It's a 'World' of Christmas

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Multicultural sensitivity, which long ago made inroads at Disneyland, will take on a holiday gloss for Christmas at the world-famous amusement park.

For the first time since it opened 31 years ago, the park's "It's a Small World" attraction will be altered extensively to celebrate the yuletide season, Disneyland officials announced Friday.

"Basically, we will be adding a Christmas overlay to the existing ride," said Michael Maines, director of entertainment creative development.

The attraction will be closed for the alterations and general maintenance starting Sunday until the opening of the revamped version Nov. 25. It will remain through Jan. 4, Maines said.

Planned enhancements to the 12-minute ride, originally designed especially for small children, include choirs singing "Jingle Bells" and "Deck the Halls" instead of "It's a Small World" and exhibits from various countries illustrating traditional children's games and crafts. Animal topiaries will be outfitted with Santa Claus hats and red bows. The 30-foot clock at the entrance to the ride will have a giant-sized Santa hat.

The building facade also will be lighted "like a giant marquee with tens of thousands of Christmas lights," Maines said. He would not disclose how much Disneyland will spend on the enhancements.

Maines called the decision to make the change "an inevitable evolution" as part of a promotional campaign to "expand our Christmas program."

Originally commissioned by Walt Disney for an exhibit at the 1964-65 World's Fair in New York City, the ride takes people on a boat journey among the continents of the world.

Maines said the company consulted with experts to accurately reflect the holiday traditions of represented countries.

The entire continent of Europe will be illuminated by candles. Scandinavia will have "a large acrylic Grandfather Frost embedded with hundreds of Christmas lights," he said. "There will be ice sculptures."

Recognizing "that Asia is not necessarily a Christian continent," he noted that "we are emphasizing a celebratory aspect of the holidays in that part of the world." People will see "New Year's fireworks and rockets" in those regions, not religious symbols.

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