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Orange Bird Photo Hunt


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"it's a small small world" [ PART 1 ]

Who loves theme park models?? We do! Join me as I build a scale model of a portion of Disneyland's beautiful "it's a small world" exterior. 

While I was building a tiny Jungle Cruise model, my wife suggested I model part of her favorite attraction, "it's a small world". I figured such a model would require many different fabrication processes... which would make for a good model-building tutorial... which is something I've wanted to do for a while... so here we are.

First, I decided to create a tiny passenger boat using a process I'd never tried before– 3D printing. I built a 3D model in Google Sketchup (free version!) then exported the file to Within seconds I had a price quote for each of the many materials offered by Shapeways (like plastic, steel, and even gold). I chose "White Strong & Flexible Plastic". This particular model at this size came in at just over $18.00.

After a few business days (which felt like FOREVER), the tiny boat arrived in the mail. Basing my color selection on an old photo of an actual "it's a small world" boat, I painted the 3D-printed boat with two shades of pink plus some black for the bumper. 

I found a pack of unpainted HO-scale figures by Model Power® at my local hobby store which I then painted with regular old craft paint.

They fit!

The layered cut-out look of Mary Blair's "it's a small world" facade called for some laser cutting. I drew each layer in Adobe Illustrator then separated the layers before sending them to be cut. I found a guy nearby with a laser cutter in his garage who offered to cut the designs into 1/16" clear acrylic for about $30.00.

Laser-cut pieces are cut with great precision and are well worth the cost. Cutting these by hand would have been a big old pain in the neck. No thank you.

A quick check to see if everything is here.

Now it's time to peel away the protective paper... But only the portions that need texture.

The protective paper serves perfectly as a mask, when cut accordingly.

You'll notice the real "it's a small world" facade is made up of both smooth flats and textured flats. About half of this piece of facade needed texture. A quick coat of textured spray paint did the trick.

Next, all protective paper needed to be removed.

I then made a simple oak box to contain the model.

The flume was a cinch to construct. I used Evergreen Scale Models® sheet styrene and styrene strips (modeling must-haves) and Plastruct® Plastic Weld solvent cement (my favorite solvent) to join the styrene pieces together.

According the Evergreen package, "Unlike wood or other materials, styrene parts are joined by bonding with a solvent. Parts are assembled by merely holding them in position and applying a small amount of solvent to the joint. Use a small brush and apply the cement very sparingly– only a little is required to make a joint. The cement will be drawn into the joint by capillary action, softening the mating surfaces so that a fast bond, as strong as the styrene, is formed."

It's recommended that this sort of styrene structure be air brushed or spray painted, but I brushed on craft paint with a normal 1/2" flat brush and it turned out just fine.

The same process of joining styrene together was applied to the clear acrylic pieces.

A block of green high-density floral foam is cut to form the hill between the flume and facade. More about this in Part 2.

A quick, temporary assembly of existing pieces brings the model to life. 

I then sprayed a coat of primer onto the acrylic.

Then two coats of white spray paint.

We're about halfway through the model-making process. You might be happy to know that this sort of thing requires less artistic ability than most people assume. It requires some know-how and a bit of practice, but really, most people can do what you see here.

Stay tuned for Part 2.


Related posts:

Tiny Jungle Cruise Model
Tiny Submarine Voyage + PeopleMover Model
EPCOT City Model [Part 1]
Working Splash Mountain Model
Mechanizing a Miniature Main Street Electrical Parade
Mars and Beyond Robot
Swiss Family Treehouse Model

Reader Comments (20)

GREAT POST! I've got to try this. At least to some degree.

August 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTL98H8R

Wow!! I love this. And I love the links at the bottom. I wish Disney put more of their models on permanent display.

August 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterTimTom

Mitch... More of these kinds of articles please! Nice to see detailed steps and commentary on your art. I enjoy these kinds of posts the most!



August 25, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterblairjj

First, where do you have the time to make this great things? ;-). What software are you using? You do great work and I am looking forward to more of your posts.

August 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike Pierce

Please finish the EPCOT City Model!!! I've been dying to see it!

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSpaceship Earth Commander

Looks great so far!

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Imbordino

You are breaking my heart, I still haven't finished the jungle cruise.

August 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJerry F.

So much awesome. Can't wait for the next installment!

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

WOW.. I just bumped into the site and this was the first post I see... Amazing. You have inspired me to do the same thing.. I can think of so many little scenes.. More tutorials, they are great..Thanks so much for this.

August 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteraelandry

I always wondered what I could do with a 3D printer. Model building. Nice work on this model and lots of great ideas. I look forward to part 2.

August 31, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMRaymond

Fantastic! I love your mini slices of Disneyland series. They're so intricate and have such great detail. They're down right adorable.

Thank you for taking the time to document the steps of fabrication and the methods used; that makes it all the more interesting. Looking forward to part 2. Keep up the great work!

September 1, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAlex G.

Thanks, everyone!

September 5, 2014 | Registered CommenterMitch

just out of curiosity does your wife still work at disney? :)

September 23, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterkay

You are killing us here .....Come on with part 2 already!

October 20, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRobert

Oh for goodness sakes! Drop the other shoe already!! Where is PART 2?

October 27, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterK. Stovall

Amazing, Mitch! This is my first time visiting one of your posts. I look forward to seeing the finished model, as well as checking out your other posts.

November 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRick Jaspers

Part 2 - Anytime soon?

I like this site, however, updates and new content is far an few inbetween.

December 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKurt

Sea Save Foundation Annual Online Charity Auction is auctioning off the chance to win a lunch meeting With Fintan Burke, Technical Director at Walt Disney Imagineering.
Bid now at:

December 13, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Great work, contacted Shapeways to see if I can get the Its a Small World Boat. Built Main Street and now the Small World ride, Fun, Fun Fun. keep it coming Mitch.

August 27, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGary Hunley

How can I get one of the Small World Boats?

June 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGary Hunley

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