It's A Small World

I‘ve talked before about my great admiration for artists and designers who are especially adept at using unexpected combinations of colors. In their hands, a cluster of swatches isn’t just a palette—it’s an entire universe. When we visited Disneyland last month, I was very excited at the chance to fully immerse myself into the work of Mary Blair, who art directed many early Disney cartoons and was the creative genius behind the It’s A Small World ride. Unfortunately, we totally had a National Lampoon moment:

The ride was closed, but at least I got to fawn over these Mary Blair-esque trash bins.
Mary Blair-esque trash cans!

As it turns out, ABC was filming its Christmas special at Disneyland, which threw a wrench into my carefully planned itinerary. I’m a fan of mid-century children’s book illustration and cartoons, and the night before our visit, I’d made a list of all the attractions still in the park that were there when it was originally opened in 1955.

Disneyland Map

Most of them were located in Fantasyland—but that’s where most of ABC’s location shoots were taking place. The drawbridge in front of Sleeping Beauty’s Castle as also inaccessible. BOOHOOOHOO WAH.


I stoically wiped away my tears, grimly determined to have a good time despite the ruination of my carefully crafted plans. We took a spin on the Tea Party cups and stared at flying Dumbos:

Tea Party
Tea Party
Tea Party

I loved the retro-futuristic look of Tomorrowland, where Space Mountain Ghost Galaxy was still running. It combined three of my favorite things—ghost, galaxies and the exciting threat of projectile vomiting—and was by far my favorite ride at Disneyland. It was even better than Star Tours.

Disneyland Tomorrowland
Star Wars
Star Wars

I liked Star Tours a lot more when I was little and thought that small children were being forced to wear the R2D2 and C-3PO suits all day. It gave me something to aspire to (curse you, automatons, for stealing my dream job!).

Space Mickey

I nearly had a heart attack on Pirates of the Caribbean when I saw this banner until I realized that the letter “b” was being obscured by a wench’s head. I mean, I always thought the attraction was surprisingly ribald, but not that ribald.


The Mark Twain Riverboat is one of the oldest attractions in the park. Its maiden voyage was Walt and Lillian Disney’s 30th wedding anniversary.

Mark Twain Steamboat
At Cafe Orleans, my brother ordered what our waiter called “the magical meat-flavored doughnuts,” or beignets stuffed with ham and cheese, topped with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and served with a raspberry dipping sauce.
Cafe Orleans

I tried to stay healthy by sticking to the seafood crepe, but my good intentions evaporated as soon as I lay eyes on the garlic fries:

Cafe Orleans
Cafe Orleans

Despite being denied access to It’s A Small World by the cruel overlords of ABC, my family and I had a great time. I mean, Disneyland is just so weird. It’s very manufactured (obviously), but the rides are so gorgeously designed and built and of course I’m very taken with the retro element (which is why I have no interest in Hong Kong Disneyland or any of the other newer parks).

I don’t know when I’ll get a chance to go back. It probably won’t be for years and years, but I already have our next itinerary planned out: I’m going to hand whatever kids we have by then to my parents and then head over to Downtown Disney for an all-day margarita fest. And then, when I’m good and tipsy, I’ll get on It’s A Small World and REFUSE TO LEAVE. Yay!