Today In Disney History ~ June 25th
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.
Also, he was a jazz trombonist. He founded and led the seven-piece Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two, in which he played trombone.
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 Bloodhound from Cinderella; and Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio. 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.
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. Kimball’s roundhouse also included two small steam engines that had been used on sugar cane plantations, one on which was his, and the other was owned by his friend, noted railroad historian, Gerald M. Best. 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 1⁄4 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.
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.
TMSM Today in Graphic by Sherry Rinaldi DeHart