Melbourne, FL (Florida Today) -- Half a century ago, Walt Disney staged a worldwide sing-along, and that calls for a celebration.
Disney's classic "It's a Small World" boat tour, with its colorfully costumed cast of audio-animatronic dolls, turns 50 this year — along with that catchy tune in multiple languages.
"As we get a little older, we potentially get a love/hate relationship with the song. Yet, everybody knows it. And it brings a smile to people's face when they sing it," said Duncan Wardle, Disney spokesman.
On Thursday morning, Walt Disney World Resort cast members from the countries of Epcot belted out the iconic song in front of Cinderella Castle during a "live global sing-along" on ABC's "Good Morning America."
Then at 2:45 p.m., Space Coast Disney diehards who drive to Magic Kingdom can join the "curbside chorus" and sing before the 3 p.m. Festival of Fantasy parade, said Rick Sylvian, Disney spokesman.
Park musical groups also will perform the familiar refrain during Thursday's scheduled appearances, Sylvian said.
Also in tribute to the song is what Disney is calling the first-of-its-kind online global sing-along. Fans can record videos of themselves singing the catchy tune at SmallWorld50.com, where many renditions in multiple languages are already playing.
"It's a Small World" debuted as one of Walt Disney's commissioned attractions at the 1964-65 New York World's Fair. But an early version of the exhibit required an audio overhaul.
"When they did a first walk-through of what this model might look like, they had dolls singing their own national anthems — in 24 different languages. Well, you can imagine what that would sound like," Wardle said.
"Walt turned to the Sherman brothers (Academy Award-winning composers Richard and Robert) and said, 'Look, I need a song about world peace. I need something about unity. I need something about brotherhood. And I need it now,' " he said.
" 'Oh, and by the way — it has to be sung by every language in the world very easily,' " he said.
"So Richard and Bob went away and came back with the song, which Walt loved. He renamed the attraction. No longer would it be 'The Children of the World.' It was 'It's a Small World,' " he said.
The Walt Disney Co. will donate $150,000 to UNICEF to mark the 50th anniversary, plus $1 for every video and virtual doll created on smallworld50.com, up to another $100,000.
" 'It's a Small World' has inspired hundreds of millions of people through its timeless theme," Tom Staggs, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman, stated in a press release. "Every moment of every day, there are Disney guests enjoying 'It's a Small World' somewhere around the globe.