Disneyland adds wheelchair dolls to 'It's a Small World' ride

Disneyland adds wheelchair dolls to ‘It’s a Small World’ ride

Anaheim, Calif. (CNN) — For the first time in Disneyland’s 67-year history, wheelchair-bound characters are now featured on an attraction.

On Friday morning, two wheelchair dolls were unveiled during the theme park’s “It’s a Small World” ride, a project that spanned more than six months and involved both Disney creatives and the team. accessibility of the park.

The change was part of an ongoing effort to watch the resort “through a magnifying glass” for opportunities for inclusion, said Kim Irvine, Walt Disney Imagineering’s executive creative director for Disneyland Resort.

Jill Houghton, president and CEO of Disability:IN, a nonprofit that works on disability inclusion in business, called the new dolls “a fantastic addition”.

“Dolls participate inclusively alongside their non-disabled peers, which is something we want to see more of, rather than being portrayed as limited or incapacitated due to disability,” Houghton said in a statement to CNN.

She noted that the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed in 1990, “but nothing in that act requires companies to increase their representation.

“Disney clearly sees the benefits of attracting a broader, inclusive audience for everyone. We need to see more of that in pop culture, theme parks and entertainment if we are to be truly representative of the largest minority group in the world. “, said Houghton. said.

The “It’s a Small World” attraction, designed by Disney artist Mary Blair, opened in 1966 in Anaheim, California, after being shown at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York.

The same ride has been added to other Disney Parks around the world, where guests board a boat and cruise through multiple countries, featuring more than 300 Audio-Animatronics characters representing children from around the world .

Irvine said the new additions are in keeping with the spirit of the original attraction.

“What a wonderful story that Walt and Mary Blair, and the original Imagineers, have set up about the children of the world and our unity in bright sunshine – and how we really should rejoice in it together.”

Dolls that are now in wheelchairs were originally standing. Irvine said the same characters with the same clothes were recreated while seated, in wheelchairs designed to match Mary Blair’s style.

One doll is located in the South American carousel scene and the other appears in the final scene where dolls from many countries sing together.

Add “significant things”

The Disneyland attraction reopened on Friday after a brief closure for the addition of these dolls and the installation of holiday decor for the ‘It’s a Small World Holiday’ edition of the ride which will run until early January .

While holiday decor is seasonal, dolls in wheelchairs are a permanent addition.

Dolls with wheelchairs are also set to be added to “It’s a Small World” at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris next year.

But since each station’s version of the ride has a different layout and sets, these new dolls and wheelchairs will be designed with the specific version of the ride in mind.

“I think it’s definitely something the original Imagineers would embrace and find wonderful that we were looking at things like this,” Irvine said.

“We’re always looking to improve our attractions with not only fun things, but also meaningful things. And staying up to date with what’s happening in the world, and most importantly, you know, doing new things.

“I know we never want our attractions to become so predictable that you can ride them with your eyes closed and know what’s going on. We constantly like to surprise you with new things and important things, especially relevant things. .”

The new dolls are the fruit of a collaboration of more than six months.

The new dolls are the fruit of a collaboration of more than six months.

Disneyland Resort/Christian Thom

Erin Quintanilla, Disneyland Resort accessibility manager, said it was a historic moment.

“I feel seen. I feel represented. It’s a monumental moment to have my community in an attraction and represented,” said Quintanilla, who uses a wheelchair. “I cried when I saw them in the attraction.”

Quintanilla said her team had been approached by creatives at Disneyland who wanted to add these dolls. Her accessibility team made sure the look was authentic, right down to the angle of the dolls’ feet on the wheelchair footrests.

“We wanted to make sure it was a person in a wheelchair who moved around independently in life. So we didn’t want the wheelchair to look like a hospital-style wheelchair. You’ll notice in the design, it’s beautifully created to align with a Mary Blair style,” Quintanilla said.

“But there are details on the wheelchair, like having a driving rim so the doll can move through the story in a way that I go through the world. So it’s kind of special to have those exact details. “, said Quintanilla.

Other Disney Changes

New dolls have not been added to the Disneyland version of this ride since 2009.

Around this time, a “Spirit of America” ​​room was added, featuring three Native American dolls and characters from the movie “Toy Story”.

More dolls of specific Disney characters have been added throughout the attraction.

As part of overall efforts to improve inclusion and diversity at its theme parks, Disney recently announced the change of the Splash Mountain attraction, based on characters from “Song of the South”, to a theme inspired by from “The Princess and the Frog”. featuring Disney’s first black princess.

Top image: Disneyland has added dolls that use wheelchairs to the “It’s a Small World” ride.

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