When Richard Nixon Was Kidnapped in Disneyland – A Story About Disney Legend Bob Gurr

June 14, 1959. That’s the day the Richard Nixon was kidnapped in Disneyland. Who kidnapped the Vice President? Disney legend Bob Gurr. Now Bob is an incredibly accompli shed individual and his work for Imagineering, then called WED, produced some of the most iconic attractions in the world. He has his hand in design attractions and ride vehicles like The Matterhorn Bobsleds, the Autopia cars, the Doom Buggies of the Haunted Mansion, the subs of The Submarine Voyage and even the Disneyland Monorail. So the man is quite accomplished to say the least. But this is one of his most iconic stories.

June 14, 1959

Kidnapping aside, this was a going to be a very big day in Disneyland history. Because it was also the day of the Grand Opening of the Disneyland Monorail System, the Matterhorn Bobsleds AND the Submarine Voyage. All three of those opened on the same day. Bob hand his hand in designing parts of all those attractions but as the day drew near all of his focus was centered on the Monorail. 

He and his team would work day and night just trying to make the Monorail work. They were manufacturing new parts, tweaking different elements of the systems doing anything they could just to make it function. Finally, the night before the Grand Opening Monorail Red did a full lap without breaking down. It was the first time it did that. 

You heard that right. 

The first time the Monorail successful did one lap on its track without breaking down was the night before it was supposed to open. Unbelievable, there’s some serious magic at play there. 

The Most Important Guest

Walt Disney had invited some 1,000 members of the press into the park to see all the Grand Openings and festivities. But the most important guest of the day was Vice President at the time Richard Nixon. 

On that day Bob had the important task of piloting the Monorail. He was supposed to drive it from the maintenance bay, park it in the station for the press to get pictures and then he would talk Walt and the Vice President and the VP’s family on a lap. 

Right now I want you to put yourself in Bob’s shoes. You are in a brand new vehicle that you designed, that up until mere hours ago didn’t work and would break down every time it started. But now you have the Vice President of the United States and Walt Disney in the car. You’re piloting it and you are probably sweating bullets and praying it doesn’t break down. Cause if that happens, if it breaks down, the day is ruined. Simple as that. 

The Kidnapping

So the passengers board and Walt gets antsy and says to Bob, “let’s get a move on”. Bob takes off immediately. He just wants to do the lap and be done with it. He’s excited that it’s working like a charm! As he rounds the final bend of the track the station comes into view and what does he see? 

Every single member of the Vice President’s Secret Service detail. 

Bob was in such a hurry to get going that he left before any Secret Service member could get on. Monorail pulls into the station and the Secret Service immediately jumps on to see if the VP is all right. Even now Bob refers to June 14, 1959 as the day he kidnapped the Vice President. 

I love that story because it shows how connected Disneyland is to America… how ingrained it is. But I also love it because it shows the hard work Bob and other Cast Members put into making Walt’s visions come to life. 

Bob is an incredible person and if you liked this story it is just one of many he’s got. If you want to discover more stories from Bob you can check out his latest book here.

In The Imagineering Story on Disney+, Bob talks about what it took to build some of the iconic attractions in Disneyland. His stories help make The Imagineering Story one of my favorite things on Disney+. But there is so many more great Disney documentaries for the aspiring Disney historian on the streaming service. You can check out the list of my favorites here.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which means I make a small commission if you buy from them, at no additional cost to you. 

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