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The Truth About Why The Dolls in Disney’s ‘it’s a small world’ Have Hair That Grows

It's a small word cover

I know, I know. This probably sounds like something more befitting of one of Disney’s creepier attractions, like the Haunted Mansion or even the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror over in Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World Resort. I mean, you don’t really expect to be reading about something as sinister as those charming little dolls that star in one of Disney’s happiest, most beloved boat rides of all time having hair that actually grows, right? And not only does it grow, but it continues to grow each and every year. That is the alarming truth of the matter, and because it is so, it garners that every one of these precious little dolls (and there are around 300 at each Disney Park version of the ride) consistently undergoes a routine “haircut” on an annual basis. This is to ensure that they all remain looking their very best for each 10-minute ride presentation they put on for Disney Guests daily.

Interior of It's a Small World

Credit: Disney

Now that you know the stories aren’t just elaborate urban legends but are, in fact, a chilling reality, you’re probably more than a little confused. Why do the dolls have hair that continues to grow? How is it even possible? They are just inanimate dolls, right? To better understand the story behind the growing hair, it may be helpful to learn more about the history of the attraction itself and how these dolls actually came into being.

Up Close look at Small World Doll

Credit: Disney

Related: “it’s a small world” Animatronics Have Hair That Actually Grows!

History of Ride Explained

 Before “it’s a small world” ever came to any Disney Park, it was created specifically for New York’s World Fair back in 1964. Originally sponsored by the Pepsi-Cola pavilion, the attraction was created in order to benefit the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Walt Disney himself personally oversaw all the details behind this wonderful representation of harmony throughout the world and the idea that children are the same everywhere.

Pavilion sign during New York's World Fair

Credit: Bill Cotter

Related: 8 Amazing Facts About it’s a small world

Following a two-season run for “it’s a small world,” the original attraction was brought to Disneyland Park in Anaheim, California. It officially opened to the public there on May 28, 1966. Years after that, the attraction was replicated in order to bring a version of it to Magic Kingdom Park, just in time for the grand opening of Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida, in 1971. Other Disney Resorts the world over eventually followed suit, and now you will also find existing versions of the “it’s a small world” boat ride at Tokyo Disneyland, Disneyland Park in Paris, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

New York's World Fair 1964

Credit: Yesterland

 Related: PHOTO: ‘it’s a small world’ Sees Light at the End of the Tunnel

 How Was It All Assembled?

It’s probably pretty imperative to know just how everything came together for designing this attraction, including how these small, performing animatronic dolls that are so representative of the world’s children were all assembled. That is, after all, where the great mystery lies in them having hair that grows.

Performing Dolls

Credit: Disney

Related: 9 Amazing Facts About “it’s a small world!”

Well, as it goes, Walt Disney called on some of his best people in order to help make this attraction come together as perfectly as it did. There were, of course, the Sherman Brothers who wrote the iconic “It’s a Small World (After All)” theme song that gets played more than a thousand times a day.

Sherman Brothers

Credit: D23

Related: A Tribute to the Sherman Brothers and Their Enduring Legacy

There were also two remarkable women who were directly involved on a more aesthetic, design-oriented level. You may have heard the name Mary Blair mentioned a time or two. She was known to be one of the Walt Disney Company’s most celebrated artists/designers, with so many projects to her credit. In fact, Walt Disney called on her personally to help come up with the overall details and layout for the attraction back when it was still in the conceptual phases.

Mary Blair

Credit: D23

Another influential lady whose masterwork as a seamstress for the Walt Disney Company is nothing short of legendary is Alice Davis. She is the one who not only sewed more than 300 costumes for the dolls but also invested a lot of diligence into intricately studying all the different cultures being represented, so as to accurately create the wardrobe with tradition and authenticity in mind.

Alice Davis with Dolls

Credit: D23

Related: A Look Back at the Iconic Females Who Played a Crucial Role in Disney History

Okay, So Why Does Their Hair Grow?

Did you ever notice how the dolls showcased within the ride appear to have identical faces? It’s another unifying callout in order to drive home the fact that children are the same everywhere all over the world. It also means that the great detail that went into designing the dolls’ elaborate clothing plays a very important role in assigning their individual identities as representative figures. In addition to their clothing, there are other contributors to differentiating their appearances as well. And this includes the intricately woven hair that’s been so meticulously applied to each one’s head. They always say that hair is what really makes the look, and that’s apparently true, given the fact that it so ingeniously adds personality and distinction to each little character.

Dolls are identical except for clothing and hair callouts

Credit: Disney

But now the big question remains about what exactly the dolls’ hair if made out of that, would continue to grow. Did Disney Imagineering from back in the day incorporate some wacky keratin-infused formula when weaving in each follicle of mystery hair? Or perhaps we’re all actually witnessing some real magic at play. Sadly, that isn’t the case, and the reality is far less mysterious and intriguing than we’d all like to think.

The dolls’ hair actually only consists of yarn. Confusing right? The prospect of yarn growing may seem even more farfetched than actual hair growing, but scientifically it actually does make sense. Because “it’s a small world” is a water ride where Guests float along in gently gliding boats through all the elaborate scenes, and the dolls are all perpetually stationed in their respective locations at all times, things can get a little moist. And that is why upkeep is so important. Combine moisture with an enclosed area, and you get humidity. And it is that humidity that causes the yarn to stretch out over time, often leading to a bit of straggling as well. So, during the routine upkeep, Disney Cast Members have the additional duty of giving these dolls routine haircuts in order to keep their dos intact and looking just as fresh and pristine as ever.

Hair of Yarn

Credit: Disney

Related: Not a joke and kinda horrifying: Dolls in ‘It’s a Small World’ attraction have to have routine haircuts because their hair keeps growing

And there you have it, the mystery of why the dolls featured in Disney’s iconic “it’s a small world” attraction all have hair that continues to grow with each passing year. It’s not so creepy after all. In fact, it’s just another way by which Disney delivers on a happily ever after. In this case, however, that happily ever after is solely meant for the dolls.

About Laura

Laura Catherine aka “LC” is a writer who resides in Maryland with her family and several pets. She visits Walt Disney World whenever she can. Additionally, she is a published author of three novels, a children’s book, and has a passion for gardening.

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