For nearly three decades, Bob Booth was the unwavering, steady-as-she-goes mechanical master whose work made practical all the dreams of the Disney Imagineers.
“Never brutal, always pragmatic, not the kind of boss that shop guys would fear but a boss you’d follow, because his strategies worked,” summarized Disney Legend Bob Gurr.
“His pre-Disney experience included a passion for hot rods and high performance cars, especially those used to establish land speed records on courses similar to the Bonneville Salt Flats,” recalled MAPO veteran Jim Verity. “He served in the United States Navy, and worked in other studios prior to his employment at Disney.”
Bob, who was born in 1923, first joined Disney as a precision machinist in February 1957. He worked in the Studio’s Camera Service department, where his work caught the eye of Disney Legend and mechanical genius Roger Broggie, who made Bob supervisor of the Studio Machine Shop in 1962.
In 1965, Bob was the man Roger Broggie selected to set up an innovative new multi-craft research and development and manufacturing subsidiary for Walt Disney Productions. “Roger told Bob to plan for building everything from animated birds to Monorail trains,” said fellow Legend Orlando Ferrante, an engineering, design, and production master.
This subsidiary was known as MAPO, since much of its funding came from the phenomenal windfall created by the success of Mary Poppins; the acronym stood for Manufacturing and Production Organization. Much of Bob’s planning for MAPO took place during 1965, prior to the conclusion of the extensive work for the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair. Booth supervised the design and construction of an all-new state-of-the-art building adjacent to the headquarters of WED Enterprises, now Walt Disney Imagineering.
Booth had to incorporate such diverse features as a large production floor with a high center overhead hoist to lift steam engines, antique vehicles, ride systems and vehicles, monorail trains and heavy animated props. He also had to support research and development, electronic system design, model making, plastics production, hydraulic and pneumatic assembly, animation assembly areas, and welding and track bending, as well as attendant administrative offices, mechanical and electrical engineering offices, and a huge drafting room—it all had to fit in one building.
For the next 20 years Bob played a major role in all phases of manufacturing for Disney Parks around the world. “Bob was Broggie’s main man on the shop floor, leading all the production departments at MAPO,” Gurr once said. “He was a good instructor, and was able to organize manufacturing teams to support each other,” Verity once recalled.
Bob retired in 1985, “with the appropriate amount of celebration to recognize his outstanding contribution to The Walt Disney Company,” Ferrante later said with a smile. Roger Broggie even presented a plaque to Bob, nicknaming him “MAPO ONE.”
“Bob was always the ‘quiet’ one Roger looked to for getting everything done,” Orlando recalled fondly. “He always got the job done.”
“Artists and designers get a lot of attention in creating Disney Parks,” Disney Legend and former Imagineering ambassador Marty Sklar said. “The similarly innovative, creative, and fascinating work of our manufacturing and production entities—and the work of steadfast guys like Bob Booth—often gets lost to the limelight. But without them, the dreams of the designers would never see the light of practical application.”
Bob passed away on April 5, 2009.