To misquote Batman, “Die a favourite, or hang around long enough to be reviled by millions of annoyed children.”
I love the movie “Barbarella”. Why wouldn’t I? Sexy stripping, sci-fi, silly songs and so on. Alliteration aside, it’s a great slice of kitsch/pop/pulp/retro/neo/geo/morpho/mono/prefix…
But the bit that always freaked me out was the scene with the little dolls with snapping steel jaws. That used to give me the creeps. Obviously I’m not the only one: creepy toys and scary kids have been a staple of horror films since day dot, plus or minus the amount of time it took to invent movies.
Some would say “The Haunted Mansion” is the scariest ride in Disneyland, but it could be argued that “it’s a small world” gives it a run for its money.
There is a certain creepiness in the idea that you are witnessing hundreds (thousands? millions?) of small toy children sharing in a collective hive-mind event, repeatedly droning a saccharine-sweet ditty in a mixture of languages.
And it seems to be an endless journey around the world. Just when you think you’ve seen the whole vast array of spooky small dolls intoning their fiendish chant, you drift under another bridge and come across another circle of hell.
“The happiest cruise…” or the longest trip?
That aside, as a designer, I admire the aesthetic of “it’s a small world”. Mary Blair’s design is an amazing example of minimalism and colour theory, saying so much with the simplest forms and tones. My favourite parts about that ride is the backdrops and constructions in the background of the miniature singing figures. Icons broken down to their simplest forms all work together into a panorama of colour and spectacle, providing a second layer of interest once your enjoyment of droning dolls has diminished. After all, you’ve still got 15 minutes to go. Better find something to enjoy.
The facade of “it’s a small world” is iconic Disney. Several versions have come and gone, and colour schemes have appeared and quite literally faded over the years in the Californian sun. I prefer the white/off-white/beige/eggshell scheme. It focussing the attention on the geometric patterns and details, the blend of abstract expressions and identifiable representations. And it sits in distinct contrast to much of the surrounding environments, especially in Fantasyland, where blazing colour is the order of the day. The Tea Cups, the Alice ride, Dumbo, Storybook Canal Boats… all brightly coloured and eye-catching. Alternatively, small world gets by on simple gold trims and sprinkles of highlights across a large white vista.
In fact, due to its bright simplistic tone, the facade has been used as a secondary vantage point for the fireworks show. While the fireworks could be viewed from Main Street USA over the castle, they could also be seen from in front of small world, while a video presentation is displayed across the front of the facade.
In bringing the iconic structure of the small world facade together with the elements of The Haunted Mansion, I’ve created the pinnacle of Disneyland creepiness.
It began with the redrawing the face of the Hatbox Ghost in the style of the big smiling face from the small world facade and grew from there. I got to include many of my favourite little touches from the Mansion, redesigning them to fit the style of (or more correctly, a homage to?) Mary Blair.
Colour-wise, the design started off with much more muted tones of purple and green, more in keeping with Mansion colours, but when I came to the final version, it seemed like a better fit to go for strong bright colours.
“Is This Small World Actually Stretching?” is now available from redbubble in a range of shapes and styles: shirts, posters, iPhone cases and even stickers of the grinning Hatbox Ghost himself.
If you’re looking for something that screams, “I just can’t decide what I’m scared of more!!”, then this is the design for you.