Today would have been Bruce Gordon's 60th birthday. As evidenced by the many books to which Bruce contributed or designed, he was as much a fan of Disneyland as anybody. (He did once tell me, though, that in his off time he preferred to talk with people about things other than Disneyland. Shocking!) Although I was just a teenage Disneyland obsessive, he understood and facilitated my obsession, by taking me onto construction sites, helping me and Kevin Yee with our book projects, and even snagging the Swiss Family Treehouse branch which is presently on my kitchen table. Below is what I wrote for Miceage following Bruce's untimely passage on November 6, 2007:
I only knew Bruce Gordon as a fan. Well, okay, I was the co-founder of his fan club, with Kevin Livingston. That story, along with Kevin’s introduction, is detailed below, but I wanted to first recount how I came to know him—first through his work, and then personally, as I bummed around Tomorrowland in the spring and summer of 1998.
I became interested in Disneyland history in 1995, after visiting Disneyland several times a year growing up and getting an Annual Passport in 1994. From the online world I was quickly pointed to Bruce and David Mumford’s The Nickel Tour. The beautiful book captivated me with the plethora of photographs and the bad puns. My original copy of the book is a tattered mess from frequent use, supplemented by a leather-case version (sold when Bruce and David Mumford were down to their final 250 copies) and the second edition.
I found myself a frequent visitor to the construction site of Tomorrowland in 1997 and 1998. Since I had become an online Disneyland fan (and more aware of changes taking place at the Park), the New New Tomorrowland was the first big project I witnessed at Disneyland. Between September 1997 and June 1998, I visited Disneyland around 120 times—more than enough visits to run into Imagineers working on the project!
I first met Bruce on March 12, 1998. Like so many other days, I scouted around Tomorrowland with a still and video camera, looking for the minutest of details which may have changed since my last visit. I ventured to the second level of the Starcade (which always offered a good vantage to see behind the construction walls), and then returned to its entrance to photograph the Observatron. On the Rocket Rods loading platform, I spied somebody I knew, with Bruce Gordon sitting in a Rocket Rod. The next few minutes are a bit of a blur—they spotted me, waved, and then Bruce came down and offered to take me up to the platform to look at the construction. In addition to taking my picture in a Rocket Rod (“It’s from Cast Blast, if anyone asks,” he told me to say), he took me up to the Observatron platform, where I had a great view of the construction!
I was so amazed that he did this the first time I met him, but I saw him often in the next year and a half and he always did this sort of thing. The day after the Moonliner had arrived on site, I was at the Park; I found Bruce in Tomorrowland and I was one of the few people behind the construction wall to see it placed upright for the first time. He signed me into the Moonliner press ceremony the following Monday. On New Tomorrowland media day, I headed down to the Park immediately after school. After thirty minutes of hanging around the entrance, I ran into Bruce—who promptly got me press credentials. Bruce gave me a preview of Innoventions a month before it opened. During early phases of construction for Tarzan’s Treehouse, Bruce even scrambled over debris to present me with a branch from the old tree. (I was, however, on my own for getting that out of the Park!) The morning of the treehouse’s opening, he gave me a sneak preview.
At the time I was only 16/17 and always at the Park, but I never got the sense that he’d rather not have run into me. Moreover, I never had anything he wanted! He took the time to get me into these construction areas and press events because he recognized the same kind of interest in Disneyland that he had when he was younger. After 1999, I didn’t see him at the Park as much, but he continued his generosity. As detailed in Kevin Yee’s article, Bruce provided great assistance with our Disneyland trivia books. The fan club seemed a natural way to show appreciation for one of the most public characters at Imagineering…
One of the things I fondly remember from the spring and summer of 1999 were the online chats Bruce and David did through Disney.com. I have the transcripts for a few of them saved. Bruce once told me that he and David were the only chat guests who were allowed to type their own answers. You can see their personality come through in this transcript from May 4, 1999. I got a special mention near the beginning because I had run into Bruce that day at Disneyland...
Moderator: Our chat with Disney Imagineers Bruce Gordon and David Mumford will be starting in 10 more minutes.
Moderator: Start sending in your questions for them!
Moderator: Are you ready for the event of the year?
Moderator: Hey there hi there ho there all.
Moderator: TRhanks for joining us!
Moderator: Welcome to Disneyana: Behind the Magic.
Moderator: Well, here it is the first Tuesday of the month...
Moderator: and y'all know what that means....
Moderator: Not only is rent due...
Moderator: but also Imagineers/authors Bruce Gordon and David Mumford
Moderator: are our guests.
Moderator: We're broadcasting to you today...
Moderator: LIVE from atop the Matterhorn.
Moderator: at Disneyland.
Moderator: Disneyland Park ®
Moderator: They should be along any moment now to answer those burning questions that you might have
Moderator: ...about what goes into the creation of a Disney Theme Park attraction.
