Book Review: Walt’s Apprentice Keeping the Disney Dream Alive by Dick Nunis
Walt’s Apprentice Keeping the Disney Dream Alive by Dick Nunis is the personal memoir of a Disney Legend. Dick Nunis had a 44 year career with Disney that started on May 26, 1955 being hired by Van France at Disneyland to help with the training program of cast members as the opening of Disneyland approached. He choose to retire on May 26, 1999, at which time he was Chairman of Walt Disney Attractions. During those four decades he rose from an hourly cast member through the ranks working the operations side of the parks. He had the good fortune to walk the park with Walt and absorb his philosophies and respond to his requests for a number of years. He was an early member of the Orlando team as Walt Disney World was constructed. He was part of the EPCOT, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris teams. He was involved in Disney projects beyond the parks too including the Winter Olympics, New York World’s Fair and movie premieres such as Mary Poppins. Before Disney Dick was a college football player for my alma mater, the University of Southern California.
Dick Nunis has a reputation of being a strong willed individual who is not afraid to share his thoughts or the way something should be done. He learned the Disney Way directly from Walt Disney and help to define, refine, and defend this culture of guest experience and quality over his tenure. He is not only a Disney legend but is legendary among those who have worked with him or crossed paths with him over the years. If you listen to long time Disney Cast Members talk most have a Dick Nunis story or two so his name and reputation are well known amongst disneygeeks out there in addition to those within the company.
As soon as I heard Dick Nunis was writing a book it was on my list. I have had the opportunity to hear him speak over the years and have heard a number of stories about him from others at events. The book delivers these stories famous stories including the Jungle Cruise experience with Walt, Green Side Up! and the Polynesian wave machine. Plus a large assortment of some you may not of heard from his point of view. It was great to read many of these stories and have a record of them now. It is becoming extremely rare to be able to hear stories from individuals who worked directly with Walt Disney. Time is moving quickly and we are sadly loosing many of these aging legends so every opportunity to preserve their stories and memories is noteworthy. Dick Nunis is now 90 years old (he was born May 30, 1932) and his telling of Disney history is from a unique vantage point starting with Walt and going up through Michael Eisner. Even though the book is nearly 300 pages I came away wanting more. I would have really liked to have seen another couple dozen chapters chronicling more of his time in the park with Walt. Or a more detailed look at his interactions with WED/WDI over the years. Or an expansion on Eisner years at the end of his tenure.
I really enjoyed reading Walt’s Apprentice Keeping the Disney Dream Alive. I found it to be a quick and interesting read with an engaging mix of stories spanning the decades. I really liked some of the personal asides he shared on opportunities he had over the years. Also found it interesting that he had a lesson learned highlighted at the end of each chapter. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Disney Parks history through a series of entertaining stories taking you to many historical Disney moments.
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** A review copy of this book was provided to us