When the attraction moved to Disneyland, it changed significantly from the New York presentation since the show building was one-third larger.
Overall, the attraction had the same layout and order, but they might have been changed, or switched, left or right. But, they also added many new scenes. The European section got at least a third larger since it was in the World’s Fair. Rolly Crump also designed a new North Pole area, as well as a Islands of the Pacific area. They had to re paint, re position, re build all the sets from the fair, and add more to the ride.
It was Crump who designed the façade for the Disneyland attraction after Blair’s initial design was rejected by Walt. Crump worked with Blair to get her style in the final façade. It was Walt himself who came up with the idea of the clock and the idea of having 24 characters since there are 24 hours in the day. It was Crump who came up with the idea of the façade being white with gold accents to help with maintenance. While Blair’s rejected idea was filled with bright colors, and such, but was mainly rejected due to its necessity for constant up keep from the California weather.
The attraction opened at Disneyland on May 28,1966 and was sponsored by Bank of America. Besides the Disney and Bank of America dignitaries, there were 36 foreign consular officials, more than 800 members of the press, and the Interntaional Children’s Choir of Long Beach. In addition, a parade of local folk dancing groups and marching bands also participated. Walt Disney joined “children from sixteen ethnic groups” to pour flasks of water from the “seven seas and nine major lagoons” into the waterway for the attraction. The water was authentic and had been flown in at a significant expense from different countries. The gentleman shown with Walt in most of the publicity photos for the event was Louis Lundborg, Bank of America board chair.
This event, known as “Operation Water” was created by Disneyland publicist Jack Linquist, who has never gotten enough credit for his imaginative marketing for Disneyland. He was named a Disney Legend in 1994.
There have been changes in the attraction over the years but they were so subtle that most guests were completely unaware. For instance some figures, like the children in India have undergone costume changes. China was not officially recognized by the United States so was not represented in the attraction until the 1970s when it was added to both the Disneyland and Walt Disney World version.
From opening day, all the way till the late 90s it had no major changes, and just additions, plusses, and up keeps. But in 1997, the ‘its’s a small world’ Holiday debuted to the public, and became an instant hit. The attraction featured colorful holiday lights and featured decorations throughout the attraction as if they were celebrating the holidays. Since then, the attraction has undergone the seasonal overlay yearly. The attraction is closed in late-October to receive temporary holiday decorations inside and outside, and reopens in early-November before the start of the busy holiday tourist season. The overlay has proved very popular and at one point during its run needed the use of FASTPASS machines (which have since been removed). The attraction is the same boat voyage through many regions of the world, though the main theme song is not played fully. Instead, the children sing "Jingle Bells" and a bridge of "Deck the Halls" in addition to the main theme.
The first major change since it was moved to Disneyland began in 2007. The Disney fan, and park enthusiasts had major outcries when it was rumored that the “Amazon” room would be no more, and instead would be replaced with an North American room, as well as the addition of several Disney character figures to be placed throughout the attraction. The attraction went down for an 11-month refurbishment in January 2008, after the “its a small world” holiday 2007 overlay was taken down. And in that time, Imagineers did a major refurbishment on the attraction, painting everything and anything. As well as making the canals for the boats wider and deeper so they wouldn’t bottom out with “heavier” guests.
Small world opened back up in Fall 2008 for the small world holiday, but non of the new additions could be seen in this holiday overlay, as the final new America room, was covered up with tarps and many lights. Once the 2008 overlay was taken down in January 2009, the attraction opened once again Officially in Late January 2009 with the new additions of the new America room, and the 29 Disney characters. Many people have mixed feelings for the additions of the America room, as it seems a bit out of place, but the addition of the Disney characters seemingly blend into the attraction flawlessly.