Most people envision Cinderella Castle as the center of Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
They would be incorrect. The park’s emblem is the entrance to Fantasyland, and visible through its doorway, luring tourists past the drawbridge, is Walt Disney World’s earliest attraction, one that was symbolically close to the Disney family.
When asked where the concept for Disneyland originated from, Walt Disney responded in 1963, “Well, it came about when my girls were quite little and Saturday was always daddy’s day with the two daughters.” So we’d start off and attempt to get somewhere, you know, various places. I’d take them to the merry-go-round and take them to other locations, and I’d sit while they rode the merry-go-round. Sit on a bench and eat peanuts, you know. I believed that something should be constructed where parents and children may have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland got its start.”
When Disneyland first opened in 1955, Walt insisted on a more ornate carousel as a “weenie,” luring tourists into Fantasyland and very probably reminiscing his days with his daughters, Diane and Sharon.
The merry-go-round is still in operation at Griffith Park in Los Angeles today.
The attraction was titled King Arthur Carrousel, despite the fact that his animated film “The Sword in the Stone” would not be released for another eight years.
Walt’s crew discovered an ancient, run-down merry-go-round with “excellent bones,” as they say in home improvement. Each hand-carved horse was dismantled and rebuilt, a procedure that was eventually duplicated on a bigger scale for Walt Disney World. For additional aesthetic appeal, Walt insisted on each horse being a leaping steed, thus several of Disneyland’s horses were changed.
When it came time to create Walt Disney World, imagineers explored North America for a grander and more magnificent Carousel to fit the size of “The Florida Project.” In 1967, they discovered what they were seeking for at Olympic Park, a defunct amusement park in Maplewood, New Jersey. What is currently regarded as North America’s largest carousel was set to be demolished. Instead, it was dismantled and sent to Florida for a total makeover.
The attraction had been in Olympic Park since 1928, but imagineers found it was originally built in 1917 as the Liberty Carousel by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company and premiered at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. Liberty was a popular motif in the years following World War I, and remnants of Lady Liberty may still be found if you look closely.
Liberty Carousel was 60 feet in circumference and included 72 horses hand-carved in Maple by German and Italian artisans, as well as two chariots. The horses were a motley assortment of dull hues at the time of acquisition, more suited for Frontierland than Fantasyland. When the paint was peeled away, Disney’s restoration crew was astounded by the amount of creativity and detail that made each horse distinct.
Each horse was painted white, with various colors emphasizing the engravings on each one. Additional horses were acquired and rehabilitated in preparation for the opening in Florida, so that 90 horses could be ridden at the same time in 1971.
Some of the original artists who worked on 1950s Cinderella hand-painted 18 vignettes recounting the story on panels above the riders, substituting scenes of the Old West, for a Disney touch and to connect it into Cinderella Castle.
To keep the ride sparkling, each brass pole is polished on a regular basis. As accents, genuine 14-karat gold leaf and other metals are utilized. If you ever pound your horse while riding, you could sometimes hear one that sounds hollow. Eleven fiberglass replicas of the original horses were created so that Disney’s maintenance crew could repaint and care for these pieces of art on a regular basis. According to an older Disney news release, around 50-60 of the horses are given facelifts each year, which cost several thousand dollars apiece.
Currently, there are 87 horses on the trip. After one of the Liberty Carousel chariots was discovered at a Disney storage in California in 1997, three were removed. It was rebuilt and reinstalled, allowing guests who are unable to saddle a horse to ride, fulfilling Walt’s ideal of parents and children enjoying fun together. On June 1, 2010, Cinderella’s Golden Carousel was renamed Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. Along with the new name came an elaborate and confusing tale about the prince granting lucky peasants the opportunity to ride a mechanical jousting apparatus.
Each horse is assigned a number and a name. The numbers are written on the “bridles.” I remember they used to store the information in City Hall on Main Street for the names. In terms of numbers, there are 2,300 popcorn lights that outline the ride and make it glow at night.
Another significant figure is 8 inches. That is how far off-center the carousel’s base was originally positioned from the castle. While Walt’s brother Roy Disney was always known as “the money man,” he discovered the inaccuracy on a construction tour and insisted on having it taken down and relocated 8 inches, despite the time and price. Nothing but the best for his late brother’s dream, and the carrousel remains at the heart of it all.
Sid Philips is a father of two and a loving husband. He currently resides in Pennsylvania and has been a fan of Disney since his parents took him there in 1980! Sid has visited multiple Disney parks around the world and loves each one!
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