Disney Interactive recently drew inspiration from the colorful ride to create an animated series that follows the adventures of six international friends. The series is complete with a new opening song written by legendary Disney composer Richard Sherman himself, and aims to teach new languages and customs to little ones. The result is as vibrant and endearing as the ride we all know and love from childhood (make sure you watch the full series, new episodes are available every week).
As part of the series’ goal of representing cultures from around the world, visual development artist Katia Oloy created the concepts for each character’s design, paying specific attention to the details of each child’s costume. As the children travel the world in their hot air balloon, their outfits change to match the country they visit that day. Similarly, Katia’s research has taken her on a (figurative) journey around the world by way of fabrics, accessories, and traditions in clothing for each of the countries in the series.
“Scotland was one of the first episodes, so I began doing research into textures, types of fabrics, even skirt lengths based on their different activities” Katia describes of her design work. She wanted the children to be more than just cute, and was particularly concerned with the accuracy of their costumes based on where they came from, and what they’d be doing in each episode.
On to Japan, Katia learned what colors and types of clothing would be worn based on the activity and occasion. “Japanese culture has rules for what you wear and when,” Katia explained. These restrictions and rules helped guide her designs to be as practical and authentic as possible.
Katia’s research also took her to the it’s a small world ride itself at Disneyland, where she photographed the children to achieve a similar look and style for the series. Luckily, the Disneyland archives maintain a vault of all of the materials, swatches, accessories, buttons, and jewels used in the it’s a small world costumes; even dolls need new outfits from time to time. Katia got to look at these to gain inspiration for the costumes in the series.
Some of Katia’s costume research and inspiration wasn’t unlike what fashion designers do when they begin a collection. “I ripped pages out of fashion magazines and created collages of the children,” essentially creating mood boards out of her findings to achieve the look of the finished series.
All of the hard work and careful attention to detail resulted in the beautifully designed costumes you can see each week in the series. Here’s a look at the first episode which takes the children on an adventure to India: