong - it doesn't have anything to do with Mulan, but we were able to insert it in here because it's so beautiful. Next time you go by it has all the Chinese instruments that we never had before."
(Asked about the appearance of the Disney characters and what influenced the design decisions.)
KI: "Tony and I looking at them and trying to decide what needed to happen so that people would recognize it as the character and how well did that fit in with the Mary Blair style. So Flounder happened to look perfect in that mermaid scene with all of the other fish - his styling fit perfectly."
(Asked about Donald being the only member of the Fab 5 that's in the attraction.)
KI: Yes, that's the Three Caballeros - it was a perfect story for South America.
(Regarding the new "Spirit of America" scene.)
KI: "Tony found an original piece of art that Mary did, a scene of America, the American west with kind of a Sedona hills behind it, all torn tissue paper, cowboys and Indians in it. She had always intended to have it in there - we're the only [small world] attraction that doesn't have an American representation - there's one in the other theme parks. And she has the cowboy and Indian in the finale - it's meant to be the coming together of all of the countries in that one space, so to me that's further indication she would have been happy with having them there."
"The farmland, the America scene in other parks, is pretty large, especially Paris. So we took the pieces that we thought would fit in this room the best and would represent America the way other countries see us. And they are such happy scenes - I think it's how a child would depict America, cowboys and Indians and farmland."
"I love how Mary put a different kind of sun or moon in almost every room - that's why we added one to America, too - that little half sun, half moon."
(Re: changes in the "Goodbye Room".)
KI: "You know, it was originally all white and silver and gold with colored light and those days it was those aluminum Christmas tree lighters it was just a rotating color gel, so with today's technology we were able to put in this amazing light changers, with that dazzling finale like Fred Astaire would be dancing around in his white suit."
"The lavender blue color scheme I worked on that, too, so I feel responsible for that. Right after we opened Walt Disney World and they did their finale in lavender blue and it was pretty, but it doesn't have the same kind of finale effect that this does."
[Something about adding back the sun] "...he'd been gone for a long time. At the [World's] Fair they had a big banner that said 'Come Again"' so we thought the [Farewell] banner was a great way to end that room rather than just a square hole."
(Asked if she is pleased with the results.)
KI: "Yes. I think it turned out beautifully with as many people and hands that have to work on these things, trying to keep the vision in every discipline's head of what it is that we're trying to work from. I think that's why the tools we use -- being a model, a completely painted model, doing color boards...You know there's a lot of different facets to this design but it really helps communicate to everyone that's going to work on it what the end product wants to look like. Mary's style particularly being so child-like it's almost like you have to paint with your left hand to make it look like her style. Real trained artists have difficulty doing that so they really had to work hard at it."
Thank you to Ms. Irvine for taking the time to ride the attraction and discuss it with us - it was an honor and a wonderful experience!
The previous post in this blog was Disney Cruisin' - The Food - Part 2.
The next post in this blog is Disney Cruisin' - Is it a Good Value?.