Moderator: I have no idea where they are now.
Moderator: Oh guuu-uuys....
Moderator: There's one.
David_Mumford: Boy it is a long climb to the top of this mountain!
Moderator: And there's another.
Moderator: Thanks for joining us gents.
Bruce_Gordon [sits down before he faints from the height]
David_Mumford: If you are in Disneyland with your laptop, come over to the Matterhorn and wave.
Moderator: You guys look GREAT in lederhosen.
Bruce_Gordon: Hey, look, there's Jason now! Hi Jason!
David_Mumford: I like your knee socks
Moderator: Are you ready to interface with our online audience?
David_Mumford: Ready and waiting.
Moderator: Then here comes our first question....
Bruce_Gordon: Imagineers are the folks who design and build all the permanent attractions
Bruce_Gordon: at all the Disney parks around the world
Bruce_Gordon: TOkyo -- FLorida -- Anaheim -- Paris
David_Mumford: They were assembled personally by Walt Disney way back in 1952 to help design Disneyland
Bruce_Gordon: Imagineering is made up of architects and artists and writers and engineers and so on --more than 200 different discipilines....
Bruce_Gordon: It's the coolest job in the world!
David_Mumford: I used to watch the Wonderful World of Color show on tv every Sunday
Bruce_Gordon: When Imagineering started working on Tokyo Disneyland and Epcot Center in 1980, they needed a whole bunch of people to help build it. I was one of the lucky ones they hired!
David_Mumford: I especially liked the shows where Walt took you on tours of Imagineering
David_Mumford: I trained as an architect, and have been with Walt Disney Imagineering for about 20 years
Bruce_Gordon: I grew up hanging around at Disneyland, building models in the garage, trying to figure out how they did everything in the attractions...
Bruce_Gordon: Being one of the people who helps create the future of the parks is a real honor!
Bruce_Gordon: Sometimes we go too far!
Bruce_Gordon: Tarzan's Treehouse is the next big thing at Disneyland....the Swiss Family has moved on, and Tarzan has moved in!
Bruce_Gordon: The Treehouse opens late June, around the time the Tarzan animated feature opens in theaters!
David_Mumford: For those of you who were not here last month, I am working on Mermaid Lagoon, a whole land for a new theme park in Japan called Tokyo DisneySea
David_Mumford: It is scheduled to open in 2001
Bruce_Gordon: This fall, you'll see some activity around the Autopias in Tomorrowland and Fantasyland....
Bruce_Gordon: The temporary attractions are things like parades, and live shows on the stages. Those aren't done by Imagineering....they're done by a live enteratinment group at the Parks...
David_Mumford: By the way, nothing is permanent. Walt said Disneyland would never be completed as long as there is imagination left in the world.
Bruce_Gordon [shivers from the wind....]
Bruce_Gordon: Boy it sure is cold up here!
Moderator: How high up are we anyways?
David_Mumford: About 150 feet
David_Mumford: It is a great view of Southern California today.
Bruce_Gordon: The Matterhorn at Disneyland is one one-hundreth the height of the real matterhorn in Switzerland. That's the kind of silly things Imagineers do!
Moderator: Yes, it is cold...
Bruce_Gordon: OOoops, David just slipped and fell off the side of the mountain!
Moderator: but suffereing is all part and parcel of doing the first ever Netcast from atop the Matterhorn at Disneyland Park®
David_Mumford: Disney legend John Hench
David_Mumford: He came up with the next generation of roller coaster attractions for Disneyland after the Matterhorn
David_Mumford: He wanted guest to experience a high speed flight thru space inside an obsevatory
Bruce_Gordon: A designer named George McGinnis worked with John to create the mountains we know and love in the parks today. George also designed the towers that hold up the Observatron in Tomorrowland at Disneyland.
Bruce_Gordon: The matterhorn was the first roller coaster with multiple cars running at the same time on the same track, and one of the first to run on steel pipe rails (which almost all coasters do now).
Bruce_Gordon: Truly groundbreaking!
David_Mumford: Space Mountain in Florida was the first coaster to be designed on a computer way back in the early 70s
Bruce_Gordon: The sides of the mountain used to be open, so you could see out as you circled around the top of the mountain. In 1978 they closed in the openings and now you can't see Anaheim!
Bruce_Gordon: Yes there are rumors, but no mountain.
Bruce_Gordon: Yes, Bob Gurr has worked with us extensively on the new Autopia. Bob designed the very first cars in 1955, and each of the versions since.
David_Mumford: Bob Gurr was one of the first Imagineers. He also designed the Monorail and the Main Street Vehicles.
Bruce_Gordon: Whats new on the Autopia? New cars (three additional designs besides the ones that are there now) and a whole new load area and a whole new track layout.
