“It’s a world of laughter…” Having first popped up at the New York World’s Fair in 1964 then relocated to Disneyland, followed by opening at four additional Disney theme parks around the globe, “it’s a small world” remains one of Disney’s most iconic attractions, though guests tend to have a love/hate relationship with the lengthy and earworm-implanting boat ride. That contradiction has opened Walt Disney’s famous tribute to the children of the world to a constant barrage of ridicule over the more than five decades since its debut.

Why is “it’s a small world” so easy to make fun of? You’d have to ask the creators of the five following television series, each of which took the time to spoof the happiest cruise that ever sailed.

1: The Simpsons – The Little Land of Duff

Duff beer for me
Duff beer for you
I’ll have a Duff
You have one too

In the classic fourth-season The Simpsons episode “Selma’s Choice,” Marge’s sister takes Bart and Lisa on a trip to local theme park Duff Gardens, named after Homer’s beer of choice, which ends up being a sort of cross between Busch Gardens and Disneyland. There’s a Duff Beer Hall of Presidents (complete with a rapping Abraham Lincoln), the Washing Machine ride, and of course the Beerquarium (home of “the happiest fish in the world”).

But the main attraction for Disney fans at Duff Gardens is the Little Land of Duff attraction, which directly parodies “it’s a small world” by having hundreds of animatronic dolls sing in repetitive unison, only this time their song is about drinking beer instead of international harmony. During their ride, Bart dares Lisa to drink the water underneath the boat and the result has Lisa “seeing the music” in the park’s take on Disneyland’s Main Street Electrical Parade.

2: Rick and Morty – It’s a Small Small Intestine

It’s a road of wonder, a trail of food
It’s a pathway to break up the bad and good
It’s a tube that digests
And then sends out the rest
It’s a small, small intestine

Mad scientist Rick Sanchez’s adventures with his grandson Morty take the Back to the Future-inspired pair to all sorts of crazy alien worlds and alternate dimensions, but one first-season Rick and Morty episode’s sci-fi antics take place within the body of an ailing elderly homeless man. “Anatomy Park” sees Rick creating a microscopic theme park inspired by human biology, and when things inevitably go horribly awry, Morty must be shrunk down and injected into the park to help address the problem.

Attractions in Anatomy Park include Bladder Falls, the Haunted Liver, and the Cerebral Cortex Carousel. And beyond the obvious Jurassic Park influence, Anatomy Park also includes direct Disneyland homages like Pirates of the Pancreas (don’t worry, it’s not whitewashed like its real-world counterpart), Spleen Mountain, and yes, It’s a Small Small Intestine. That’s what I call edutainment!

3: The Muppet Show – It’s a Small World

It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small world after all
It’s a small, small world
(repeat)

This example doesn’t change the lyrics or melody to the song at all, but is simply a riff on the ad-nauseum nature of the ride itself. The Muppet Show closed out a third-season episode hosted by British comedian Spike Milligan with a tribute to “it’s a small world” and, as Kermit introduces it, a “parade of the nations dedicated to one of our very favorite countries: Disneyland.”

The Muppets in the sketch mimic the repetitive movements of the “small world” animatronics and condense the ride’s wide-spanning multiculturalism by cramming just about every nation into one scene, while Milligan interrupts with some probably-insensitive caricatures of several nationalities. Is this 1979 performance a satire of Disney’s frequent use of stereotypes, or does it give in to the use of those stereotypes itself? Either way, Sam Eagle is probably right when he protests, “You are making a mockery of this song!”

4: Family Guy – It’s a Tiny World

It’s a tiny, tiny world
It’s a tiny, tiny world
It’s a tiny, tiny world
It’s a tiny, tiny world

If Seth MacFarlane’s animated sitcom Family Guy is known for anything, it’s known for its pop-culture references. Naturally, this earmark extends to Disney and its theme parks, and the list of allusions from throughout the show’s nearly twenty-year history would be far too long to include here. But one fourth-season episode, entitled “The Courtship of Stewie’s Father,” involves patriarch Peter Griffin taking his megalomaniac infant son to Walt Disney World.

During their visit, Stewie gets snatched up by Disney security and installed into the “it’s a tiny world” attraction, where he is forced to sing among other imprisoned children. Peter rescues Stewie and sets all the other kids free, drawing the rage of former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, who attempts to rip out Peter’s heart in the spirit of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

5: MAD TV – It’s a Small World: Revenge of Satan’s Undead Dolls

It’s a world of terror, a world of pain
A world of dolls who will eat your brain
There is no time to yell
Here come Barbies from hell
We are small, undead dolls

The sketch comedy series MAD TV ran for fifteen years on the FOX network and, much like Family Guy, became best known for skewering popular culture, often by mashing two ideas together, such as in an early parody called “Gump Fiction.” In the wake of Disney theme park ride-based movies like Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and The Haunted Mansion, the 19th episode of MAD TV season nine contained a sketch envisioning a feature film based on “it’s a small world”.

In the fake movie trailer, stars Johnny Depp (as Jack Sparrow), Ellen DeGeneres, Eddie Murphy, Dakota Fanning, and Clay Aiken– as played by MAD TV cast members– happen upon an “international village” with “a bunch of cute dolls everywhere” who are “dressed in costumes from all nations.” The sketch takes an oddly horror-inspired turn when the dolls begin violently attacking the celebrity impersonators, but the MAD TV writers also get a couple digs in at the ride in question, including the one criticism most commonly (and ultimately ironically) repeated over and over. “Let’s sing it again, and again, and again!”

 

Mike has been fascinated by theme parks and Disney all his life. He has worked in the entertainment journalism field since 2015, after spending a decade as a film projectionist at one of Hollywood’s most prestigious movie theaters. He resides in Burbank, California with his wife and cat.

 

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