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Miller: It's still a 'small world after all'

April 29, 2013|By Michael Miller
  • Richard Sherman at the Newport Beach Film Festivals annual Another Evening of Disney Rarities program Sunday.
Richard Sherman at the Newport Beach Film Festivals annual…

They're words that echo at the back of my consciousness, as deep as an embedded memory or a recessive gene:

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears

It's a world of hopes and a world of fears

That simple tune with dozens of children's voices singing along, cranked time and again over my plastic Fisher-Price record player:

There's so much that we share that it's time we're aware

It's a small world after all

Sunday night, I sang those words along with the man who co-wrote them. The Newport Beach Film Festival's annual "Another Evening of Disney Rarities" program, which screens obscure items from the studio's vault, ended this year's offering with an in-person surprise: an appearance by Richard Sherman, who sat at a modest piano below the big red curtain and plowed through snippets from "Mary Poppins," "The Jungle Book" and other classics that he helped to score.

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I know some people who carry their Disney obsession well into adulthood, and though I applaud their spirit, I'm not among them. When Sherman sang "Feed the Birds" or "The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers," I couldn't remember much more than a few basic notes. But when he ended his set with "It's a Small World (After All)" and invited the audience to join in, my lips took on a life of their own and started forming lyrics I thought I had forgotten decades ago:

There is just one moon and one golden sun

And a smile means friendship to everyone

Come on, you know them too:

Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide

It's a small world after all

Oh, what a night. And it got even better than that. But first, let me describe the show.

Last week, when I interviewed co-host Don Hahn for a preview story about the Disney program, he intentionally kept mum about most of the items on the schedule. He mentioned a Broadway rehearsal clip for "Newsies" and a behind-the-scenes look at the recording of "The Little Mermaid," but otherwise said he wanted the audience to be surprised.

So my wife and I attended the show at the 1930s-vintage Lido Theatre, and I brought my notepad in case of any unexpected moments. There turned out to be quite a few. After Mayor Keith Curry gave an opening speech, Hahn and co-host Dave Bossert stepped before the curtain to serve as emcees, punctuating the film clips with clearly rehearsed banter that was still amusing (as when Hahn explained that a ragged Elton John demo of "Circle of Life" was used in inner-city parking lots to drive criminals away).

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