Monday, August 22, 2016

Bob Gurr’s Disney History Trail Bus Tour


Tim and I know a lot about Disney history. But there’s always room to learn more, especially when the tutor is Bob Gurr, an early Disney imagineer and mastermind behind Disneyland’s Monorail and the Autopia ride.

Bob Gurr’s Disney History Trail Bus Tour starts at Walt Disney’s first L.A. home, which he and brother Roy built in the late 1920s. From here, we traveled a few blocks to the former site of Walt’s first studio on Hyperion Avenue, where Mickey Mouse and beloved classics, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, were created. Breaks my heart that the site now houses a Gelson's market and parking lot, but some studio "bungalows" still remain.

 Walt's first home on Lyric Avenue, within walking distance
of the now gone Hyperion studio

Our tour guide, Bob Gurr

Historical sign noting location of original Disney studio

Former studio bungalows (above and below) are now residences

Next up: the  Griffith Park merry-go-round, where Disney took his daughters every weekend. There are certainly far more beautiful carousels to see and ride—indeed, Walt thought the grounds were dirty and unspectacular. What’s so special, then, about this one? Well, this is where Walt famously began dreaming of someday building an amusement park that children and their parents could enjoy together. Several years later, Disneyland was born.

 Griffith Park merry-go-round

Carousel horses

Carousel art (detail)

Ticket booth detail (yikes!)

Ridin' the merry-go-round!
After riding the merry-go-round and truly soaking in the historical significance of the place, we hopped back on the bus to Walt’s barn, rescued from the wrecking ball by Diane Disney and now a treasured Griffith Park attraction. Originally located in the backyard of the Disneys’ Holmby Hills estate, the barn is where Walt and his imagineers would go to relax and think up new projects, after riding narrow-gauged trains all day. Again, the historical significance of this relatively modest building cannot be overstated.

 Walt's barn

Walt's trains

Disney cartoon memorabilia
The last leg of the tour focused on the Burbank studio—built after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs—plus the expanded Disney properties in Glendale. Throughout, our tour guide provided fascinating as well as entertaining insights into the history of Disney—both the man and the company—which Bob was lucky enough to experience firsthand. What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday.

The building where Disneyland was designed and realized

The MAPO building—so called by the imagineers, because
it was erected using profits from the movie Mary Poppins. The
People Mover and 3d iteration of the Monorail were built here. 

Grand Central Air Terminal, L.A. area's first intercontinental
airport, recently renovated by Disney as office space 

Landscaped grounds around the old terminal—so
thrilled to see it all looking so beautiful!

One of the Glendale campus gates

Main gate to the Burbank studio

The Seven Dwarfs holding up the Disney admin. building

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