On this day in 1931, Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr was born in Los Angeles, California. As Bob likes to say, “If it moves on wheels at Disneyland, I probably designed it.” Bob is among the last living first generation Disney Imagineers and, thankfully, has been very generous in sharing his experiences and knowledge with Disney fans over the years.
Bob studied industrial design at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles . He was hired by Ford Motor Company in 1952 after graduating but left shortly there after to go into design business for himself. In 1954, Bob was hired as a consultant for WED (the predecessor to Imagineering) to help design the Autopia cars. According to Bob, here’s how he met Walt for the first time:
“A few weeks after starting with Disney, a group of us were huddled around an Autopia chassis and this old guy walks up, unshaven, funny short tie and Roy Rogers-style western belt. I thought this was the father of one of the night guards. We talked at great length about the car. When this guy walked away, everyone said, “See ya, Walt.” I thought, “Was that Walt Disney?” So I was never formally introduced. He was just another person in the midst of the conversation. And it was not until my third week, when Walt asked me questions about my books on car design, that we officially met.”
After being hired full-time by WED, Bob completed countless designs for Disneyland attractions. In 1957, he worked on the design of the Viewliner, a futuristic train that Bob designed by cutting a ’54 Oldsmobile 88 in half and narrowing it by removing the center section that housed the radio. The seam in the middle of the windshield is evidence of Bob’s split and rejoin design.
When Walt, Joe Fowler, and Roger Broggie finally identified a viable monorail technology made by Germany’s Alweg, Bob was asked to help design the exterior of the locomotive and passenger cars. According to Bob, “So I sketched that up, made illustrations of it, took it over to the Animation Building. Walt took one look at that thing, tapped on it, and said, ‘Bobby, can you build that?’ And stupidly I said ‘Yes.’ Then I found out later that I had drawn some parts that were almost impossible to fabricate. So that was a lesson — don’t say yes too quickly unless you are quite sure that you can make these things work!” The monorail cars were built at the Disney Studios by Bob and other WED employees.
Bob’s Imagineering career included work on the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, the Matterhorn Bobsleds, and mechanical work developing Audio-Animatronic technology. Bob left Disney in 1981 and privately consulted on projects that included the T-Rex animatronic figure used to film Jurassic Park, King Kong figure at Universal Studios and the pirate ship at Treasure Island in Las Vegas.
Bob has been honored with a Window on Main Street, U.S.A., above Disney Clothiers, Ltd.
In an interview after his retirement, Bob was asked what makes a great Imagineer. To which he responded, “A person that truly is curious about everything, especially things they don’t know anything about and are not truly interested in.”
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