BACKSTORY (May 28, 1966–Present): In the early 60s, Walt invited Mary Blair back to the Studio to help design an exhibit for the 1964—1965 New York World’s Fair, a boat ride for Pepsi-Cola and UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund). Mary designed the sets for the attraction. She wanted the attraction to appear as if children had put it together, like a giant pop-up book. Most of the set pieces and backgrounds are simple two-dimensional shapes, making it the perfect showcase for Mary’s style of art. Rolly Crump and Marc Davis were also integral players from the Disney team who helped this attraction see the light of day; costumes were created by Marc’s wife, Alice. When the attraction moved to Disneyland in 1966, Mary designed the façade for the show building, which is a composite of many well-known international landmarks. Originally unveiled April 22, 1964 at the 1964/1965 NY World’s Fair in the Pepsi Pavillion. The building was already constructed when the Disney team went to work to create this attraction; once it moved to Disneyland, space was not an issue and the Imagineers were able to add scenes that were not at the NY World’s Fair. Originally “Children of the World,” the concept featured many national anthems playing at once; Disney told the songwriting Sherman Brothers, “I need one song.” Often dismissed as trivial, it was written in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Interestingly enough, Pepsi approached Disney to design this attraction for the fair and sponsored it in New York, but not at Disneyland. Apparently, Pepsi Executives hated it, but the influence of former movie-queen Joan Crawford (herself on the board and the catalyst for talking to Disney in the first place) convinced the execs to go with what Disney came up with.
The outer façade at Disneyland is a gigantic clock. Every 15 minutes the doors below the clock open with a musical “children’s march of nations,” followed by the opening of another pair of doors revealing a set of two large toy blocks that give the current time (hour & minute), and then a bell tolls indicating the time. Exterior has been all-white with gold trim, then in a myriad of pastel colors, next white with pastel accents, and back to all-white with gold trim. Gardens are decorated with topiary animals. Formerly sponsored by Bank of America and Mattel Toys once it came to Anaheim. Samples from bodies of water all over the world were collected and then emptied into the small world canal at Disneyland during the opening ceremonies on May 28, 1966. Antonio Bertini, Disney merchandising rep in Italy, gathered the sample from that country while being supervised by the members of Club Topolino (Mickey Mouse Club). Water was also collected from the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, as well as the Red, Black, and Aegean seas.
The tradition of topiaries at the park began with the creations that were sculpted by Disney horticulturalists for the exterior of this attraction. Shrubs are cultivated for the park, taking up to ten years to form the desired shape.
The 14 min. ride features 400 stylized AA dolls in national costumes singing the title song in different languages. Boats carrying guests visit the regions of the world in separate rooms:
HELLO: greets guests to the attraction, showing different cultural greetings.
SCANDINAVIA/NORTH POLE: dolls representing Scandinavia, song sung in Swedish.
EUROPE: sung in German, English with a British English accent, Dutch, Spanish, French and Italian, as well as having a yodeler in the Switzerland section.
ASIA: song sung in Japanese.
AFRICA: rhythm marked with drums then sung in English.
LATIN AMERICA: sung in Spanish.
SOUTH SEAS: sung with underwater gurgling mermaids for the first section, and traditional Polynesian versions of the song for the rest of the room.
NEW GUINEA: a small dark room with a rainforest scene and native drummers.
FINALE: with representatives from all cultures dressed in white versions of their native costumes and singing in English in unison. A cowboy and American Indian standing together are the only dolls during the ride that represent the U.S.
GOODBYE: different postcards and parting phrases from different cultures.
In 1967, Mary Blair designed two massive murals for Disneyland’s Tomorrowland, with children playing and smiling together, to remind guests that tomorrow will be built by the youth of today. Unfortunately, in the intervening years, that mural was covered up and damaged in the process. Mary created another large mural for the Walt Disney World Resort in 1971. Located at the Contemporary Resort Hotel, the 90-foot-tall mural is a stylization of the American Southwest culture and the Grand Canyon. Mary passed away in 1978.
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