Yesterland “it’s a small world” Holiday

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, January 1998

It’s the 1997 holiday season at Yesterland.

As you approach the familiar building, you hear a familiar tune—but not the tune you expect to hear.

It’s “Jingle Bells”! So where is the maddeningly catchy “it’s a small world” song?


Just wait. You’ll hear both songs, as well as “Deck the Halls.”

The building looks different too, especially at night when 50 thousand colored bulbs outline the features of the façade.

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, January 1998

Façade by day, initial season (1997-1998) of “it’s a small world” Holiday

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, January 1998

Façade by night, initial season (1997-1998) of “it’s a small world” Holiday

Board your “small world” boat. There’s a white wreath on the bow. If all you expect are some Christmas lights draped over the existing sets, prepare to be delighted.

You’ll be overwhelmed by huge arches, holiday greetings in many languages, holiday props, colorful lights, and the finale featuring a massive, snowflake-covered Christmas tree.

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, January 1998

“Peace on Earth” during the initial season (1997-1998)

Almost every scene now celebrates Christmas traditions, New Year’s celebrations, and other global winter holidays around the world.


Disneyland’s “it’s a small world” attraction didn’t change much from its opening in 1966 until 1997. The sponsor changed from Bank of America to Mattel, with changes to signage and construction of a Mattel gift shop at the exit. The façade was given a more colorful paint scheme, inspired by the Disneyland Paris version. (Since then, the façade at Disneyland reverted back to the original colors.) And the classic soundtrack was tweaked. But it was essentially the same ride.

In October 1997, “it’s a small world” closed for more than typical annual maintenance. The Los Angeles Times ran an article about what to expect (“It’s a ‘World’ of Christmas; Theme park: Disneyland aims to boost holiday ticket sales with a Yuletide make-over of the popular ride, which will reopen Nov. 25,” by Jan Herman, October 11, 1997), which included these paragraphs:

For the first time since it opened 31 years ago, the park’s “it’s a small world” attraction will be altered extensively to celebrate the yuletide season, Disneyland officials announced Friday.

“Basically, we will be adding a Christmas overlay to the existing ride,” said Michael Maines, director of entertainment creative development.

The attraction will be closed for the alterations and general maintenance starting Sunday until the opening of the revamped version Nov. 25. It will remain through Jan. 4, Maines said.

Planned enhancements to the 12-minute ride, originally designed especially for small children, include choirs singing “Jingle Bells” and “Deck the Halls” instead of “it’s a small world” and exhibits from various countries illustrating traditional children’s games and crafts. Animal topiaries will be outfitted with Santa Claus hats and red bows. The 30-foot clock at the entrance to the ride will have a giant-sized Santa hat.

Thanksgiving week 1997, the attraction reopened as “it’s a small world” Holiday. Guests enjoyed an experience that was simultaneously familiar and brand new. Disneyland got high marks for skillfully weaving the holiday theme into the famous attraction.

The Holiday version was supposed to end January 4, 1998, along with Disneyland’s other holiday activities and decorations, to revert to its old self. But its run was extended to January 25, 1998 because of its popularity.

“it’s a small world” Holiday has become an annual tradition at Disneyland, returning every year.

Based on the response to “it’s a small world” Holiday at Disneyland, holiday overlays have also been added to Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland. (Magic Kingdom Park at Walt Disney World keeps the same version all year.)

If you were alarmed seeing a Yesterland article about “it’s a small world,” don’t worry. The attraction has been a guest favorite since arriving in 1966 from its original home, the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair. All indications are that the singing children of “it’s a small world” will be around long after their 1964 real-life counterparts have become senior citizens.

The following photos are not from the 1997-1998 season, but they are all from the first decade of the Holiday version.

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2005

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2001

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2005

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2005

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2005

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2007

“it’s a small world” Holiday, Disneyland

Photo by Allen Huffman, 2005


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Updated November 27, 2015.