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New “it’s a small world” Dolls Brought to Life by Teams of Imagineers and Cast Members

By Sasha Azoqa

Just in time to mark the 25th anniver-sary of “it’s a small world” Holiday, the beloved Disneyland Resort attraction welcomed two new dolls in wheelchairs to further recognize diversity and inclu-sion. After all, the “happiest cruise that ever sailed ‘round the world” has been an iconic celebration of children from various cultures across the globe since its inception.

“This is the first time someone like me is represented in an attraction at the Disneyland Resort,” said Accessibility Manager Erin Quintanilla, who also serves as co-chair of the ENABLED Business Employee Resource Group (BERG) that advocates for people with disabilities. “It’s a really big deal and this could not have happened without the amazing teams involved.”

Walt Disney Imagineering performs ongoing reviews to make updates that can help better reflect the world around us. “This addition builds on ‘it’s a small world’s’ longstanding legacy of diverse representation,” said Kim Irvine, executive creative director, Walt Disney Imagineering.

From design to installation, Imagineers worked closely with Resort Enhancement, Animation, Wardrobe and the ENABLED BERG. “We designed this wheelchair very much in the Mary Blair style and worked with the various [partners] to create the filigree and floral motifs … to make sure [the design] fit in with the attraction,” Irvine said. Disney Legend Mary Blair is known for her distinctive artistic style used throughout the attraction.

The doll represents a Latin American child in a wheelchair and is featured in both the Latin America region and finale of “it’s a small world.”

“I was able to help consult on the design of the wheelchairs so that the dolls authentically represented those of us who live life on wheels,” Quintanilla said, proud of her work to bring authenticity to the art, which is part of what BERGs do at the resort.

From the bend in the child’s knee to the push rim on the back of the wheels, each component authentically represents how a child independently uses a wheelchair. “It’s also critical that the dolls move just like everyone else in order to be fully inclusive,” Quintanilla said.

As the ENABLED BERG provided an authentic voice, Resort Enhancement team members collaborated on the wheelchair design.

“I approached this project through research to understand how someone accurately uses a wheelchair,” said Park Decorator and Designer Cassandra Siemon. “It’s important that all of the right people and teams are included in the design process. It became important that we all wrote this story together.”

Welder John Cunningham was the lead builder and described how impact-ful working on a project like this was for him. “It’s fascinating for one thing because it’s a challenge. There’s never been another wheelchair to work with, so we had to build it from scratch,” Cunningham said. “It’s not just decorative; it’s symbolic. And I felt that a little bit when I was working on it. It’s something I’ll always remember as one of those Disney moments.”


“It’s always amazing to see a project develop from concept design to the final installation,” said Walt Disney Imagineering Producer Michele Hobbs, who was an ongoing part of the process. “It is so meaningful for Walt Disney Imagineering and our Disneyland Resort cast members. We know our guests will find it equally incredible.”

Disney Parks anticipates adding dolls in wheelchairs to the “it’s a small world” attractions at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Paris in 2023.

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