Ward Kimball

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Ward Kimball
Ward Kimball.jpg
Ward Kimball drawing Pecos Bill from Melody Time
Born Ward Walrath Kimball
(1914-03-04)March 4, 1914
Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S.
Died July 8, 2002(2002-07-08) (aged 88)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Pneumonia
Occupation Animator, musician
Years active 1935–1980
Employer Walt Disney Studios
Known for One of Disney's Nine Old Men
Spouse(s) Betty Kimball
(m. 1936)
Children 3
Awards Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film

Ward Walrath Kimball (March 4, 1914 – July 8, 2002), born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, was an animator for the Walt Disney Studios. He was one of Walt Disney's team of animators, known as Disney's Nine Old Men.

He was also a jazz trombonist. He founded and led the seven-piece Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two, in which he played trombone.


While Kimball was a brilliant draftsman, he preferred to work on comical characters rather than realistic human designs. Animating came easily to him and he was constantly looking to do things differently. Because of this, Walt Disney called Ward a genius in the book The Story of Walt Disney. While there were many talented animators at Disney, Ward's efforts stand out as unique.

Kimball created several classic Disney characters including the Crows in Dumbo; Tweedledee and Tweedledum, the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland; the Mice, Lucifer the Cat and Bruno the Dog from Cinderella; and Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio. (Kimball told one interviewer that he "hated" animating Jiminy Cricket: "I got sick of drawing that oval head looking in every direction."[1]) He also animated the famous "Three Caballeros" musical number from the Disney film of the same name.

In 1953 Kimball became a director and was responsible for the Academy Award-winning short Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, and three Disney television shows about outer space that put the United States into the space program. He received an Academy Award for the short animated cartoon It's Tough to Be a Bird.[2]

Kimball was profiled by producer Jerry Fairbanks in his Paramount Pictures film short series Unusual Occupations.[3] This 35mm Magnacolor film short was released theatrically in 1944; it focused on Kimball's backyard railroad and full-sized locomotive.

Kimball was also a jazz trombonist. He founded and led the seven-piece Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two, in which he played trombone. The band made at least 13 LP records and toured clubs, college campuses and jazz festivals from the 1940s to early 1970s. Kimball once said that Walt Disney permitted the second career as long as it did not interfere with his animation work. Kimball appeared on the March 17, 1954 episode of You Bet Your Life, where Groucho Marx coaxed him into playing his trombone with the house band. He and his partner won $75 in their quiz portion of the show, including one Disney animation question that Kimball answered easily.

Kimball continued to work at Disney until 1974, working on the Disney anthology television series, being one of the writers for Babes in Toyland, creating animation for Mary Poppins, directing the animation for Bedknobs and Broomsticks, and working on titles for feature films such as The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin and Million Dollar Duck. His last staff work for Disney was producing and directing the Disney TV show The Mouse Factory, which ran from 1972 to 1974. He continued to do various projects on his own, even returning to do some publicity tours for the Disney corporation. He also worked on the World of Motion attraction for Disney's EPCOT Center.

Kimball also produced two editions of a volume titled Art Afterpieces,[4] in which he revised various well-known works of art, such as putting Mona Lisa's hair up in curlers, showing Whistler's Mother watching TV, and adding a Communist flag and Russian boots to Pinkie. These masterpiece remixes are thought to have been appropriated by the street artist Banksy.[5]

While his only two acting appearances on film were an uncredited role as a jazz musician (with his Firehouse Five Plus Two) in Hit Parade of 1951 and as an IRS Chief in Mike Jittlov's The Wizard of Speed and Time, Kimball served as host of the "Man in Space" and "Man and the Moon" episodes of Disneyland in 1955 and 1956 respectively. He appeared as himself in an episode of the popular TV show You Bet Your Life hosted by Groucho Marx on March 18, 1954, which has been released on DVD. He hosted the second season of the 1992 PBS series Tracks Ahead. That season has since been repackaged to feature current host Spencer Christian.

As recounted in Neal Gabler's biography of Walt Disney,[6] Ward Kimball was a key figure in spreading the urban legend that Disney had left instructions for his body to be preserved by cryonics after his death.

Amid Amidi wrote a biography of Kimball, Full Steam Ahead: The Life and Art of Ward Kimball that was projected for publication in the fall of 2012.[7] However, publication of the biography was cancelled in February 2013, which Amidi believed was due to pressure from the Disney corporation.[8]


Note: At the time these films were produced it was common for one animator to animate every single character in the shot.

Grizzly Flats Railroad[edit]

Emma Nevada locomotive at the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California

Along with his employer and friend Walt Disney, and friend Ollie Johnston, Kimball collected old railroad ephemera. He was an avid railway enthusiast and donated his 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge collection to the Orange Empire Railway Museum (OERM) in Perris, California. A full-size steam locomotive, which Kimball ran on his private 3-acre (12,000 m2) backyard railroad known as "Grizzly Flats Railroad" in San Gabriel, California, bears some of his original artwork on the headlamp and cab, and is on permanent display at the museum.[9][10] Kimball's roundhouse also included two small steam engines that had been used on sugar cane plantations, one of which was his and the other was owned by his friend, noted railroad historian Gerald M. Best.[11] Kimball was also an avid collector of model trains.

