ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Disneyland on Friday added two new characters in wheelchairs to its iconic “It’s a Small World” attraction, saying it wanted a “more accurate representation of diversity around the world.”
The animatronic dolls are among some 300 costumed dolls representing singing children from many nations featured in the attraction. One is in the Latin American section of the boat ride and the other appears in the finale.
The dolls were unveiled on the first day of Disneyland’s Christmas season. Each year, the park adds special holiday decor and Christmas carols to the ride, which opened at the Anaheim park in 1966 after appearing at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York.
The new characters will remain after the seasonal decor is removed sometime in January.
In a statement, Disneyland said it was part of an ongoing effort of enhancing attractions “to reflect more accurate representation of diversity around the world.”
While the ride has special boats designed to accommodate guests who use wheelchairs, it was the first time in Disneyland’s 67-year history that an attraction has included a character in a wheelchair.
It took more than six months to design and create the dolls, with collaboration by a Disney unit in charge of park accessibility.
Erin Quintanilla, manager of accessibility for the Disneyland Resort, said the designs sought to combine authenticity with the colorful, cheerful style of the original standing dolls.
The chairs have details such as a push rim “so that the doll would be able to move through the story in a way that I move through the world,” he said, according to CNN.
“I feel seen. I feel represented. It’s a monumental moment to have my community be in an attraction and represented,” said Quintanilla, who uses a wheelchair. “I teared up when I saw them in the attraction.”
Similar dolls will be added next year to “It’s a Small World” rides at Walt Disney World in Florida and Disneyland Paris.
Disney has added characters to “It’s a Small World” in the past. A new “Spirit of America” scene added in 2009 included Woody and other “Toy Story” characters along with dolls in Native American dress.