Magic Kingdom carousel has its roots in New Jersey

Posted | Contributed by Jeff

The oldest ride in Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in Orlando, Fla., is not Space Mountain, the flying Dumbos or the Pirates of the Caribbean. It is a classic wooden carousel built outside Philadelphia almost a century ago that, these days, carries the name Prince Charming Regal Carrousel (yes, with two "R's"), located in a brightly decorated pavilion near Cinderella's Castle.

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Jeff's avatar

I had no idea the ride had any history at all. This is a fantastic story. The thing that strikes me about that particular carousel is how flippin' enormous it is. In the peak of summer, you can still generally get on it within a cycle or two at most.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

As a carousel enthusiast, I've always recognized MK's machine as a PTC, but wasn't ever sure which one, or where it came from. The article mentions how the original ride is barely recognizable since it's been Disney-ized, and maybe that's what threw me off. For all I could tell it was a damn good reproduction.

It is a huge machine, four abreast. Memory (and the photos) tell me that the outside row of horses are jumpers, which is rare for a PTC. (many of the larger rides had "standers" for the outside row, staggered in between the smaller, interior horses, giving the rides a very full and busy appearance when they turned). And many rides that had jumpers have since had them disabled so even though the legs are in a trotting position, they are stationary. [Jeff- on your next visit will you look for me to see if the outside horses are actually jumping these days? I'm curious now.]

But what a magnificent ride, really. On visits to MK my friends have practically had to pull me away from it, I could stare at it all day. The rounding boards are so beautiful, even though the shields have been replaced with Disney scenes. And the chariots (usually my seat of choice on a carousel) are spectacular. I wholeheartedly approve of this restoration, and thank god it's value was recognized and it was saved way back then.

Disneyland's ride, the King Arthur Carrousel, is a 1922 Denzel machine (that had one other home in Toronto before it was moved to DL in 1955) and is just as beautiful. It didn't get quite the same overhaul, as a lot of the original Denzel carvings are still there, like the jester shields and mirrors on the rounding boards.

side note: another ride that is deserving of special attention is Six Flags St. Louis PTC #35, 1915. It's also huge and the chariots are enormous affairs pulled by horses. The last time I was there the old girl was pretty worn out, but they're lucky to have it. Next time you're there, give it a look, it's awesome.

side note #2: The article attributes Joyce Carlson, chief imagineer for MK's Prince Charming's Regal Carrousel, as the artist and designer for it's a small world. I always thought it was Mary Blair. Hmmmm.... Maybe Mary gets DL credit and Joyce gets MK credit, I don't know.

Last edited by RCMAC,
Jeff's avatar

Yes, the outside row absolutely jumps. I've been on them!

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

That's awesome, and I hoped so. Thanks.

Anyone hear read "The Vault of Walt" by Disney historian Jim Korkis? He interviewed Isle Voght, the artist in charge of the restauration and relate the full story of the Carrousel. Key points from that book and my own investigation:

- It is a five abreast, originally 90 horses, now 86 horses, carousel. It originally had two chariots, but they were removed and put into "storage". Disney sourced additional Denzel and Parker antique horses to fill out the carousel. One of the two original chariots were discovered in a Disney warehouse in 1996 and it was restored and reinstalled on the Carousel, replacing four horses. As for the second chariot? Still missing and Isle Voght refused to install a fiberglass reproduction on the ride.

- As noted earlier, Tokyo Disneyland Castle Carousel is a fiberglass copy of some of the WDW Carousel. For DLP, Michael Eisner "spare no expense! and bankrupt the park at opening!" attitude went one step further: the inner rows are the WDW fiberglass horse copies. The outside rows are wooden horses sculpted on special order by Pennsylvania artists (the imagineer who was the project manager of the DLP Carrousel did not reveal who). The DLP Carrousel frame and drive was built by Zamperla to WDI specifications

- There is a Cinderella's horse urban legend that was started in the 90's by cast members working the WDW Carousel. The horse in question is a B row horse with a golden ribbon on his tail. According to Isle Voght, she just preserved what the PTC artists had sculpted back then and if she really would have wanted to have a Cinderella's horse, she would have done something special to it.

- Disney did modify one horse to commemorate a character, but at Disneyland. On Prince Arthur Carousel, Jingles, the lead horse was repainted in 2008 to honor Julie Andrews and Mary Poppins.

Last edited by Absimilliard,

PTC made only 4 five-row carousels ever. 2 have been lost, the one from Riverview Park in Chicago is at SFOG, and the Olympic Park Carousel now at Disney World.

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rollergator's avatar

My Chicagoland friends occasionally remind me about us (SFoG) stealing their carousel.

Then I remind them we also took Greezed ViperWave to make them feel better...or worse.

You still have Zoidberg.... You ALL have Zoidberg! (V) (;,,;) (V)

I can trace Dorney's carousel back to my current town near Lansing, Michigan. That, of course was before it was at Cedar Point for years as the Frontier Carousel with the story of the "haunted" horse. Merry-go-round history is fascinating.

Last edited by CPcyclone,

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