1914 - 2002
Pioneering animator Ward Kimball, one of Walt Disney's trusted cadre of cartoon artists known as the "nine old men," died of natural causes at a hospital in Arcadia, California on July 8, 2002 at age 88.
I had the pleasure of meeting him at one of the many Disneyana conventions he attended. Even though we only talked briefly and from hearing his stories of Walt and his own tales about working at Disney, I could tell he was a warm, loving, and sweet man with a delightful sense of humor.
Ward joined the Disney animation staff in 1934. His outstanding body of work included helping to modernize Mickey Mouse's look in 1938,
creating the character Jiminy Cricket for the Disney classic "Pinocchio," and the animation of the crow sequence in "Dumbo", among many other accomplishments at Disney Animation.
His career in television and shorts was equally distinguished. Ward retired in 1972 to become a world traveler. Ward was a consultant for Walt Disney Feature Animation and as a consultant to Walt Disney Imagineering his design projects included Epcot's World of Motion and new attraction concepts for Disneyland.
Firehouse Five Plus Two: Dixieland Favorites, one of their many albums (from amazon.com)
He was also well-known as the creator and leader of the world-famous jazz band, the Firehouse Five Plus Two.
He had one of the largest collections of antique toys as well as old railroad toys from 1870, and operated his own full-size railroad of historic steam locomotives on his orange ranch in San Gabriel, California.
Disneyland Railroad Rededication Ceremony, courtesy Carolwood Pacific Historical Society
Disneyland recently acquired an engine from a private collector for use on the Disneyland Railroad. The engine is currently being completely refurbished and will be named after Ward. Ward had his own full scale Grizzly Flats Railroad in his backyard. New information from The Carolwood Pacific Historical Society says that the dedication of the Ward Kimball has been indefinitely postponed. Ward served on the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society Board Of Governors.
Here is the official Disney press release:
Ward Kimball, Academy Award®-Winning Disney Animator/Director Who Brought Life to Mickey Mouse, Jiminy Cricket, The Cheshire Cat, The Mad Hatter And 'The Three Caballeros,' Dies at Age 88
Pioneering Artist Was One of Walt Disney's 'Nine Old Men,' Founding Member Of 'Firehouse Five' Jazz Group and Ran His Own Private Railroad
BURBANK, Calif., July 8 -- Ward Kimball, a pioneering giant of animation who became one of Walt Disney's trusted "Nine Old Men" and was closely associated with such memorable characters as Mickey Mouse, Jiminy Cricket and the Mad Hatter, passed away today (7/ from natural causes at Arcadia Methodist Hospital in Arcadia, California. He was 88 years old. The iconoclastic artist joined the Disney Studios in 1934 and worked there until his retirement in 1973. He animated or served as directing animator on such classic films as "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Pinocchio," "Fantasia," "The Reluctant Dragon," "The Three Caballeros," "Melody Time," "Cinderella," "Alice in Wonderland," "Peter Pan," "Mary Poppins," and "Bedknobs and Broomsticks." Two of the animated shorts which Kimball created for Disney -- "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom" (1953) and "It's Tough to be a Bird" (1969) -- won Academy Awards®. Among his other career highlights, he wrote the stories for and directed a landmark trio of television shows for the "Disneyland" show -- "Man in Space," "Man and the Moon," and "Mars and Beyond" -- which helped to spark interest in space travel.
In addition to his major accomplishments in the field of animation, Kimball was a founding member of the popular jazz group, The Firehouse Five Plus Two. He played trombone and led some of his fellow Disney employees in the legendary Dixieland band, which recorded albums, played concerts and appeared both on television and in films. As a railroad enthusiast, he was among a tight-knit group at the Studio who stoked Walt's interest in trains. Kimball, with his wife Betty, built America's first privately operated full-size backyard railroad, called Grizzly Flats R.R., in 1938. Starting with a 64,000-pound coal-burning locomotive, a wooden passenger car and over 900 feet of track, Kimball added to the collection over the years and went on to build a museum of miniature trains as well. In 1992, he donated part of his railroad to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California.
Roy E. Disney, vice chairman of The Walt Disney Company, noted, "Ward's passing is a tremendous loss to the animation community and to our Studio. He was a brilliant animator and filmmaker with a distinctive style and humor all his own.
From his contributions to the re-design of Mickey Mouse in 1938 and his animation on such classics as 'Snow White,' 'Pinocchio,' and 'Dumbo,' to his unbounded imagination on the trilogy of programs devoted to space exploration and his award-winning shorts, Ward has left his artistic mark on all of us. He was a wonderful character himself and as entertaining in real life as the ones he created on screen. He was a remarkable talent and we will miss him enormously."
Animation historian/author and film critic Leonard Maltin added, "To the end of his days, Ward had a pixie-ish spirit that was irresistible. He had the soul of an artist and an innate sense of humor that came through in his work, his hobbies and his outlook on life. And he was always fun to be around. Ward Kimball was truly one-of-a-kind."
Kimball first came to the Disney Studios in 1934, when his interest in Mickey Mouse shorts led him to apply for a job there. Following a stint as an animator on "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," he developed the character of Jiminy Cricket for "Pinocchio," and was then promoted to animation supervisor in "Dumbo," "Fantasia," "Saludos Amigos," "The Three Caballeros," "Alice in Wonderland," "Cinderella" and "Peter Pan."
From 1951-1953, in addition to his regular duties, Kimball headed an experimental animation group that produced the first 3-D cartoon, "Melody," and the Academy Award®-winning "Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom," the first cartoon in Cinemascope.
During the early days of television, Kimball wrote and directed three landmark shows for the "Disneyland" TV series that explored the science and fantasy of space travel. Working with scientists Willy Ley, Heinz Haber and Wernher von Braun, Kimball's first effort was the 1955 program, "Man in Space." "Man and the Moon" followed later that year and "Mars and Beyond" landed in 1957. This trilogy of shows is often credited with giving impetus to the government's space program and popularizing the concept with the American public.
Among his other Disney credits, Kimball contributed to the script for the 1961 Disney musical live-action fantasy, "Babes in Toyland." He also produced and directed 43 episodes of the Disney syndicated series, "The Mouse Factory," which began airing in 1972. For Epcot Center, Kimball helped to design and create the "World of Motion" attraction for the 1982 Future World attraction.
Kimball is survived by his wife of 66 years, Betty. The couple has three children -- John Kimball (a longtime Disney employee), Kelly Kimball and Chloe Lord -- as well as five grandchildren (Katy Kimball Windsor, Sarah Kimball, Nathaniel
Lord, Christopher Lord, Laurey Foulkes Border) and two great grandchildren (Jarrod Lord and Coralie Border).
Services will be private with plans for a remembrance to be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests that donations be made to any of the following: Berklee College of Music (Boston, MA); Ward Kimball Memorial Fund (California Institute of the Arts, 24700 McBean Parkway, Valencia, CA); The Cartoon Art Museum (San Francisco, CA); or the Orange Empire Railroad Museum (Perris, CA).
Source: Buena Vista Pictures Marketing