Where to start? Why not at the spot where the very idea of Disneyland first sprang into Walt Disney’s mind – the Griffith Park merry-go-round.
During an interview in 1963 on the Canadian documentary TV series, Telescope, Walt explained the origins of his inspiration for Disneyland:
“The idea for Disneyland came about when my daughters were very young…I’d take them to the merry-go-round and I took them different places and as I’d sit while they rode the merry-go-round and did all these things- sit on a bench, you know, eating peanuts – I felt that there should be something built where the parents and the children could have fun together. So that’s how Disneyland started.”
The merry-go-round Walt’s talking about is, in fact, the Griffith Park merry-go-round, located not far from the Walt Disney Studios. It was built by the famous Spillman Engineering Company in 1926 and moved to Griffith Park in 1937 from its previous home at Mission Beach in San Diego. Amazingly, it’s still in operation today! Well, not today due to the pandemic, but it still stands as the only operating merry-go-round built by Spillman.
In recognition of the significance of this spiritual birthplace of the Disneyland dream there are no less than three Griffith Park bench exhibits. One at Disneyland (in the lobby of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln), one at the Griffith Park merry-go-round, and one at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
It’s also hard not to notice the similar styling of the green Griffith Park benches with some of the green Disneyland benches that can be found on Main Street.
They say the Disney story all started with a mouse, but the story of Disneyland started with a merry-go-round.