Disney fans may have a love/hate relationship with this iconic Fantasyland tune, but there is no debate on the historical value of the classic Disney song, “it’s a small world.” The song was recently inducted into the Library of Congress as one of 25 recordings to be preserved for posterity.
Officially released in 1964 by The Disneyland Boys Choir, the song would first be heard by thousands of Guests the same year at the New York World’s Fair. The theme of the 1964-65 World’s Fair was “peace through understanding,” so Walt Disney had originally planned to feature audio with multiple different national anthems for the nations featured in the attraction.
When this concept failed since all of the different anthems did not work together as Walt had hoped, he commissioned the talented songwriting duo, Richard and Robert Sherman. The Sherman Brothers took Walt’s initial thoughts on the song and simplified it with a focus on his instructions that he wanted it to be able to be translated easily into many languages.
The title of the song, and the attraction, ironically came from a random comment. Disney Imagineer Harriet Burns shared that while working on the project Walt was talking to the Sherman Brothers and at one point said, “it’s a small world after all,” and the comment stuck. The Sherman Brothers ran with it and originally wrote “it’s a small world” as a ballad, until Walt asked them to liven it up resulting in the hit song we hear on the attraction to this day.
With the recent induction into the Library of Congress, “it’s a small world” will be preserved as part of the National Recording Registry alongside the likes of presidential speeches, and songs by Nat King Cole, Queen, Alicia Keys, and more.
You can learn more about the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress, and see which other recordings were just inducted along with “it’s a small world” here. And, the next time you find yourself tiring of the song while visiting the Magic Kingdom- just think, you’re experiencing a valuable piece of recording history!