Kimball is credited with helping Walt Disney for the inspiration to install the Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland. Inspiration for the Disneyland Railroad also partly came from Disney's personal 7 14 in (184 mm) gauge, live steam backyard Carolwood Pacific Railroad, which Kimball had partially constructed. Kimball's Grizzly Flats train station served as the model for the Disneyland Frontierland Train Station. As a tribute to Kimball, Engine No. 5 of the Disneyland Railroad is named the Ward Kimball.[9]

Kimball's talents are also evident in the reproduction steam locomotives built for the National Park Service at the Golden Spike National Historic Site at Promontory, Utah. Kimball helped match colors with an engine at the Smithsonian Institution and painted the artwork for the replicas of the Union Pacific No. 119 and Central Pacific Jupiter built by O'Connor Engineering Laboratories for the Park Service.[12]

The Ward Kimball pulls into New Orleans Square Station at Disneyland.

In recognition to his love of railroading and support of the Orange Empire Railway Museum, the Perris Transit Center, where OERM historic trains travel to, is dedicated to Mr. Kimball. In a rare deviation from its usually tight copyright policy, the Disney corporation allowed the city to decorate the transit center with Kimball's artwork. The center is currently served by Riverside Transit Agency buses, with train service as part of the Metrolink Perris Valley Line.[13]


In 1968 Kimball directed a two-minute animated short called Escalation, which criticized Lyndon B. Johnson's Vietnam War policy. The short is unique for being the only animated cartoon made independently from the Disney Studios by one of Disney's Nine Old Men. The short is further noticeable for its satirical edge and political and erotic content.[14][15]


Ward Kimball appeared as himself in the documentary The Fantasy Film Worlds of George Pal (1985) (produced and directed by Arnold Leibovit).


Kimball died in 2002 in Los Angeles, California of complications from pneumonia at age 88. In 2005 the Disneyland Railroad named its newly acquired Engine №5 the "Ward Kimball" in his memory.[16][17][18]


The Academy Film Archive houses the Kimball Family Collection which includes over 60 home movie reels, as well as short films, TV spots, and jazz band performances, serving to document Ward’s personal interests and moments in his extraordinary career. The collection also includes home movies and shorts by his son, filmmaker and animator John Kimball.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ward Kimball's Final Farewell", Hogan's Alley #11.
  2. ^ "It's Tough to be a Bird". 2008. Retrieved 6 January 2008. 
  3. ^ Unusual Occupations L-5-2 at the Internet Movie Database
  4. ^ Art Afterpieces, ISBN 978-0-8431-0366-3
  5. ^ "Ward Kimball - Art Afterpieces". 2013. Retrieved 14 August 2016. 
  6. ^ Gabler, Neal: Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination (Random House, 2007).
  7. ^ Pre-Order “Full Steam Ahead!,” the Ward Kimball Biography
  8. ^ Amid Amidi: "Yes, Chronicle Books nixed the publication of my book.... Yes, it's my opinion that Disney’s pressure caused Chronicle to kill the project.... Yes, I am amused by the Disney Company's inept attempt to control the personal histories of its artists...."
  9. ^ a b Broggie, Michael, Walt Disney's Railroad Story, Virginia Beach, VA: The Donning Company Publishers, 2006 (2nd edn), pp. 52–59, 200.
  10. ^ Steam Passenger Service Directory, 1967, p. 18, Empire State Railway Museum, Inc., New York, NY, 1967.
  11. ^ Broggie, Michael. Walt Disney's Railroad Story: The Small-Scale Fascination that Led to a Full-Scale Kingdom, pp. 122–24, 150, 335, 2nd Ed., The Donning Company Publishers, Virginia Beach, Virginia, 2006. ISBN 1-57864-309-0.
  12. ^ Dowty, Robert R., Rebirth of the Jupiter and the 119: Building the Replica Locomotives at Golden Spike, Tucson, AZ: Southwest Parks & Monuments Association, 1994, p. 35.
  13. ^ New Perris Transit Center to Honor Ward Kimball - Phase 1 Grand Opening, Cityofperris.org
  14. ^ http://www.art-for-a-change.com/LBJ/LBJ.htm
  15. ^ http://www.cartoonbrew.com/wardkimball/ward-kimballs-escalation-2-2572.html
  16. ^ Mello, Michael, "New generation works Disneyland's rails", Orange County Register, Local, 26 November 2011, p. 4.
  17. ^ "Today's Orange County business briefs", Orange County Register, 16 February 2006.
  18. ^ Eades, Mark, "Disneyland Railroad engineers fire up the locomotives every morning", Orange County Register, 1 June 2010.
  19. ^ "Kimball Family Collection". Academy Film Archive. 

External links[edit]