Bruce_Gordon: All the Autopia tracks will load in Tomorrowland, rather than half in Tomorrowland and half in Fantasyland as it is now.
Bruce_Gordon: Thank you, it was one of my proudest moments.
Bruce_Gordon: For those of you lucky enough to have never seen it, I don't get to say a single word in the whole bit, I keep getting cut off by an announcer who talks fast.
Bruce_Gordon: The reason they did that was because in all the interviews I had done before, I talked so fast they couldn't find anyplace to edit me out...so it was kind of "payback."
Bruce_Gordon: THey still run that show on the Disney channel, much to might, um, delight.
David_Mumford: I was on CNN on Labor Day talking about the closing of the Submarine Voyage at Disneyland. Did anyone see me?
Bruce_Gordon: I saw you!
Bruce_Gordon: Of course, you brought in the tape.
David_Mumford: My 15 seconds of fame
Bruce_Gordon: Window on Main Street was a TV show in the sixties starring Robert Young. Honest
David_Mumford: Way back in 1955, Walt decided to honor people who had greatly contributed to Disneyland by placing thier names on the Main Street windows as "store merchants"
Bruce_Gordon: There's a whole committee who figures out the honors...and we're not part of it....so who knows!
Bruce_Gordon: The Toad ride in Walt Disney World is closed, and will be replaced with a brand new Winnie the Pooh attraction.
David_Mumford: The attraction at Disneyland is still going strong.
Bruce_Gordon: We did a big mockup last year (in that famous blue tent) to demonstrate what we might be able to do with the subs to make them exciting and new. The demonstration was well received by all....\
Bruce_Gordon: Keep your eyes on the lagoon in the coming months.
David_Mumford: Hey, when do we get to go for a thrilling Bobsled ride?
Bruce_Gordon: Just hop in next time one goes by!
Moderator: After the chat, David...AFTER the chat.
Bruce_Gordon: What chat?
David_Mumford: Sounds like the Abominible Snowman
Bruce_Gordon: The new Autopia is scheduled for Summer of 2000.
Bruce_Gordon: Any time we want. We cut right to the front of the line, knocking people down as we go.
Bruce_Gordon: But seriously folks.....
Bruce_Gordon: We ride them as
Bruce_Gordon: show checks
Bruce_Gordon: to make sure everything is working correctly.
Bruce_Gordon: And we do wait in line, unless we can sneak in before the park opens.
David_Mumford: We also have a lot of relatives who like us to take them their when they are in town.
Bruce_Gordon: Walt used to make the Imagineers go down to the park every few weeks, and wait in line for the attractions to experience things just like the guests experienced them.
Bruce_Gordon: Uhhh, what exactly is an underground ride????? Everything we do is above board and perfectly proper!
David_Mumford: Look, someone lost another Mickey Mouse Balloon!
Moderator: Grab it! Quick!
Bruce_Gordon [grabs for the balloon and falls off the mountain]
Bruce_Gordon: We aren't!
Bruce_Gordon: Like I said, no
David_Mumford: I'm not, I'm busy with the Tokyo project
Bruce_Gordon: The treehouse finishes the Adventureland redo, which started a few years ago with new paving, the new Jungle Cruise load area....
Bruce_Gordon: That's at Disneyland...
David_Mumford: The lands are always getting fresh looks. Main Street at Disneyland is getting new brick pavers on the sidewalk. There are also new color schemes on the buildings
Bruce_Gordon: The Walt Disney World Tomorrowland was redone a few years ago, as well.
David_Mumford: In the employee break room on the upper floor, there is an area big enough for a half court. The cast members have put up a hoop and practice shots during breaks.
Bruce_Gordon: Mountains have floors?
Moderator: The very best ones do, Bruce.
David_Mumford: Yes, and elevators.
Bruce_Gordon: Hey, we've been to your website!
David_Mumford: Hey, did I mention I was on CNN talking about the closing of the Subs?
Bruce_Gordon: Submarines are unsinkable.
[Here my transcript got screwed up. If anyone has this section, please post it!]
David_Mumford: But heck, we are in California, so what do we know?
Bruce_Gordon: It was cool--I actually built the frames around the undersea windows where the kid was swimming with the sea lion.
Bruce_Gordon: What Atlantis attraction? YOu mean the blue tent?
Bruce_Gordon: No, we leave that to the other parks.
Bruce_Gordon: But we're building a monster rollercoaster at the Studio Tour at Walt Disney World right now....it truly kicks you know what!
David_Mumford: Everything we do is about creating a story. Even if we build a monster roller coaster, it needs a story.
Bruce_Gordon: Splash Mountain will always be my favorite, because I was so involved in getting it approved....it's my little baby!
David_Mumford: I worked on the Alice in Wonderland attraction for the New Fantasyland at Disneyland in 1984.
