Sunday, January 31, 2016
With Bob at Club 33 in 2012
We first met Bob Gurr at a D23 getaway at Smoke Tree Ranch in 2012. While Tim went off to get a beer, Bob came over, stuck out his hand and said, “Hi! I’m Bob Gurr, Disney legend.” We’ve chatted with him a few times since then. Most notably at an exclusive Christmas event at Disneyland’s Club 33 and then at the first Van Eaton Disney auction, where Bob marveled that he couldn’t even afford to buy his own drawings. He then handed me his business card.
We’ve also heard him speak several times as part of Disney conventions, etc. Bob is a wonderful raconteur, telling funny and fascinating stories about creating Autopia, the Monorail, the Matterhorn bobsleds, and other rides for Disneyland. (His motto: “If it moves at Disneyland, Bob Gurr probably designed it.”) I would go just about anywhere to hear him speak.
Last night was even more special than usual. Bob was the guest of honor at a fan event in Santa Ana and so had the entire evening to himself. He relayed how he was hired in 1954 to design the Autopia cars less than a year before Disneyland opened. The cars were stylish, but by the end of the park’s first week, all but two were inoperable, prompting Bob to ask Walt to hire a repair crew! Like much in life, early Disneyland just sort of came together along the way.
During the Q & A, Bob debunked the notion that Disney was the first person to ride the Matterhorn. After watching a successful run of the bobsleds filled with sandbags, Walt turned to Bob and said, “Gurr, you designed it, now you ride it.” Luckily, the bobsleds worked!
He also allayed one audience member’s fears of the Monorail ever jumping its tracks. Trains, he explained, run by touching their tracks less than an inch. There’s no way the Monorail could ever jump a track that’s 2.5 feet tall.
When asked what Walt would think of all the changes made to Disneyland over the years, Bob criticized those who try to second-guess what went on inside Disney’s head. “I worked with the man for 12 years,” Gurr said, “and never knew what he was thinking!”