A Disney miracle: reminiscing on It’s a Small World

September 7, 2021 — by Cici Xu
Photo by Cici Xu
A decoration for Christmas celebration hangs from the ceiling in the last exhibition room of the ride It’s a Small World.

On June 8, “It’s a Small World,” the attraction where dolls representing different cultures dance and sing in harmony, brought me to tears (I was grateful that everyone had to wear masks so that I didn’t scare too many toddlers away). 

Though it was my sixth time riding the attraction in Disneyland, those 15-minutes triggered one of the deepest revelations that I’ve had in my 16 years.

This trip to Disneyland was my family’s first one since the pandemic began, and we hoped the outside world would not have changed much.  Although I tried to attain this long-awaited sense of normalcy, truthfully, nothing was the same anymore, including the meaning behind “It’s a Small World.” 

After 40 minutes of standing in line, I stepped into a cabin that slowly began to float me through rooms filled with vibrant colors. Some dolls were holding hands. Some were skating. Some were playing their instruments, others waving at each other, standing on the same platform. Every doll was proud and joyful. 

Gradually, the dolls blended into one serene image, which left me in shock. I found myself swallowing hard and trying to digest what I saw. At that moment, I realized that I completely forgot about the possibility  of peace in the past two years. 

During the ride, my mind traced back to lockdown when the so-called China virus rumor started to spread. Then, Black Lives Matter protests began in June 2020. People gathered in front of the City Hall, kneeling for justice. Partisan and cultural divisions widened, the chaos in the election, followed by the storming of the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders, Texas losing power in freak snowstorm, massive droughts in the West, followed by destructive wildfires, etc. Everything seemed to be falling apart. 

The painfulness of every new tragic headline made me resilient, but also emotionally numb. It would be an understatement to say it was depressing that while we can be “dancing” together in unity, people were kneeling on the ground behind police cars, struggling to breathe, breaking windows, sending dehumanizing comments on social media and begging for food and water. It isn’t the mountains and rivers that divide us but our inner hostility and the “bubbles” that we each live in, shielding us away from forming empathetic connections with people around the world. 

I had accepted a world of fading colors, but the ride encompassed a vibrant dream of acceptance that we should all continue to fight for. It’s an idealized world, but one we long for, where friendships and smiles seem so pure and the world united without any trace of war, hunger, and poverty. It really was a dream-come-true. 

“It’s a Small World” is more than a ride that gives you a crash course on all the various cultures across the world. Rather, it resembles the hope that many of us have forgotten — one that we desperately need in order to face life once again after the pandemic. 

There is just one moon

And one golden sun

And a smile means

Friendship to everyone

Though the mountains divide

And the oceans are wide

It’s a small world after all.” 

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