Bruce_Gordon: From long ago, it would be the Viewliner Train of Tomorrow and the House of the Future...
David_Mumford: Alice was always one of my favorite Disney films, and it was a fun attraction to work on.
David_Mumford: Cool, but it is a beautiful sunset tonight
Bruce_Gordon: Bruce has gone inside.
David_Mumford: Shooting hoops
Bruce_Gordon: Yes, mostly from the lawyers.
David_Mumford: Only when we tell bad jokes
Bruce_Gordon: They're part of the live entertainment group we mentioned earlier....they rotate things around the park, so sometimes they're there, and sometimes they're not!
Bruce_Gordon: Well, actually, Disneyland was Walt's idea....
Bruce_Gordon: But, on behalf of all the Imagineers, around the world, past and presnt, THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Bruce_Gordon: A project is not a complete success unless it opens on time and on budget....and is a great show to boot!
David_Mumford: Bruce and I are also historians of Disneyland Park. We would love taking questions about the history of Disneyland attractions.
Bruce_Gordon [dodges the question again and falls of the mountain into the sub lagoon....]
David_Mumford: Poor Bruce
Bruce_Gordon: Yes, we've been to Club 33...it's terrific!
David_Mumford: Yes, I had dinner there last week
Bruce_Gordon: The microphones were an idea of Walt's, so that they could listen to conversations at the table...
David_Mumford: There were Audio-Animatronics birds that would talk back to the guests.
Bruce_Gordon: And they would say things that responded to the converstaions overheard at the table...
David_Mumford: But this was never activated.
Bruce_Gordon: Or so they tell us....
Bruce_Gordon: Having grown up there...and talking with the legendary Imagineers at work!
David_Mumford: I liked hearing about how everthing built for Disneyland was an innovation.
David_Mumford: Walt and his staff often had to invent new technologies to create the attractions
David_Mumford: Wally, you were one of the stars
David_Mumford: you should know everything
Bruce_Gordon: There's a great TV special that runs ont he Disney Channel every so often..
Bruce_Gordon: It starred Annette Funicello and the whole Horseshoe cast....watch for it, it contains the whole show!
David_Mumford: Walt wanted a live entertainment show in the park based on an old western review
Bruce_Gordon: Also, watch the movie "Calamity Jane" starring Doris Day.....the interior sets of their saloon were built from the same blueprints used for Disneyland! It's an exact duplicate!
Bruce_Gordon: The movie came first, though....
David_Mumford: He hired Donald Novis and Wally Boag to come up with the show back in 1955
Bruce_Gordon: Walt asked Harper Goff to design the Horseshoe, and he had worked on the film...so he pulled the blueprints out of the file!
David_Mumford: It was the longest running stage show in history according to the record books
David_Mumford: Betty Taylor joined the cast in 1956, and was a great addition to the cast
Bruce_Gordon: The two shortest lived attractions were probably the Phantom Boats and the Viewliner. THey both lasted two seasons.
David_Mumford: The Phantom Boats were a two passenger boat that circled a lagoon near what is now the Submarine Lagoon
Bruce_Gordon: THe Viewliner was the predecessor for the Monorail....it looked like the monorail, traveled around Tomorrowland on pretty much the same path, but rode on regular railraod tracks on the ground!
Bruce_Gordon: It opened in 1957 and closed in 1958.
David_Mumford: The Phantom Boats closed due to outboard motors (mounted inside the boat) that overheated
David_Mumford: This was part of the learning process in the early days of Disneyland
Bruce_Gordon: A lot of people think the flying saucers were a short lived attraction, but they lasted from 1961 to 1966 -- five years!
David_Mumford: Also the low capacity of two guests per boat did not help either
David_Mumford: You can see us all the way from the Bay Area?
David_Mumford: There is a big event on June 25 at the Disney Gallery in New Orleans Square
David_Mumford: Several of the original designers will be on hand and specialty merchandise will be available
David_Mumford: Contact the Disney Gallery for more information
Moderator: Guys, it looks like we're running out of time here today...
Bruce_Gordon: We'll be riding on the monorail, if we can get the wireless connections worked out!
David_Mumford: Please create Monorail questions for next month.
David_Mumford: We will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the first daily operating monorail in the Western Hemisphere
Moderator: So join us then!
Moderator: Bruce, david thanks for joining us today...
David_Mumford: bye Hans, bye Fritz
Bruce_Gordon: Luckily the climb down off the mountain is easier than the climb up!
Moderator: You need any help getting down?
David_Mumford: Can we go for a ride now?
Moderator: Absolutely...the churros are on me.
Bruce_Gordon: You should eat more carefully!
David_Mumford: I'll tear out my E-Ticket
Moderator: Thanks all.
David_Mumford: Bye everyone