“It’s a Small World” is a catchy song played continuously inside the famed Disneyland attraction. Written by the Sherman Brothers for the ride’s debut at the World’s Fair, it’s so catchy that some people can’t stand to hear it, fearing they’ll be stuck inside the ride, glued to the floor, and forced to listen to it for the rest of their lives. But, I say that’s selfish thinking because it doesn’t consider the fate of the dolls who’ve been stuck in the ride for the last 60 years.
Let’s stop thinking about our own musical anxiety and consider the plight of these dolls. How many times have they heard “It’s a Small World”? It’s a tough question, which boils down to a much less clickbait-y title: How many times has the “It’s a Small World” song played at the original Magic Kingdom in Anaheim, California?
Let’s get to work and figure out what these dolls inside have been subjected to.
First, we’ll assume the song plays continuously for 24 hours because this is reported to be the case, and even if it’s not, the pre-opening and after-closing time of an average 16-hour day would yield 18-20 hours anyway, so assuming it plays for 24 hours is safe. Second, we’ll assume the song is 3 minutes long; even if it’s a tad shorter, this extra bit allows for some time during the day when the song doesn’t play due to ride announcements and other pauses (most of which the song still plays through). Lastly, we’ll assume Disneyland operates 365 days a year, which it has for quite some time, not including some shutdowns for events like COVID. We’ll add a COVID adjustment later, just to be safe.
To figure out how many times a doll inside “It’s a Small World” has heard the song, we need three calculations:
- For the first 33 years, there was no holiday overlay or music change, so this calculation is simple: 33 years – 35 days per year for yearly refurbishment and accumulated downtime = 15,681,600 minutes = 5,227,200 plays.
- For the next 27 years of operation, we need two calculations: one for non-holiday time and one for holiday time. These calculations give us 27 years – 65 days for refurbishment, holiday setup, and takedowns, and then we have to subtract another 60 days for the time the holiday song plays (which includes “It’s a Small World” but not at a 1:1 ratio). This gives us 9,331,200 minutes or 3,110,400 plays.
- The last calculation is for 27 years at 60 days a year for the holiday song = 2,332,800 minutes divided by 9 minutes for the average length of the holiday loop before “It’s a Small World” repeats, which is 259,200 plays.
- Last our COVID adjustment. Disneyland was closed for about 412 days which equates to a loss of about 200,000 plays.
In conclusion, I can say with complete accuracy and confidence that if you were an original doll inside “It’s a Small World” in California, you would have been subjected to listening to that wonderful Sherman Brothers song approximately 8,396,800 times and counting.
Indeed, it really is a world of tears and a world of fears.