When Disney announced its first attempt to to turn one of the park’s most famous rides into a film franchise, audiences were skeptical. Now, 11 years and four Pirates of the Caribbean films later, the studio is hoping to replicate that money-making magic once more with a movie based on It’s a Small World. That’s right: the terrifying lazy river ride with all of those creepy, politically questionable animatronic dolls and the most annoying earworm theme song of all time is the inspiration for a feature film.
Since the film is still in the earliest stages of development, Disney hasn’t revealed what shape the plot of the film will take, but since National Treasure‘s John Turteltaub is signed on to direct, odds are it will be a globe-trotting adventure story. But while an international journey seems like the most obvious plot for an It’s a Small World movie, it wouldn’t be the right story to tell. Because It’s a Small World isn’t a charming ride about the things that people all over the world have in common. No, It’s a Small World is an emotionally scarring experience that has traumatized families for half a century now.
I experienced this trauma firsthand at age four, when my family decided to go on It’s a Small World during our vacation to Disney World. Halfway through our journey downstream, the ride broke down, leaving us stranded in the middle of the river, surrounded by the frozen animatronic dolls for 45 minutes. Unfortunately, the soundtrack was the only part of the ride that didn’t bust, and so we spent that whole time listening to “It’s a Small World” on loop, the dolls appearing more and more menacing as time dragged on. When the ride was finally back up and running, the dead-eyed smiling children representing every corner of the world were no longer charming, upbeat tributes to multiculturalism, but rather threatening vehicles of evil, waiting for the right moment to pounce and kill us all. And I’m convinced that had we stayed stranded for just one minute longer, they would have.
I’m not the only person to have endured such horrors, and I won’t be the last, which is why Disney should capitalize on the decades of pain and psychological scars they have inflicted on unsuspecting tourists by making It’s a Small World into a horror film. Instead of digging deep to craft an international travel adventure with enough story and character development to sustain a full-length film — not to mention the many possible sequels — Disney should simply embrace the terror that is an innate part of the famous attraction. It already has the dark, spooky setting, the creepy circle of children who might actually be murderers and the sing-song rhyme that haunts people for days at a time. All they need to come up with is a protagonist, and the film writes itself.
Of course, the horrific truth about It’s a Small World doesn’t match up with Disney World’s image of the “happiest place on earth,” so it’s highly unlikely that the people will ever get the movie we deserve. But no matter how Disney attempts to cover up the horror that lurks underneath the shiny, happy surface of It’s a Small World, those who have experienced it will know that the evil will always be there, waiting for the right time to make itself known. The truth won’t stay hidden forever.