Small World grand opening at Disneyland – this day in 1966

"It's a Small World" at Disneyland
“It’s a Small World” at Disneyland

On this day, May 30, in 1966, people from all over the world joined together under the golden sun at Disneyland for the opening of it’s a small world. The group included children performing groups from America and abroad, and more than 50 consul generals, consuls and vice consuls, representing nations worldwide. Amongst the opening day festivities was a phone call between Walt, who was at Disneyland for the dedication, and Disneyland Ambassador Connie Swanson, who, in keeping with the international theme, was in Sweden, to be heard on the loud speakers via an international phone call. Connie told me in an interview, “I opened it from Sweden. I was over in Skansen which is a cultural amusement park in Stockholm, and I was with the Minister of Communication, Olaf Palma and when I said the dedication words in that office in Sweden it went on the loud speaker. I could hear Walt saying, ‘There’s some difficulty, we can’t get it through,’ and I thought, ‘Oh dear, here I am in Stockholm with the press and this Minister of Communications’ and the line is going down, so I just read my script as I was asked to do.” Another aspect of the festivities was the brainchild of Jack Lindquist who told me in an interview, “We needed something to open the attraction. Walt was going to be there and Louis Lundborg, the chairman of Bank of America, and I came up with the idea of going to Disney reps all over the world and saying, ‘Send me a bottle of water,’ and they did a great job. Pretty soon my office had about 15 different bottles. Water came from Thames, Seine, Amazon, Danube, Nile, Volga, Rhine, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, among others. To me, it was just a symbolic way to open the ride. Here was water from all over the world, and we got kids representing those countries to pour some water into the moat. It was symbolic and it worked fine… and it was cheap. It also gave me an opportunity to get to know the Disney reps around the world.” In his dedication speech, Walt said, “I’d like to welcome all of you to the dedication of it’s a small world, and I’d like to thank all of these wonderful children who have performed here to make these dedication such a success. Thank you children! Beautiful children! When we completed it’s a small world for presentation at the New York World’s Fair, we felt that we had accomplished what we’d set out to do. We wanted to foster a better understanding among nations of the world by showing the dress, the customs, the language, the music and a little of the culture of our neighbors around the world, and we wanted to show it to be a very happy one. I think it’s safe to say that having fun has universal appeal.”