“It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears” the classic Disney tune reminds us. That’s definitely the case when it comes to the life of the eccentric “Doll Lady” in Midlife Mouse. A former Imagineer, she recalls to Bill Durmer her days working on it’s a small world in this excerpt from Chapter Sixteen, It’s a Big Bus After All:
“Did you ever work with Walt Disney himself?” Bill heard himself ask the question. He sounded like a schoolboy. Doll Lady indulged him.
“I saw him once or twice when he would come ‘round to check our progress. Mostly, we were an isolated bunch. We often joked that it really was a small world, and it seemed we were the only ones in it.” She placed a kindly hand on his shoulder. “That was the beginning — just a bunch of workaholic Imagineers bonding over an impossible deadline and an idealistic dream. You know, when you believe in something, you believe in it all the way,” she said, unconsciously paraphrasing the famous Disney quote. “When we were designing it, I think we had all come to believe that it really could change the world. Then, as we got near that deadline, it was such a mad rush. We had less than nine months to build it, you know. It was all black coffee and gin. We started calling ourselves the Small World Society way back then. If you heard someone say it was time for a proper ‘society lunch,’ you knew it was martini time.” She chuckled at memories she dare not share with Bill or anyone.
“Mary, Rolly, and Marc and Alice really outdid themselves on that little boat ride,” she reminisced, referring (in addition to Mary Blair) to Imagineers Rolly Crump, and Marc and Alice Davis. “You know more than ten million people rode it at the fair alone?”
“No,” Bill said, admiring the old lady more with every word she spoke,
“I had no idea.” He couldn’t bring himself to tell her that millions more people found the ride and its titular song tantamount to torture. Fortunately for him, considering the song was playing without ceasing at that very moment, he had developed a natural immunity to the effects of the Sherman Brothers’ melody.
That immunity, in fact, had allowed him to torture friends and family for years. Whenever someone complained about having an earworm (a song stuck in their head), Bill would begin to sing a chorus of “it’s a small world.” The tune was unfailing in its ability to cure Stuck Song Syndrome — with one small side effect: it would plague the victim for days, even weeks, longer than the song it replaced.
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