Disney Legend Dick Nunis Reveals Stories About Walt Disney Ahead of New Book

It’s hard for most of us to imagine a world without the famous Walt Disney stories.

His influence on animation, movies, theme parks and family entertainment has been around since 1920, giving us the magic we’ve all known and loved for over 100 years.

At a recent D23 event to announce his upcoming book, Disney Legend Dick Nunis recalled some never-before-heard stories about Walt Disney, as well as recounting some funny tales about his career.

Dick Nunes Castle
Credit: Disney

At Destination D23, held at Disney’s contemporary resort at Walt Disney World in Florida, the event hosted a segment titled “A Conversation with Dick Nunes,” in which Walt Disney Archives Director Becky Klein discussed with Nunes his role in leading Disney parks from the 1960s. to his retirement in 1999.

During the show, Nunes revealed some funny anecdotes and heartfelt moments from his Disney career.

Nunes was recruited as a Disney legend in 1999 for his work at The Walt Disney Company beginning his summer job at Disneyland in 1955. He moved through attractions management positions before becoming Executive Vice President of Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

You have the legend of Disney's Nunes
Credit: D23

One of the highlights of our conversation with Dick Nunes was his story about asking Walt Disney not to smoke in the park.

Nunes explained that the cast members smoked between their work area and break room, and would give Dick the excuse “Walt smokes in the park” when asked not to smoke. He discussed the situation with Walt, who took Nunes’ comments on board.

Nunes also recounted the day Walt Disney died – December 15, 1966 – and the decision to open Disneyland or not:

Dick Nunes tells a story about making the decision to open Disneyland the day Walt Disney died, including talking to Lillian Disney. amazing stuff. # D23 . destination
During his adorable presentation at D23, Dick Nunes also revealed that he will be publishing a book in October 2022 about his time working at Disney and alongside Walt himself.
The book will be called Walt’s Apprentice: Keeping the Dream Alive, and will focus on Nunis’ work within Walt Disney, focusing on how he continued to fulfill Walt’s dreams on his Florida venture in the years after his death.

During the talk, Nunes commented on his work ethic and how he achieved what he did with The Walt Disney Company:

“Young people today are not really learning in school how to be successful in life, because they forget one thing. They are all trying to criticize others in order to get a promotion. All you have to do is do the best job you can do in the job you have been assigned.”

Walt Disney's Dick Nunes book
Credit: D23

There were also some very interesting moments while talking with Disney Legend, where Nunes was praising the Walt Disney Archives team:

Additionally, when introducing Dick Nunes, Walt Disney World Ambassador appears to have made a mistake:

Nothing speaks louder than Disney today than the current WDW ambassador who has spoiled the name Dick Nunes. # D23 . destination

Dick Nunes has seen a lot of changes during his career with Disney. When he joined Disneyland in 1955, the park employed 600 cast members. By the time he retired in 1999, Disneyland had 13,000 cast members and Walt Disney World employed another 50,000.

The Walt Disney Archives page describes Nunes’ journey:

“During those early years, Dick learned the philosophy of Walt Disney’s theme park first-hand. As he drove the growth of Disney’s outdoor attractions from a single theme park to a world-class resort, the theme park’s CEO has always kept his focus on the people.

Born May 30, 1932, in Cedartown, Georgia, Dick received a football scholarship at the University of Southern California (USC). But his ambition to become a professional soccer player and coach was interrupted when he fractured his neck while playing ball. In 1955, he graduated from the University of Southern California with a Bachelor of Science in Education.

Dick learned about Disneyland through his classmate, Ron Miller, who was Walt’s brother-in-law. In a lark, he decided to apply for a summer job at the new park and was hired by Van Frances, founder of Disney University and author of the Park’s mentoring and coaching program.

Walt Disney Jungle Cruise
Credit: Disney

From 1967 to 1974, Dick also served as Chairman of the Park Operations Commission, and in 1968, was promoted to Vice President of Operations. By 1971, the year the Magic Kingdom opened at Walt Disney World, he was appointed Executive Vice President of Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

In 1980, a month after his 25th anniversary with Disney, he was appointed head of the outdoor entertainment division, overseeing Walt Disney World, Epcot Center and, later, Disney’s MGM Studios theme park. Dick also advised the plans for Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland while serving on the Walt Disney Productions board of directors.

On May 26, 1999, after exactly 44 years since joining the company, Dick retired as Chairman of the Walt Disney Board of Directors.

What fun Walt Disney stories do you enjoy? Let us know in the comments!

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