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Iconic Disney Legend Dick Nunis Has Passed Away at 91

Dick Nunis

Disney Legend Dick Nunis, the former chairman of Walt Disney Attractions, and the man behind many of Disney’s theme park milestones, passed away December 13, 2023, surrounded by his family in his adopted hometown of Orlando. He was 91.

His Life

Born May 30, 1932, in Cedartown, Georgia, Nunis received a football scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC).

His ambition to become a professional football player and coach was cut short, however, when he suffered a broken neck while playing ball. In 1955, he graduated from USC with a Bachelor of Science in education.

His Disney Career

Learning about Disneyland’s upcoming opening through a classmate, who happened to be Walt’s son-in-law, Ron Miller, Nunis applied for a job and was hired by Van France, founder of The Disney University, and author of the Park’s orientation and training program.

Just prior to Disneyland’s July 17, 1955 opening, the duo began training Disneyland employees. Dick soon worked his way up to attractions supervisor, developing standard operating procedures for all of the Park’s attractions.

“Walt believed strongly that what would make Disneyland different was the people—he wanted them to feel that they were part of the organization,” Nunis once said. “That’s why he established the first-name policy—he was Walt, I was Dick, and so on. From an overall operations point of view, the most important thing is to work together to make sure that when guests come, they have a wonderful experience.”

Dick Nunis

In 1961, he became director of park operations and helped develop “Project X,” which later became known as Walt Disney World.

From 1967-74, Dick also served as chairman of the Park Operations Committee, and, in 1968, he was bumped up to vice president of operations.

By 1971, the year the Magic Kingdom opened at Walt Disney World, he was named executive vice president of Walt Disney World and Disneyland.

A decade later, and a month after his 25th anniversary with Disney in 1980, he was named president of the Outdoor Recreation Division, overseeing Walt Disney World, Epcot Center and, later, the then-named Disney-MGM Studios.

Nunis also consulted on plans for Disneyland Paris and Tokyo Disneyland while serving on the Walt Disney Productions Board of Directors.

On May 26, 1999, exactly 44 years to the day since he joined the Company, Nunis chose to retire as chairman of Walt Disney Attractions.

Dick Nunis Disneyland window

That same year, he was named a Disney Legend, and was honored with a window on Main Street, U.S.A., at Disneyland.

Nunis’ window, located above Disney Showcase, reads: “Coast to Coast Peoplemoving, World Leader in Leisure Management, Dick Nunis, Proprietor, Founded 1955, Offices Anaheim, Orlando, Tokyo, Wave Machines a Specialty.”

Upon receiving his window at Disneyland Park, Nunis stated, “This is really quite an honor and a privilege to have my name up on Main Street with so many great people that have dedicated their lives to making Disneyland what it is today.”

Nunis is survived by his wife Mary, his children, Rich, Lisa and Corey, and his grandchildren, Richie, Dean, Madison, Landon, Annabelle, and Greyton.

If you’d like to know more about his Disney life, Nunis released the memoir “Walt’s Apprentice: Keeping the Disney Dream Alive,” in 2022, which follows Disney’s highlights, including the development and opening of Disneyland, Walt Disney World, EPCOT, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris.

Dick Nunis book cover

Dick also wrote the forward to and was a large part of Van Arsdale France’s seminal “Window on Main Street” book about how France and Nunis built up the training and culture of Disneyland (and later Walt Disney World) from scratch.


“Today, we mourn the passing of Dick Nunis, a true Disney Legend whose contributions to The Walt Disney Company have touched the lives of millions of people all over the world,” said Bob Iger, CEO of The Walt Disney Company.

“What started as a summer job training future Disneyland employees would ultimately become a storied 44-year career at Disney. Dick took the values and philosophies he learned directly from Walt and incorporated them into everything he did at Disney. We are grateful for his many achievements and we extend our deepest sympathies to his family and loved ones.”

“On behalf of every Cast Member, Crew Member, Imagineer and employee of Disney Experiences, I want to express my gratitude to Disney Legend Dick Nunis… and my condolences to his family following the sad news of his passing,” said Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Experiences.

“Dick’s impact on our theme parks business is everlasting. Along with our founder, Walt Disney, Dick helped shape our business, create happiness for millions of families around the world… and set a standard that an entire industry must now live up to.”

Dick Nunis D23