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The Continuing Saga of the Bob-A-Round and Bob-A-Long Boats

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by , 04-07-2012 at 05:37 PM

I rhapsodized about my obsession with the Bob-A-Round boats in an earlier column. Shortly after that, I received a message from Bob Gurr about those boats as well as another project with a similar name that might interest me: the Bob-A-Long boats.

After picking myself up off of the floor (I mean, how often does a Disney Legend email you), I asked Bob a few more questions about the Bob-A-Long boats and he agreed to write a bit about them for me. Bob also sent along two photos of the Bob-a-Long boat which have never been published before!

The Bob-A-Long by Bob Gurr

Soon after WDW opened in 1971, various small watercraft were introduced to the waterways for guest rental operations. One of these watercraft was a small round tub-like electric powered boat, known as the Bob-a-Round. Within a fairly short period of use, the Bob-a-Rounds were deemed deficient in operations and withdrawn from service.

In 1973, WDW watercraft operations requested that a new improved, small watercraft be developed to replace the former Bob-a-Round. A specification of what the new watercraft was to consist of was generated by both WDW and Disneyland operations. A small amount of temporary testing was done at Disneyland using some similar small boats.

The specifications were then sent to WED Enterprises (later WDI) in Glendale, California for design development. The designer assigned was George McGinnis, a lead attraction and ride vehicle designer. George made several renderings of various themed watercraft for operations to consider. The project was referred to as the Bob-a-Long. Several types of themes were illustrated and circulated thru operations over a fairly long period of time, since the project was not on high priority.

Much of the themed design was rejected in favor of something to remain as a small tub-like boat a bit larger than the original Bob-a-Round. In 1974, I was given the task of designing and engineering the new Bob-a-Long, along with the 9 other projects to which I was also assigned from 1973 to 1976. Thus the Bob-a-Long was a sort of routine non-rush project developed during those years by WED and MAPO, Disney’s fabrication shops adjacent to WED in Glendale.

I designed and made all the production drawings for the shops to build tooling and fabricate one production-ready Bob-a-Long for testing. The new boat turned out real nice looking and beautifully built by the shop guys. We took it out to Disney’s Golden Oak Movie Ranch in Saugus for testing in their water pond. We refined a few items, finalized the propeller size and pitch, then sent the boat to WDW for guest operational testing.

It really was a pretty thing in the water; white fiberglass hull, stainless steel fittings, and comfortable blue seat cushions. It had a built in bin for ice and picnic supplies, and overhead storage for life vests. But, unfortunately it functioned no better than the previous Bob-a-Round boat. The boat was just as slow, which meant that guests would return later than planned to the service dock, and sometimes with low batteries, which had to be charged or changed out. The killer shortcoming was that when a sudden Florida rainstorm wind came up, the poor thing just disappeared downwind. Thus requiring a time-consuming rescue operation, leaving both guests and WDW staff in an unpleasant mood.

The moral of the story had several lessons; never let a simple project drag out over years between several organizations. Never do a project unless it has a leader who champions the whole story. Never fully tool up for series production unless you have already proved out the operational concept by prototype testing. And certainly make sure before you start that your whole plan makes complete sense, both operational, and financial. If the designers get a hold of it too soon, they’ll run with it before it can be stopped.

Have you heard of any other mythical Disney boats, buses or other conveyances?

What long-gone vehicle would you like to see again?

Leave your comments about these questions or anything else you'd like to mention about today's column in the comments section below.

Bob Gurr has a new book set to be released in May of this year. You are just in time to pre-order your very own copy!

GurrDesign presents:

DESIGN: Just for Fun By Bob Gurr

The most thorough behind the scenes stories ever told about Themed Entertainment design at America's favorite destination resorts - Disneyland, Walt Disney World, Universal Studios Tour, Spectacular Las Vegas and more.

Legendary Imagineer Bob Gurr, as Principal Designer for hundreds of Themed Entertainment projects, takes the reader behind the scenes:

• Learn how Disneyland developed the first Monorail in America.
• See how Universal Studios Tour Animated King Kong came to be.
• A Pirate Battle Show and Sinking Ship in Las Vegas - how did they do it.
• Get the story of the animated Abraham Lincoln at the NY World's Fair.
• Meet the team behind the Los Angeles Olympics Flying Saucer.

And so much more...
Available May 2012 - order now - 1,000 limited edition, numbered and autographed by the author. Hardbound color illustrated 216 page collector's edition. Check or money order. $58.95 plus tax and shipping by USPS priority mail. Order now at:

ImagiNERDing is written and edited by George Taylor

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to email me at [email protected]

You can follow me on Twitter @imaginerding
Or like Imaginerding on Facebook.

