Ward Walrath Kimball (March 4, 1914 – July 8, 2002) was an Academy Award winning animator for the Walt Disney Studios. He was one of Walt Disney’s team of animators known as Disney’s Nine Old Men. While Kimball was a brilliant draftsman, he preferred to work on comical characters rather than complicated 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 geniuses at Disney, Ward’s efforts stand out as unique, especially within the Disney universe.
Kimball created several classic Disney characters including The Crows in “Dumbo”, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, The Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, the Mice and Lucifer from Cinderella, and Jiminy Cricket from Pinocchio and animated the famous “Three Caballeros” number. In the mid fifties, he became a director and was responsible for the Academy Award Winning, “Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom” and three Disney television shows about outer space that put the United States into the space program.
He was also a jazz trombonist. He founded and led the seven piece Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two, in which he played trombone. They made at least 13 LP records and toured clubs, college campuses and jazz festivals during the 1940s to early 1970’s. Kimball once said that Walt Disney didn’t mind the second career as long as it didn’t interfere with his animation work.
A view of the narrow gauge Grizzly Flats Railroad locomotive Emma Nevada, coach #5, and a caboose at the Kimball home in San Gabriel, California on June 16, 1946.Along with his employer and friend Walt Disney, Kimball also collected old railroad ephemera, was an avid train enthusiast and donated his 3′ gauge collection to the Orange Empire Railway Museum in Perris, California. A full-sized steam locomotive which Kimball actually ran on his private three acre backyard railroad, Grizzly Flats, in San Gabriel, California bears some of his original artwork on the headlamp and cab, and is on permanent display at the museum. He is credited with helping Walt Disney with the inspiration to install the Disneyland Railroad at Disneyland. Inspiration for the Disneyland Railroad also partly came from Walt’s own personal 7 1/4″ gauge, live steam backyard Carolwood Pacific Railroad – also partly built by Ward. Kimball’s Grizzly Flats train station was the model for the Disneyland Frontierland Train Station.
Kimball continued to work at Disney up until the early 70’s, working on the Disney TV program, Mary Poppins, Directing the animation for Bedknobs & Broomsticks and doing titles for some feature films like Million Dollar Duck (1971) and The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin (1967). His last staff work for Disney was Producing and Directing the Disney show, The Mouse Factory.
He continued to do various projects on his own, even returning to Disney to do some publicity tours. Kimball even worked on an attraction for EPCOT Center called The World Of Motion.