Dick Nunis’s ‘Walt’s Apprentice’ Should Be Read, Savored, and Shared [REVIEW]

People walking around Disney Castle
People walking around Sleeping Beauty Castle. (Photo by Juan Mendez on Pexels.com)

Walt Disney is celebrated around the world as one of the biggest dreamers who ever lived. But he didn’t make all of his dreams come true on his own. He surrounded himself with others who could help build and operate every part of his Magic Kingdom. In Walt’s Apprentice, we meet one such Disney legend. And no, we’re not talking about Mickey Mouse (although he did play a sorcerer’s apprentice in 1940’s Fantasia). Rather, we’re referencing Dick Nunis, the man who learned at the master’s knee and worked his way up through the company. Now, he pulls back the curtain and reveals what he learned during his tenure at Disney, and how those hard-won insights can empower all of us beyond the gates of Disneyland Resort.

Disney Editions

In the beginning, no one would have guessed that young athlete Dick Nunis would become a Disney Legend. After all, he was the kid who sacked groceries while his mother ran a cash register at the local market. He was also the young man who surfed with his buddy on the California coast. And he was a student who worked odd jobs as he pursued his master’s degree at USC.

In fact, when he first met Walt Disney, it was because Walt’s daughter Diane was dating Dick’s friend and she’d invited him over to the family home for lunch. While Dick was impressed with the filmmaker at the time, he never dreamed that he would one day work for the man, let alone become his apprentice and friend.

Ultimately, he would work so closely with Disney that upon Walt’s death the news hit him like a punch to the gut. Nevertheless, he put his own feelings on the back burner because he knew that Walt would want him to pick up his mantle and carry on, working to bolster the Disneyland Cast Members during the dark days ahead and keep improving the happiest place on earth day by day.

This volume is equal parts memoir and leadership manual, and yet it is kissed by the legendary Disney magic. It reveals stories many of us have never known about our favorite theme parks, giving us glimpses into how Walt worked, and what a phenomenal mentor he truly was. Not only was he a dreamer, but he taught those around him, including Dick, to dream big too, and to always find ways to make even great ventures bigger and better.

Having gone to the Disneyland resort many times over the years, these stories remind me just how special a place it is. But it also offers insights into the daily operations of the park, and as a Disney enthusiast, I truly loved learning about it all. It made attractions that were childhood favorites come to life in new ways, such as the Country Bear Jamboree and the Pirates of the Caribbean.

It also taught me how much thought has gone into every aspect of the park over the years, even in just the way the main gate and Main Street U.S.A. are arranged, and how the different lands are interconnected. Disney taught Nunis to never be satisfied with the status quo, but to always challenge himself and the team to find ways to engage the guests in new ways, always working to be and do better.

As I read through all the lessons Nunis learned during his decades long career from gofer to Chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts around the globe, it became clear that his enthusiasm, reverence, and respect for Walt were unparalleled. He is a treasure trove of information when it comes to practicing organizational leadership with style and grace.

As such, Walt’s Apprentice is a book that should be read, savored, and shared. There’s a reason Disney has taught other businesses how to grow and thrive over the years, and this book shines a spotlight on why the dreams Walt started are now shared by fans the world over. Whether you’re a business owner or a business major, or even an employee looking to grow where you are planted, Nunis reminds us that the world can be your oyster if you’re just willing to do the work.

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About the author

Dick Nunis was a cast member when the gates of Disneyland opened in 1955. For the next 11 years, he learned professional and personal lessons from his mentor Walt Disney, America’s greatest showman.

This personal journey takes us through his remarkable 44-year career with The Walt Disney Company, beginning as an hourly cast member, and rising to Chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, where he nurtured and applied with unwavering dedication and tireless energy the lessons he learned alongside Walt Disney.

Thanks to his contributions, Dick Nunis is a Disney Legend, and Walt’s dream of creating magical places where the young and the young at heart can have fun together continues to delight each new generation of guests around the world.

By Dick Nunis
320 pp. Disney Editions. $25.99

Dick Nunis
Dick Nunis
TLC Book Tours Tour Host

Purchase Walt’s Apprentice direct from Jathan & Heather Books or from one of these other fine online retailers: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Books-A-Million | Half Price Books | Hudson Booksellers | IndieBound | Powell’s | Target | Walmart.

Prefer e-books? Download your copy from one of these guys: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Google | iBooks | Kobo.

Walt’s Apprentice is brought to you in association with TLC Book Tours.

About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

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