I was super excited that Kindle Unlimited had Bob Gurr: Legendary Imagineer: Life and Times – Disney and Beyond as a title I could check out as part of the service. Everyone enjoys Bob Gurr. He is a natural storyteller. I loved his Design: Just for Fun. And he is full of optimism. In fact it felt like a great read to match a rewatch of Tomorrowland with. But in the end, I felt like I read a book that was more Frank Walker than Bob Gurr.
Bob Gurr: Legendary Imagineer: Life and Times – Disney and Beyond by Bob Gurr is the second autobiography offered by the Disney legend. The book starts very straightforward as the author discusses his family, early life, Disney career, and post Disney endeavors. Along with an outline of his life, the author provides topical chapters on his interests including automobiles, gliders, travel and society. The book provides no images and is strictly narrative. And the chapters are often focused on memories and opinions not designs and projects.
Honestly, you need a Bob Gurr book! But the book you need is Design: Just for Fun, if you can get it. For a Disney fan that book is a rich and detailed story of a career including Disney and non-Disney projects. While there are descriptions of his time at Disney and key projects, Bob Gurr: Legendary Imagineer: Life and Times – Disney and Beyond largely lacks this level of detail and is largely musings and opinions paired with thoughts on hobbies. I did enjoy myself learning about gliders through Gurr’s eyes. But I found myself more greatly immersed in the earlier book including discussions of non-Disney topics like his work with Universal and the Olympics. And these are topics that he largely skips over.
My biggest concern with this self-published offering is the need for an editor. While Gurr notes that he follows grammar rules of his own making, these rules do not support his natural storytelling ability. For example, he adds notes in text, which would flow better without notes notation but just being included in his natural flow. And sometimes I as a reader had trouble keeping track of family members especially with some of them sharing a name. And his transitions can be rough, with one paragraph starting with a comment about today’s films lacking cartoon shorts followed in the next sentence by a comment about the draft. And editor would likely have helped smooth out these bump while making the book sound like Gurr’s own natural storytelling voice
What is also odd is Gurr comes off as a pessimist at times, just like Frank Walker. When I think of Gurr I think of curiosity, innovation and change. But Gurr often laments today’s modern life and looks back fondly at earlier times as the good old days. While we all likely romanticize our childhood, Gurr’s tone at times does not feel aligned with interviews and other writings I have experienced. It felt less optimistic than I expected and believe him to be!
Disney fans really do want do to explore the career and thoughts of Bob Gurr. But Bob Gurr: Legendary Imagineer: Life and Times – Disney and Beyond sadly is not as satisfying as Gurr’s earlier out of print and pricey used Design: Just for Fun. This newer offering does not dig as deep and really only gives readers a brush to Gurr’s fantastic career. The book does add more about his hobbies, which help show his whole personhood. But readers may feel like they have an incomplete picture of this great innovator and designer.