It's always interesting to talk with an author, have them
tell you what they think is the most important part of their new book is.
Because their answer -- more often than not -- will surprise you.
Take -- for example -- Bob Gurr's recently released memoir,
"Design: Just for Fun" (APP - GurrDesign Publishing, May 2012). Just
last week at the Cars Land press event, I ran into this Disney Legend while he
was seated in the open-air patio area at Flo's V8 Cafe. Given that Gurr had had
a hand in the creation in the Disneyland Resort's very first "mountain"
(i.e. the Matterhorn), I asked Bob what he thought of Ornament Valley. Mr. Gurr
was quick to praise the work that WDI's rockwork team had done, saying that
" ... I've already spent a couple of hours out here admiring the view.
Over the past decade or so, I've spent a
lot of time mountain-biking through our National Parks. And the level of detail
here, the sculpting, the colors that the Imagineers used, it's like something
straight out of Zion. They really did a great job of bringing the movie world
of 'Cars' to life."
King Kong's head is winched into place in early 1986 as construction continues on this UniversalStudios Hollywood attraction. Copyright APP - GurrDesign Publishing. All rights reserved
And Bob Gurr, he does know a few things about bringing
things in theme parks to life. Whether it was that 30 foot-tall, 13,700-pound
King Kong animatronic which he helped build for the Universal Studios Hollywood
tram tour and/or that 6' 4" version of Abraham Lincoln which Gurr helped
create for the 1964 New York World's Fair. That project proved to be one of
Bob's biggest channels, since ...
... Lincoln would have thirteen main structural units, all
moving in dozens of directions. This would require a rat's nest of linkages,
bearings, bellcranks, and a ton of monkey-motion doo dads to provide the
articulated motions. These motions would be powered mostly by large pneumatic
servo cylinders. All of this stuff had to fit inside this tall, skinny Lincoln.
Oh, gosh, why didn't Walt want Grover Cleveland.
What Disney's Lincoln looks like on the inside.Copyright APP -GurrDesign Publishing.All rights reserved
That -- to me -- is what made this memoir such a pleasure to
read. Though this Disney Legend has obviously worked on many hugely popular
attractions for the Parks (EX: The Monorail, the Autopia cars, the Submarine
Voyage), Bob is never one to flaunt his resume and/or hog the spotlight. If
anything, Gurr seems to enjoy talking more about his failures than his
successes. Take -- for example -- what happened on July 17, 1955 when
Disneyland Park had its "International Press Preview." Walt had asked
Bob to watch over the two young sons of a very famous actress who had agreed to
take part in the nationally televised opening of this theme park. Which is how Gurr found himself in an Autopia
car with these young rascals as they whizzed around the Tomorrowland track.
The boys pointed (to a car just ahead of us which was
occupied by) a short black guy in an eye patch and hollered "git 'im"
(I thought that this guy was) obviously a friend of theirs. (So) we whacked the
guy clear off of the (Autopia) track and up into the weeds. He gave me a
startled look. I found out the next day it was Sammy Davis Jr. I wanted to
apologize till the day he died, but never caught up with him.
Bob Gurr and friend takes a spin around Disneyland's Autopia track.Copyright APP - GurrDesign Publishing. All rights reserved
Anyway ... Getting back to my meeting with Bob in DCA's new
Cars Land area. As I sat with Mr. Gurr in Flo's V8 Cafe looking out at Ornament
Valley, I told Bob how much I had enjoyed reading "Design: Just for Fun."
And being the humble kind of guy that he is, Gurr was quick to point out the
people like Bruce Gordon, Jeff Kurtti, Doobie Moseley and Carlene Thie who had helped
him pull all of these stories together over the years / helped Bob get his
manuscript in publishable shape.
And (as I eluded to at the start of today's article) I asked
Mr. Gurr what he thought the most important part of this book was. And Bob
without hesitation pointed to the portions of "Design: Just for Fun"
which talked about his troubled childhood.
Copyright APP - GurrDesign Publishing. All rights reserved
"I was a real handful when I was young. I wound up
being expelled from third grade and then being sent to a military academy. A
lot of people these days might of given up on a kid like that. Or at the very
least used drugs or medication to help make a kid like that easier to deal
with, more manageable. I'm just glad that I had relatives and teacher who stuck
by me, who saw some potential in this incorrigible. They're the ones who got me
in environments that had some real structure, where my classroom assignments
were really challenging. Which is was then what made it possible to turn my life
around," Gurr stated. "I wonder if a kid like me was coming up
through the system whether he'd have then had the same chances that I did. Or
if they'd just use Ritalin to tamp that poor kid down."
It's just those sorts of answers which show what an on-the-ball
kind of guy Bob Gurr still is. That this isn't a guy who's obsessed with what
happened 50 or 60 years ago. But -- rather -- that this is a memoir written by
a Disney Legend who is still doing consulting work on interesting
entertainment-related projects to this
day. Who is still regularly being sought out for his engineering experience,
whether it's to create a 30 foot-tall animatronic Godzilla
which was then used
for live action practical effects shots for that 1997 film and/or figuring out
how to sink a pirate ship several times nightly for the show that Steve Wynn
wanted to stage outside of the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino.
A schematic for the sinking pirate ship at the Treasure IslandResort and Casino. Copyright APP - GurrDesign Publishing.All rights reserved
So if you're looking for a book that -- as the sub-headers
on its cover promise -- will take you behind-the-scenes and then show you how
it's done at themed attractions like Disneyland and more, then I heartily
recommend that you pick up a copy of "Design: Just for Fun." Which is
really the next best thing to spending an afternoon with Bob Gurr in the
outdoor patio area at Flo's V8 Cafe, watching as the sun goes down over
Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Awesome! Thank you for today's article. I'm a huge Bob Gurr fan and I didn't even know about this book until I checked your site today. I just ordered myself a copy, so thank you again!