The idea came from George Kalogridis, and what I particularly like about the Small World Celebration is the fact that, in terms of festive seasons, all the countries of the world do not necessarily have the “Father Christmas” celebration. So, as we’re an international park, thanks to “it’s a small world” Celebration we can touch upon all the countries.
There’s Saint Lucy who’s very important for Scandinavia or Saint Nicolas (Sinterklaas) who’s very much more important than Father Christmas for many of our Dutch, Belgian and German friends. There’s also Diwali for India, Hanuka for the Jewish community, the feast of the moon for Africans, Epiphany for all the European and South America Hispanic countries and, of course, Christmas.
There will also be costumes inspired by the Rio Carnival, because that celebration begins on 21st November and runs right through till the end of February. This will allow us to touch on all the feasts which take place during this period, even including the Chinese New Year. What we offer is a representation of all these feasts and their traditional costumes.
It’s a very important side of our job. We’ve got a great respect for all these different countries. The creative who had managed it five or six years ago, Benna Sims, had contacted all the embassies in order to genuinely research and respect the costumes of each country and to be utterly true to original traditions
In total, 200 dolls are changed and 150 accessories are added. For the representatives of Belgium, for example, we’ve got the Gilles de Binche for which we’ve made small baskets to carry their oranges. We tried to respect as much as possible the existing spirit of “it’s a small world” by staying as close as possible to the original design of each doll. There are some absolutely splendid costumes, sequinned, satiny, with an enormous amount of feathers and fabric more radiant than ever before, because we wanted to bring a very positive spirit to each doll
We also have a great exclusive “first” in that, for the first time, we’ve got the Christmas music of “it’s a small world” Celebration. Before, it was only broadcast in the American attractions and this year we succeeded in getting it to match here and correspond to the sounds of our dolls. There are also lots of lights added everywhere to create a very illuminated atmosphere of feasts.
We’ve been working on it for 4 months with Sandrine Deschamps, our costume creative and Yves Benyeta, from SQS (Show Quality Standard, the department of WDI which checks that all the elements of the parks’ scenery are in harmony with each other and with their original form). I can tell you that in the sewing workshop, when I announced that we were going to bring these costumes out and bring them all to life again, everybody was just delighted! From that, we made an inventory of everything we had and we cleaned everything.
On these 200 costumes, some only had to be altered whereas others had to be completely remade to match the originals, to give this come-back a great splendour. The fabrics were still beautiful, but they didn’t have as much panache as they would if they were new. So we did up some shirts, pants, or even complete costumes, in particular those of Gilles de Binche. They were made of a golden satin material which had badly aged, even though they had been stored well away from light.
Most of all, we replaced many feathers. You’ll notice that there’s an awful lot of feathers, feathers everywhere! To do so, we called on a remarkable feather maker from Paris, in particular to comb them. There’s a lot of hats and an enormous amount of petticoats which flow in all directions. The dolls have rolls and rolls of petticoats. For the English dolls, for example, we went as far as 14 flounces! It’s just splendid!
After this we checked all the costumes, all the wigs, all the hats, then moved onto planning the installation in collaboration with the maintenance services to determine how we could coordinate together to dress the 200 dolls again, whilst other departments dealt with the painting/decorating and lightning.
Overall, it’s such an enormous amount of work that it could have taken a whole year, but we realised it all within just 4 months!
• “it’s a small world” Celebration opens today and remains right through to the New Year.
Originally posted Saturday, 21st November 2009 •