Ward Walrath Kimball
Ward Walrath KimballOccupation / Title:
03/04/1914Date of death:
Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA
Ward Kimball was a prolific animator for Walt Disney, part of the earliest team of core animators known as “Disney’s Nine Old Men.” While extremely influential, his importance in the early days of Disney has meant that biographers have encountered several legal issues trying to gather more information about his involvement with animation productions, meaning that we have a fairly incomplete biographical picture of Kimball. Kimball also maintained a side career as a jazz trombonist, successfully leading a band throughout his time at Disney.
In high school, Kimball decided wanted to be a magazine illustrator, and received a scholarship to the Santa Barbara School of the Arts for the following year.
He is best known for creating a wide array of humorous side characters for Disney’s featured animated films. Such characters include Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio, 1940), The Cheshire Cat (Alice in Wonderland, 1951), and Lucifer (Cinderella, 1950) among others. In 1953, Kimball also started directing animated shorts and would soon move on to overseeing the direction of sequences within animated films. He received Academy Awards for the shorts Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Bloom (1953) and It’s Tough to be a Bird (1969). He continued working at Disney until 1974, working on several of the TV shows and movies that combined live action and animation, such as Mary Poppins (1964) and Bedknobs and Broomsticks (1971). He then also worked for titles on films such as The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin and Million Dollar Duck.
In the final stages of career, Kimball worked on producing and directing Disney’s The Mouse Factory (1972-1974). Though he ceased to do animation work after this, he continued to work alongside and with Disney on tours and on The World of Motion at Disney’s EPCOT Center. Kimball also began to start on several of his own independent projects. One such project was Art Afterpieces, a collection of funny revised art masterpieces from across time, which he did two editions of.
Kimball also did a small amount of acting and television hosting. He acted (uncredited) as a jazz musician with his group Firehouse Five Plus Two in the film Hit Parade of 1951, and as an IRS Chief in The Wizard of Speed and Time. Kimball hosted the 1955 and 1956 episodes of Disneyland, “Man in Space” and “Man on the Moon”. He also hosted the 1992 PBS series Tracks Ahead (Season 2).
Kimball was also an extremely avid collector of trains. He primarily collected model trains, though also had a full size steam locomotive in his backyard railroad known as “Grizzly Flats Railroad” in San Gabriel, California. He also had two smaller steam engines that had been used on sugar cane plantations. He is credited with several train reconstruction and repainting projects, and with the main vision and design for the Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland.
Canemaker, John. Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation. NY: Disney Editions, 2001.