"Children of the World" was the working title of the attraction Walt Disney only called "the happiest cruise that ever sailed" (and never "It's a Small World"). The attraction's tentative soundtrack design featured each national anthem, playing all at once, which resulted in a cacophonous noise. Walt demonstrated the miniature mock-up to his staff songwriters Robert B. Sherman and Richard M. Sherman. As he and the Sherman Brothers walked through Walt said, "I need one song." A single song for the attraction which could be easily translated into many different languages and which could be played in round. The Sherman Brothers wrote "it's a small world (after all)" in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which influenced the song's message. They first presented "it's a small world (after all)" to Walt by singing in counterpoint while walking through the mock-up.
In the spirit of international unity, "it's a small world (after all)" was sung and recorded in various studios around the world - by a church choir in London, TV performers in Mexico City, a school chorus in Rome, and by local children from Tokyo and California.
It is argued that this song is the single most performed and most widely translated song on earth. The song tune and lyrics are the only Disney creations never to be copyrighted, as UNICEF requested, and can be heard worldwide on musical devices ranging from keyboard demos to ice cream trucks, it remains "a gift to the children of the world."
The song being considered annoying by people is referenced in The Lion King, as when Scar assumed the throne of Pride Rock and took Zazu as his prisoner, he made him sing songs to him, preferably those with a little "bounce" to it, prompting Zazu to start singing "It's a Small World", only to be immediately cut off by Scar, who clearly despised the song. Also, in the Kim Possible Movie: So the Drama, Dr. Drakken is shown using a torture chamber, where a man is trapped in a room with singing dolls performing this song.
The song was also performed on The Muppet Show in the Spike Milligan episode, paying tribute to the Muppets' favorite country: Disneyland. The set mimics the Mary Blair-designed sets of the ride, and the characters that are singing the song bob up and down in a manner similar to that of the ride's animatronic figures.
The song, and attraction, are parodied in the My Life as a Teenage Robot episode "The Wonderful World of Wizzly", which beautifully depicts a spoof of Walt Disney World itself. The parodied attraction is called "The World Ain't So Big", which Brad calls a "kiddie ride". After the attraction finishes, Jenny is appalled by the way that park's Cast Members are forcing the robots to do work.