Press-Republican

August 26, 2012

It's a small world after all

By STEVE OUELLETTE, You Had to Ask
Press-Republican

---- — It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears …

There are few people who enjoy the Walt Disney World theme parks more than I do. I first made the trek to Orlando, Fla., as a small child, and have returned many times since — as a teenager, as a college student, as a grown man, as a parent.

Something about the artificially clean, happy, surreal world of Disney always makes me feel like a kid again.

It’s a world of hopes, and a world of fears …

When friends and family visit Disney, I’m the person they turn to for advice: where to stay, what to eat, how to avoid the lines, which rides to go on, how to meet Tinkerbell live and in person. I am a walking guidebook.

While my love for the World of Disney is unquestioned, it is not blind, and it is not unequivocal. Amid the wonder and fantasy and dreams, there is a horror that has been allowed to survive far too long.

There’s so much that we share, that it’s time we’re aware, it’s a small world after all.

The It’s a Small World attraction is the blight of my Disney existence, a ride far more harrowing and frightening than, say, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Fifteen minutes of pure living Disney heck.

Through proper channels I have suggested renaming it more correctly as the “It’s a Small World Boats of Eternal Doom,” but I have never once received a response from Disney.

For the uninitiated, It’s a Small World is a simple attraction that sends patrons on a short boat ride while hundreds of colorfully dressed Animatronic munchkins chant the “It’s a Small World” song in a variety of languages. Over and over.

Some patrons evidently find the ride “cute,” but it is, in fact, annoying, dangerous and pure evil. The scourge of Disney.

My first experience with the ride came as a child. In those days, instead of unlimited admission, visitors purchased a ticket booklet with five different kinds of ride tickets. The really lame rides were “A” tickets. The absolutely best rides were “E” tickets.

For some unholy reason, It’s a Small World was an E-ticket ride, and despite our dwindling supply of tickets, my mother literally twisted my arm and tossed me into the room with tiny singing Swedish robot children, costing me a ride on Space Mountain and scarring me for life.

I didn’t speak to my mom for four years.

It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world after all.

According to supporters, It’s a Small World was designed in the spirit of world peace and unity — something which I am totally for (except with France; those people just don’t like us). What they don’t mention is that it also passes along subliminal messages, explodes brain cells and attempts to control the minds of its riders.

Is it a coincidence that 84 percent of all It’s a Small World patrons report an uncontrollable urge to buy a mouse ear hat, eat seven Dole Whips and watch “High School Musical” within 12 minutes of stepping off the ride?

Mindless good fun is what amusement parks are for, but there is nothing fun about It’s a Small World. The boat moves slowly, doesn’t spin, doesn’t splash and doesn’t go upside down. The miniature figures don’t interact with you, don’t shoot lasers, don’t tell jokes.

All that happens is that an insipid little ditty gets put into your head and won’t go away.

This summer, I visited the park with some friends and their kids. They all wanted to experience the iconic ride. I begged them not to do it, pleaded with them, threw a costumed Goofy into their path, but they persisted.

Halfway through their joyous ride, the boat stopped, and they were stuck — seemingly for days, though it may have been only hours — with that song repeating itself, again and again.

My friend suffered hairline fractures to her skull, where her brain tried to escape. Her youngest son kept muttering “Muy pequeño el mundo es” until one of the Seven Dwarfs (Doc) sedated him. Her daughter appeared unaffected, but I expect the psychological damage to manifest itself later in life.

Popular Disney attractions have been retired in the past: 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea; Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride; Aladdin’s Diabolical Diaper Genie. This shouldn’t be controversial. Replacing It’s a Small World with a nicely themed rest room would actually improve Disney World and would save a whole generation of children.

Write your congressman. Fly to Orlando and picket the park. At the very least, sign my Internet petition. Despite what you may have heard, this is not the happiest cruise that ever sailed the seven seas.

It’s a small world after all, it’s a small, small world.

Email Steve Ouellette: wouellette1918@gmail.com