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Imagineer Kim Irvine talks about “it’s a small world” changes

Disney Imagineer Kim Irvine was just on KCRW’s design and architecture show. She talked about changes coming to “it’s a small world” and the fan uproar surrounding said changes. You’ll probably be able to find an archive or transcript of the show at the KCRW site in the next day or so.

First, Kim Irvine was introduced as having been an Imagineer for 36 years. She trained with Mary Blair and has a total reverence for the attraction. She’s also in charge of the upgrade.

Irvine was asked by host Frances Anderton to describe the attraction and Mary Blair’s vision for the attraction.

Irvine was then asked if the Disney dolls are being added to the attraction. Irvine’s response was “the Disney doll thing as described [in the controversy] is not at all what’s happening.” But she didn’t deny that characters were being added.

In fact, Irvine described how they would take the Mary Blair dolls and add an Alice and a white rabbit in Mary Blair style right into the England scene. Unfortunately, Irvine wasn’t pressed on details about whether this was just a new costume for the doll or something else? I guess we’ll wait and see.

The host also asked if characters from modern films would be put in the attraction to promote current films. Irvine denied that. But ‘modern’ wasn’t defined (is that anything after 1989? 1992? 2006?) and ‘promotion’ is certainly one goal of adding characters from Disney films.

The host then asked Irvine to assure us that the essence and character of the ride will be maintained. Irvine replied, “absolutely.”

While it was nice to hear Irvine describe the changes herself–she obviously has a passion for the attraction–the changes themself weren’t described very coherently. Are the child dolls just getting Disney costumes or are these dolls completely different looking from the dolls currently in the attraction so they have more of a “Mary Blair” style? Will the character dolls stand out or be hidden in the scenery? What exactly is the point of adding characters? How does that fit with the attraction’s theme? These are pressing questions I would have liked an answer to.

There was one more interesting quote from Kim Irvine when talking about maintaining Disneyland, “The guests own this place. This is their park and we just take care of it for them.” And as far as guests worrying about the change Irvine said, “If they didn’t care then I’d worry.”

That was the end of the interview, but the host left us with one last interesting tidbit. Irvine said that no firm decision has yet been made on adding an America scene. Whether they’re reconsidering this scene based on fan input or really haven’t decided yet, I certainly hope they don’t go through with it. “it’s a small world” is America’s gift to the world, not a chance to toot our own horn. And it’s certainly not a good signal to send to plop America down where the rainforest used to be.

It sounds like guests who believe that adding any characters to the attraction is in bad taste and not keeping with the theme and mission of “it’s a small world” will get a chance to see their fears come true. But there’s some hope about them not adding the America scene. Well the song does go “it’s a world of laughter, a world of tears. it’s a world of hope and a world of fears”.