When one of Disneyland’s most iconic attractions reopened on Nov. 11 to reveal its seasonal update, it wasn’t the holiday decor and festive soundtrack that caught people’s attention. For the first time, It’s a Small World — the classic Disneyland ride that debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair — introduced two dolls using wheelchairs.
The dolls were added during the ride’s annual transformation to It’s a Small World Holiday, which is open to guests during Disneyland’s holiday season and runs from Nov. 11, 2022 to Jan. 8, 2023. The dolls will remain when the ride returns to its classic iteration as well.
The New Dolls Are Designed To Foster Inclusivity
The two new dolls were added “to further recognize diversity and inclusion,” Ken Potrock, president of the Disneyland Resort, said in an Instagram post. In the post, Potrock shared his experience riding the attraction with Disneyland Accessibility Manager Erin Quintanilla, who also serves as co-chair of the Enabled Business Employee Resource Group (BERG) that advocates for people with disabilities.
“The experience was moving,” Potrock said. “I want to extend the biggest congratulations to that team as well as @waltdisneyimagineering, Disneyland Resort Enhancement, Animation and Wardrobe for successfully collaborating to bring this important project to life. The authenticity and detail that you all created is quite remarkable, and I am so excited to see how you’ll continue to innovate on inclusion in the future.”
Ensuring Authenticity Was A Team Effort
Walt Disney Imagineers worked closely with Resort Enhancement, Animation, Wardrobe and Enabled BERG to ensure that the updates not only authentically represent how a child independently uses a wheelchair, but also honor Disney Legend Mary Blair’s iconic designs and the attraction’s inclusive history.
“This addition builds on It’s a Small World’s longstanding legacy of diverse representation,” said Walt Disney Imagineering executive creative director Kim Irvine in a Disney Parks Blog post. Irvine is no stranger to updating classic Disney attractions for inclusiveness and cultural sensitivity, having also worked on the recent reimagining of Jungle Cruise.
Quintanilla, who uses a wheelchair, contributed to the practical design of the wheelchair and the dolls’ positioning. “I was able to help consult on the design of the wheelchairs so that the dolls authentically represented those of us who live life on wheels,” Quintanilla said.
But, she told CNN, “We didn’t want the wheelchair to feel like a hospital-style wheelchair. You’ll notice in the design, it’s beautifully created to align with a Mary Blair style.”
And Irvine said, “We designed this wheelchair very much in the Mary Blair style and worked with the various [partners] to create the filigree and floral motifs … to make sure [the design] fit in with the attraction,”
The addition of the dolls marks the first time in Disneyland’s 67-year history that characters using wheelchairs have been represented in an attraction. The characters appear in the ride’s Latin America scene as well as in the final scene that includes characters from countries around the world. Watch the segments where the dolls appear in this Instagram post at @brookegmcdonald.
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“This is the first time someone like me is represented in an attraction at the Disneyland Resort,” said Quintanilla. “It’s a really big deal and this could not have happened without the amazing teams involved.”
Disney plans to add dolls in wheelchairs to the It’s a Small World attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris in 2023.
The Holiday At Disneyland
It’s a Small World Holiday celebrates its 25th anniversary this year and the ride features a number of hidden “25”s as Easter eggs to commemorate the milestone.
Experience the festive fun now through Jan. 8, 2023, at Disneyland Park, along with holiday overlays of other iconic attractions, including Haunted Mansion Holiday and the fan-favorite “Nightmare Before Christmas”-themed overlay of Haunted Mansion during the holiday season at Disneyland.