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Co-owner of the merry-go-round that inspired Disneyland has died

by Samantha Davis-Friedman

The Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round has 68 horses, but only one Julio Gosdinski. On Aug. 7, 2020 the co-owner of the iconic Los Angeles attraction – known as the place where Walt Disney came up with the idea for Disneyland – passed away, and now the future of the famous merry-go-round is uncertain.

Julio Gosdinski and staff at Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round.
Julio Gosdinski, front, and his staff at the Merry-Go-Round.
Photo courtesy of the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round.

Gosdinski became co-owner of the merry-go-round in 2011 when the previous owner passed away and left his share to him. However, his love affair with the attraction started 30+ years earlier when he was still a high school student.

A photo of Diane and Sharon Disney
A photo of a young Diane and Sharon Disney is on display at the ride in Griffith Park in L.A.

Last year, during a visit to the merry-go-round with Adventures by Disney, Gosdinski told us the story of the famous benches where Walt Disney sat on Saturday mornings while his two young daughters enjoyed the ride. It was here, the story goes, that Walt came up with the idea to create a place where children and parents could have fun together. Godinski also revealed why we have him to thank for preserving that important piece of Disney history.

“When Walt was around, there were wooden benches all the way around – we now call those the Walt Disney-era benches,” Gosdinski told us. “One day, the city decided to replace them with cement benches, so we went around the park and found the benches.”

Julio Gosdinski
Gosdinski speaking to an Adventures by Disney group in 2019.

Gosdinski said they were only able to salvage three benches: One is in the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, one is in the lobby of the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln attraction at Disneyland park, and the third is still at the carousel, right where it belongs.

Bench Walt Disney sat on.
One of the benches Walt Disney most likely sat on is on display at the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round.

Although Gerry Hans, president of the Friends of Griffith Park board, said the group is committed to keeping the ride operational, there’s no one who knows the merry-go-round like Godinski, so while the long-term future of the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round may be uncertain, it’s place (and Gosdinski’s) in Los Angeles and Disney history is crystal clear.

The Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round by the numbers:

  • 1926 – The year the merry-go-round was built
  • 1,500 – The number of tunes played by the custom-built pipe organ
  • 93 – The age of the hand-carved horses (though there are a few that are 125 years old, including one Gosdinski named El Diablo)
  • 14 – The miles-per-hour speed of the merry-go-round, though it can reach 25 miles-per-hour (most carousels only go 4-6 miles-per-hour)

Here’s a video of Gosdinski speaking to our Adventures by Disney group, and a point-of-view ride:

Historic Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round POV in Los Angeles

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4 comments

Keith Slepicoff August 9, 2020 - 9:55 pm

Need to make a state historical landmark. Everything changing in this world but let’s not forget about the past

Reply
Kimberly August 11, 2020 - 1:45 am

That is so sad. I went by the Merry-Go-Round about 6 weeks ago and meet Julio. We had a nice long talk about the history and the COVID shut down. What a loss. He was a very nice man.

Reply
Vicki Moen August 11, 2020 - 5:31 pm

Very sad to hear of Julio’s passing. Had the privilege of meeting & talking with him a few years ago – he was so nice to share his time with us. This carousel goes back to my beginning (1947ish) with my grandparents. Prayers that it can continue to operate as link to our history of good times inspite of adversity.

Reply
Mary August 12, 2020 - 10:17 am

So sad and thank you for sharing this story. I was fortunate to meet Julio last year in October while on a wonderful Adventures by Disney tour. He will be missed and I hope someone will be able to save this beautiful carousel.

Reply

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