Book Review at Yesterland: Design: Just for Fun by Bob Gurr Yesterland

 
 
Book Review

Design:
Just for Fun

by

Bob Gurr


Foreword by
Martin A. Sklar

 
 
Reviewed by
Werner Weiss
June 15, 2012

Bob Gurr’s first book, How To Draw Cars of Tomorrow (by “Henry Gurr”) was published in 1952—which was 60 years ago. He followed up with other books, including Automobile Design: The Complete Styling Book (by “R.H. Gurr”) in 1955. And now in 2012, we have Design: Just for Fun (by “Bob Gurr”).

His books in the 1950s were about cars—and so is his new one. But this one is also about Main Street vehicles, parking lots trams, monorails, wheeled bobsleds (and their track), flying saucers, Audio-Animatronic Lincolns (the president, not the car), track-propelled Lincolns (the car, not the president), PeopleMovers, Omnimovers, Jules Verne-style submarines, king-size King Kongs, sinking ships on the Las Vegas Strip, and various other things with wheels (and some without).

Actually, Gurr’s books in the 1950s taught design and technique. His new book is about a lifetime of experience, with entertaining stories, eye-opening history, lessons learned, and some fatherly advice.

Book Review at Yesterland: Design: Just for Fun by Bob Gurr

Designed by
Michael Aronson
Lost Boys Design

216 pages
hardcover
8.5" x 11"

APP-GurrDesign
Publishing
2012

ISBN
9780615553470

Gurr sets the stage by devoting a few pages to his childhood (expelled from third grade), his college education (automobile design at Art Center School on a General Motors scholarship), and his brief pre-Disneyland career (car stylist for Ford and a few other jobs). It helps us understand Gurr’s nature.

Book Review at Yesterland: Design: Just for Fun by Bob Gurr

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2009

Disney Legends Marty Sklar, Bob Gurr, and Don Iwerks at the first D23 Expo

When it comes to the adult Gurr, this is almost entirely a professional autobiography. At one point, he mentions his wife. I seem to recall one or two mentions of children. And Gurr sometimes reveals some details about himself (enjoys travel, likes sashimi). But this is not a book about the personal side of Bob Gurr.

While on the subject of what this book is not, it’s also not as much of a picture book as I would have expected considering its title and its large format. Many pages have one or two well-chosen pictures, but many other pages have none. The vast majority of the space in this book is devoted to text, not pictures.

Autopia at Disneyland, circa 1956

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1956, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Autopia cars at Disneyland, circa 1956

About two thirds of the book deals with Gurr’s Disney career, which began in 1954 when Gurr was just 23 and Disneyland was under construction. His Disney employment ended in 1981 when EPCOT Center was under construction.

The book is organized as 65 short chapters, which are more-or-less chronological—although a chapter about the Las Vegas Monorail (2004) inexplicably is positioned right after the chapter about the original Disneyland Mark I Monorail (1959).

Autopia at Disneyland, circa 1956

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1956, courtesy of Chris Taylor (This Yesterland.com photo is in the book.)

Disneyland Hotel Tram, circa 1956

There are more than a half dozen chapters about the Autopia. We learn that Gurr was sometimes invited to the traditional Sunday dinners at the family home of his friend Dave Iwerks, whose dad was Ub and whose brother was Don. Gurr had no idea that Ub Iwerks was Walt Disney’s original partner going back to Kansas and had single-handedly animated the first Mickey Mouse cartoon. He could not have imagined that three future Disney Legends were having dinner together.

Ub told the young auto stylist about a little car that had a chassis but needed a body.

Yes, the first Autopia car. The rest, as they say, is history—or we could say the rest makes a terrific book.

Book Review at Yesterland: Design: Just for Fun by Bob Gurr

Photo by Charles R. Lympany, circa 1959, courtesy of Chris Taylor

Back of Monorail Blue at Disneyland

Although Gurr was a car stylist, not a trained engineer, Walt Disney either didn’t know or didn’t care. Walt trusted Gurr to tackle ever-more-complex engineering assignments.

Book Review at Yesterland: Design: Just for Fun by Bob Gurr

From U.S. Patent number D215313 at Google

Drawings for United States Patent for Mark V Autopia car

Bob Gurr was up to the challenge.

Universe of Energy show cars at Epcot

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2007

Universe of Energy show cars at Epcot

In 1981, Gurr’s career with Disney came to a close. Here’s how he describes it in the book:

I opened my mouth inappropriately in a staff meeting only to find myself with a new invitation about a month later. “Seek a career in another company.” A few days later, GurrDesign, Inc. was founded. Marty Sklar put it this way as he introduced me at the 1999 Themed Entertainment Association Awards banquet in Beverly Hills to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award; “Bob says we fired him, we say he quit, either way, it was time for him to leave.”

Gurr worked on dozens of other projects after leaving Disney, including some more work for Disney as an ouside supplier. As I read the final third of the book, I kept thinking, Wow, Bob Gurr did that too?

Pirate Ship Battle at Treasure Island Resort & Casino, Las Vegas

Photo by Jon Sullivan, 2007 (public domain image)

Pirate Ship Battle at Treasure Island Resort & Casino, Las Vegas

I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book. If you’re interested in Disney park history and themed entertainment, this is a must read.

There are a few annoyances. Occasionally text lines are cut in half by pictures, making them hard to read. Also, there are instances when the same sentence or even entire paragraphs are repeated a second time within a few pages of their first occurrences. But these complaints are minor, and they’re certainly not reasons to avoid the book.

Two editions of Design: Just for Fun by Bob Gurr

image reduced from BobGurr.com

Two editions of Design: Just for Fun by Bob Gurr

Design: Just for Fun by Bob Gurr is available from BobGurr.com. There are two editions—the red collector’s edition (limited to 1,000 signed, numbered copies) and the regular blue edition.

The bad news is that pre-order customers snapped up all the red edition books. The good news is that the blue edition has the same content, same size, and same quality—and is still available (for now, at least).


Finally, you might enjoy these Yesterland articles about attractions and transportation that benefitted from of Bob Gurr’s designs:


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© 2012 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated July 6, 2012.

Image of front and back cover of Design: Just for Fun by Bob Gurr: Courtesy of Bob Gurr.
 
Disclosure per FTC guidelines: Werner Weiss was sent a copy of the book Design: Just for Fun, Collector’s Edition for review. Mr. Weiss does not receive any financial consideration from APP-GurrDesign Publishing or the author of the book.