About Dave | Walt University

About the Instructor

Dave Tavres

I started Walt University because of my passion and belief in Walt Disney’s own passion and dedication. He was a businessman, visionary, and dreamer. I think his original ideas and successes should be taught and shared to keep them alive.

Disneyland Tour Guide

While being a Disneyland annual passholder in the early 2000s, I chatted with a Tour Guide one day, and asked a lot of questions while sharing my passion for Walt and Disneyland. That Tour Guide told me that I should be a Tour Guide… and so I eventually did just that. I started in Autopia as an attractions host, and I did a lot of guest control for Fantasmic! and parades. I loved it. I loved talking with the guests; I loved being part of the magic; and I loved being part of that special place that captured Walt Disney’s mind, heart, and energy. Once I had put in my time working in the Park, I was accepted into the Guest Relations department, which operated City Hall and the information locations around the Parks, as well as the guided tours. I often picked up other Guide’s “Walk in Walt’s Footsteps” tours and frequently would do two back-to-back. I loved it! Eventually, I was honored to be selected as an “Apartment Host” – a Guest Relations Cast Member who was responsible for watching over Walt’s Apartment above the firehouse when special guests were allowed to use the space. There was more down time there, waiting for people, than anywhere else… and I’ll admit, I fell asleep in Walt’s Apartment more than once. I believe I absorbed Walt’s love for the Park, and his magic every day I went to work at Disneyland.

Disneyland Railroad Locomotive Engineer

After a few years, I left Guest Relations and became an engineer on the Disneyland Railroad, learning how to operate Walt’s steam locomotives. Again, I got to live one of Walt’s passions, running the trains around Disneyland and getting to talk to guests about the authentic experience of live steam. It was all truly magic for me. Both of my grandparents retired from Amtrak, and I had a great love of trains my whole life – so working from the roundhouse was special on several levels. I’ve never been happier going in circles all day than I was in those locomotives.

I had two of the best jobs at Disneyland, and they have been a wonderful light to my life.

Walt Disney’s Carolwood Barn

While working at Disneyland, I began volunteering at Walt’s Barn at the Los Angeles Live Steamers Museum in Griffith Park. The Barn was Walt’s workshop at his Carolwood house in Holmby Hills, where he ran his miniature live steam engine around the property. It was Walt’s Happy Place before Disneyland, and it was my happy place for many years. The Barn crew I worked with was wonderful, and everyone had a great time. As the joke went, it was “the only free ‘Disney’ attraction in the world.” It was a tiny museum dedicated to Walt’s love of trains – sitting in the middle of a miniature live steam railroad that brought thousands of people a month. Eventually, I was honored to be one of the founding Board Members of the Carolwood Foundation, the nonprofit responsible for operating the Barn for the public.

Marceline, Missouri

I was able to take the leap to leave my hometown of Los Angeles and move to Walt Disney’s tiny hometown of Marceline, Missouri. In 2020, Marceline’s population was just over 2,000 residents – a far cry from the millions of people in LA, San Francisco, Seattle, and Las Vegas where I lived and worked for many years. Marceline is a different world for me. I’ve been part of church and car clubs, volunteers with historical societies and nonprofit organizations, and have been part of great teams at various jobs – but I never knew until I moved here what a real, actual “community” was… I found out by living in Marceline. I’ve only lived in Marceline since 2021, but I’ve gotten involved in a lot here, and have connected with so many wonderful people. And yes, I moved here because of Walt Disney. Not just because he lived here as a boy – but because he loved Marceline as an adult. His famous quote in The Marceline News in 1938 – “More things of importance happened to me in Marceline than have happened since – or are likely to in the future.” Marceline is now my home, and I hope people come to visit and feel some of the magic of this small town.

Other work

Aside from my Disney experience, my background is in the software development world and small business consulting. In 1994 I began doing technical support for “Internet In A Box” software and dial-up internet access. Over the years, I worked at big companies like Microsoft and Sony, as well as small companies, doing software testing, program management, and more, working with small and large teams, and I’ve done lots of technical consulting for small and large businesses. I’m an all-around software, web, and tech geek.

I’ve also done a lot of volunteer work for fun stuff. I’ve sat on Boards, talked with guests, done training, and been technical support for groups of all sizes, from church callings to places like the Culver City Historical Society, the Santa Monica Museum of Flying, and I even created the Bodie Foundation to support Bodie State Historic Park. I love history, and people, and technology, and I often say “there’s never enough time in the day.”

As a student of Walt Disney’s life and business, I want to help preserve and share Walt’s passion, and his legacy of family entertainment, business, and fun. That’s who I am, and that’s why I’m teaching these classes about Walt Disney right here in Marceline. I hope you’ll come visit, whether take these classes, or just stop by to see “Small Town America, Perfectly Imagined.