Is that what it’s like to be an old timer?
“Cured the Black Plague? Why, I remember when I was a kid, we’d pass stacks of bloated, blackened corpses every day…and we LOVED it! Kids today just don’t understand.”
“These so-called horseless carriages are a plague and a nuisance! In my day we enjoyed quiet streets festooned with road apples, not the blare and clatter of these dreadful machines! These kids today just don’t understand!”
“This Philco with a picture tube may be the latest gadget, but I will never give up the imaginative pleasures of my radio dramas!”
And so on. Well now comes yet another body blow to our memories and a kick in the face to one of the great designers of the last century. Via the Re-Imagineering blog comes word that “It’s a Small World,” designed by the great Mary Blair, is to be “updated.”
Unfortunately W.D.I. has taken ill advantage of the downtime by staking out areas throughout the attraction to place a selection of smiling Disney characters to spice up the proceedings. Imagine a grinning Stitch in Hawaii, a demure Belle in Paris, a Peter Pan in London.
And in one of the most egregious and downright disgusting decisions in Disney theme park history, the gorgeous New Guinea rainforest scene, replete with some of Mary Blair’s most whimsical character creations (a crocodile with an umbrella, colorful birds hatching from eggs) and her drummer children with Tiki Masks on the opposite shore will be replaced with a Hooray for U.S.A sequence.
Hooray for the USA, indeed. On our last trip to Disneyland last July we had the chance to go on “Small World” and were, as always, struck by the unstaunchable mid-century stereotypes that viewed the rest of the world through timeless cliches. England must be a guard at Buckingham Palace, “Arabia”, a kid on a magic carpet, and so on.
But damn it, it’s Mary Blair! This isn’t the first time one of her classic works has been tossed aside. In 1998, some beautiful tiles she designed were simply covered over.
In The Art and Flair of Mary Blair, John Canemaker wrote,
The Tomorrowland murals were not truly permanent: both “disappeared” when they were covered over by renovations in 1987 and 1998. “Mary Blair’s murals were not damaged or painted on,” [longtime Imagineering executive] Marty Sklar notes, “but the decision was made for cost reasons to leave them in place—hidden treasures at Disneyland!”
Other accounts are less optimistic. At least one person owns a chunk of the south mural. And if cost was such an issue, how much care was taken to protect the Mary Blair murals when subsequent murals were installed?
You may think “It’s a Small World” is a joke, but to those who are fans of Blair’s amazing color design and whimsy, this is a sad sad day indeed. PLUS, as the above link points out, the ride was about LEAVING the US, not saying “Hooray” for it.
First Pirates of the Caribbean, now this. Pretty soon it will be Sleeping Beauty’s Magic Condominium.
More at the ASIFA Animation archive, where we first spotted this sad news.