Walt Finds His Carrousel

It was during this month in 1954 that Walt Disney secured something of royal importance for his Disneyland project – a carrousel. The search for what would eventually become King Arthur Carrousel started with Walt reaching out to Ross Davis, one of the owners of Griffith Park. Ross helped Walt locate a carrousel for sale from Sunnyside Park in Toronto, Canada. The carrousel was handcrafted in 1922 by the Dentzel Carousel Company in Philadelphia.

The Sunnyside Park carrousel had three rows made up of an assortment of animal figures. After it was purchased by Walt, he wanted two modifications made. First, he wanted the carrousel converted from 3 rows of horses to 4 rows to increase the number of figures. Second, he wanted every figure to be a “jumper” horse, where all four feet are off the ground. In order to satisfy that request, Walt purchased some jumpers from Ward’s Kiddyland at Coney Island and George Whitney’s Playland in the California Bay Area.

Not all of the horse figures were jumpers, so any “standers” were transformed into jumpers by removing their legs and carving new ones. The horses were all restored and painted at the Disney Studios.

The upgrades requested by Walt and overall carrousel refurbishment were carried out by Arrow Development, which helped build many of the Fantasyland ride systems. Ed Morgan from Arrow said, “I supervised the dismantling piece by piece. We rebuilt much of the ride, using sturdier materials. We had to replace some of the wild animals on the ride so that they were all horses to fit with the King Arthur theme.” Disney Imagineer Bruce Bushman designed the aluminum canopy that housed the carrousel.

Amazingly, the carrousel will be 100 years old next year!

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