Ward Kimball, Disney animator, dies


If you get the Disney Channel, it’s worth it to catch his shows when they come around.

The space series looks retro now, I suppose. But when I first saw it as a kid, it defined the future for me.

Wow. I visited his house several times. His granddaughter was a friend of mine in high school.

He had a full-sized working train engine in his back yard, and he collected all manner of miniature trains and old-fashioned toys. It was quite a place to visit. Pretty much what you’d expect from an original Disney animator.

Sad news.

:: sniff ::

I’ll have more to say later; Kimball was the absolute best. But I’m just too sad about this right now.

Wow. And I just saw a signed litho of his at the Animation Department the other week. Could have picked it up for a mere couple of hundred bucks.

So who’s left of the original nine?

I’ve been kind of bummed out about this today since Kimball was one of my heroes. And even though he was getting up in years you rather wish your heroes were indestructible.

To say that Ward Kimball was an original would be an understatement. He began as an “in-betweener” at Disney but because of his imagination he soon grew bored with the rote repitition of that type of work. Disney Must have seen something in him, however, because when Kimball went to Walt telling him he was quitting, Disney quieted him by telling him about his next project and a specific character that he felt Kimball would be perfect for. That character was Jiminy Cricket. That assignment invigorated the budding aniamtors work and he stayed with Disney for most of the rest of his career.

He became one of Disney’s “nine old men” who led his animation department throughout it’s golden years. (If I recall, the only two of the nine left are Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnson.) Disney was usually stand-offish and aloof, but probably because of their joint love of trains, Kimball became pretty much the only close friend that Disney had. He was also a proficient jazz trombonist with “The Firehouse Five Plus Two”, a Dixieland jazz group made up of all Disney employees.

Ever the iconoclast, he would often show up for work in bright, mismatched colors standing out against the white shirts and black pants of the rest of the animation department. He was also very anti-war during the 60’s and on his own created one of the most bizarre anti-war cartoons. It was a parody of “Pinnocchio” featuring Lyndon Johnson whose nose continued growing the more and more he talked about Vietnam, eventually becoming more and more phallic until it orgasmically exploded at the end.

So goodbye, Ward. The animation world could use more like you.

Here is a tribute from Mouse Planet. The author claims that if Kimball had not gotten Disney interested in model railroading, there might never have been a Disneyland. Unfortunately, the first photo of Kimball in that piece has been cropped; you see only a glimpse of the “monster’s paw” glove he’s wearing on his right hand, a detial that makes clear what a kidder and iconoclast he was.

Kimball’s best work, in my opinion, was in The Three Caballeros, which has some of the wildest, most surreal animation the Disney Studios ever made, including Fantasia and the “Pink Elephants” sequence in Dumbo (which Ward also worked on).

He will be missed.

My error on this information.

Was in one the collector’s shop at Epcot.

Gilt-and-black overly ornate frame.
Large (about 2x3 feet)
Center photograph of Ward and Walt.
Pencil sketches of several of his characters, with three colored-in characters.
Signed by Ward.


There was a matching, similarly framed photo/autograph of Ollie Johnson (same price) which I liked better - had a picture of him drawing King John from Robin Hood, but Ollie was looking into a mirror making a really weird funny face.

Ah well, there’s always my Christmas list.