I also write at Everything Walt Disney World and I am one half of the incredibly talented, handsome, charming, sanguine and intelligent duo behind Communicore Weekly. You can find them on the Mice Chat Youtube Channel.

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Updated 04-09-2012 at 09:55 AM by Dustysage



  1. Dustysage's Avatar
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    Thank you Bob (and George) for this amazing look at a project that never quite got launched. So interesting to hear about the design process as well as the lessons from its failures.

    I suppose that the Water Sprites which WDW currently uses serve the function of the Bob-A-Round and Bob-A-Long boats. Though the "Bob" boats were much more family friendly and leisurely.

    Looking forward to reading Bob's book!
  2. sir clinksalot's Avatar
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    What a great story, also can't wait for Bob's book.
  3. Coheteboy's Avatar
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    Wow, fascinating. Didn't know about these.
  4. Fishbulb's Avatar
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    I find it interesting that his name is BOB and he work on the BOB-Along boats. Just saying.

    That is a great read. Imagine being one of the people that was caught in the middle of a heavy rainstorm on Lake Buena Vista. That would be CRAZY.
  5. Demigod's Avatar
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    Fantastic story - I'd never even known about the Bob-A-Long boats, let alone getting to see a picture of them! Bob's such a nice guy - I'm glad he likes to talk about it - It's really quite interesting to hear about all this stuff.
  6. Trevor's Avatar
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    What a great look at all of the untold stories that are just waiting for someone like Bob to reveal! Great story and I hope to see more!
  7. Disney Wrassler's Avatar
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    Ilove the pics!!!
  8. DisneySarah's Avatar
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    Any one else think the Bob-A-Long boat looks like a floating PeopleMover car? So sleek and classy, yet appealing and comfortable-looking. It makes me wish for a Motor Boat Cruise replacement using them.

    I think getting caught in a Florida storm in one of those boats would be awesome! Talk about memories! (That is. If you weren't eaten by gators.)

    I cant wait for Bob's book!!!
  9. IzzyInWonderland's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DisneySarah
    Any one else think the Bob-A-Long boat looks like a floating PeopleMover car?
  10. yoyoflamingo's Avatar
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    This is quickly becoming one of my favorite columns on MiceChat (though which isn't?), and wonderful to still be unearthing these rare treasures.

    That book will definitely be added to my bookshelf in the near future! Thanks for the heads up!
  11. MickeyMaxx's Avatar
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    Thanks, Bob and George for one fun story! The boats were handsome, and looked like they would be fun. Count me in the group that wouldn't mind being blown asunder and requiring rescue! Sort of a Disney-safe version of Gilligan's three hour cruise! Bob, I'm looking forward to hunkering down with your book!
  12. Bruce Bergman's Avatar
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    Almost predictable... Any battery powered electric small craft like that needs a LOT of batteries and motor ( which could be done! ) to overcome a stiff wind like Florida can crank up on short notice - even a full size Duffy or ElectraCraft party boat has to give up and find a safe dock to tie up at. You just don't have the "oomph" to fight it.

    You almost have to go for some sort of an engine to make it work on a larger lake, but then it's not as Operator Friendly and you can't just hop in and go without some training. Though I should note that a CNG Powered 2 to 5-HP Outboard is well within the realm of possibility...

    --<< Bruce >>--
  13. SAMLAND's Avatar
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    This is so cool. The boat was Bob's answer to a question posed at the MiceChat Anniversary breakfast. To see all of this information...well it just makes me smile.

    Thanks and great work.

  14. FrontierKent's Avatar
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    I remember these very well. My family rented one on vacation one time at Fort Wilderness. We have a picture of all of us in it. I always thought it was a Bob-a-round. Now I know better. They were really really slow, but I do have fond memories of all of us bobbing around it in.
  15. ImagiNERDing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FrontierKent
    I remember these very well. My family rented one on vacation one time at Fort Wilderness. We have a picture of all of us in it. I always thought it was a Bob-a-round. Now I know better. They were really really slow, but I do have fond memories of all of us bobbing around it in.
    Any possibility of seeing the photo?

    I might need to do a special update to the article due to the number of other photos I have found recently.

  16. Moviela's Avatar
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    I would like to know what happend to the design to use the second floor of the Disneyland American Sings building for an Omni-mover space alien shooting gallery. Each vehicle seated two facing each other with an infrared rifle to shoot targets on ships and creatures from space. When you hit one it would animate and do some business for you. At the end it exited to a food court and you could use points scored to get a discount on a meal. All that shooting made you hungry.

    At the time the existing shooting galleries (McGlashan Guns) were still using real lead in the air rifles.
  17. PecosBill's Avatar
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    Strictly referencing watercraft, I would like to see the return of the Seminole & Osceola class steamships. These highly themed vessels are far superior to the themeless vessels they have been throwing on waterways in recent years.