ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Disneyland on Friday added two new wheelchair-bound characters 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 boys from many nations featured on 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 the Disneyland holiday season. Each year, the park adds special festive decorations and Christmas carols to the ride, which opened at the Anaheim park in 1966 after being featured at the 1964-65 World’s Fair in New York.
The new characters will remain after the seasonal decoration is removed sometime in January.
In a statement, Disneyland said it was part of an ongoing effort to improve attractions “to reflect a 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 included a character in a wheelchair.
The dolls took more than six months to design and create, with the collaboration of a Disney unit in charge of the park’s accessibility.
Erin Quintanilla, accessibility manager for the Disneyland Resort, said the designs sought to combine authenticity with the playful, colorful style of the original standing dolls.
The chairs have details like a push edge “so the doll can move through the story the same way I move through the world,” he said, according to CNN.
“I feel seen. I feel represented. It is a monumental moment to have my community in an attraction and represented,” said Quintanilla, who uses a wheelchair. “I cried when I saw them in the attraction.”
Similar dolls will be added next year to “It’s a Small World” attractions 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 featured Woody and other “Toy Story” characters along with dolls dressed as Native Americans.