Remembering Disney Legends – Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johonston

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston

Of Walt’s Nine Old Men, perhaps the two that you hear the most about — if you know of the nine old men at all — are Frank and Ollie.  Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston are both Disney Legends, and were born within a month of each other in 1912.  Frank’s birthday was September 5, 1912, one day after and one year before my grandpa was born.  Ollie was born on Halloween in 1912.  The two would meet at Stanford when they were in college, and a lifelong friendship was struck.

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Remembering Disney Legends – Ward Kimball

Ward Kimball and Walt Disney. Image courtesy Manicmation.

Ward Kimball and Walt Disney. Image courtesy Manicmation.

Hello everyone!  Two weeks ago I introduced you to my new mini-series about remembering the Disney Legends.  Our first legend that we featured was Marc Davis — today, I’ve got a special treat, as we take a look at another of Walt’s Nine Old Men, Ward Kimball!

Ward Kimball was born on March 4, 1914, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  In 1932, though, after he graduated from high school, he moved to California to attend classes at the Santa Barbara School of the Arts, where he had a scholarship.  Two years later, in 1934, he was convinced by an instructor to apply for a job at Disney — after one look at his portfolio, Ward Kimball was offered a job on the spot!

Kimball has so many accomplishments in the Disney Arena that it is hard to list them all!  Some of his most important contributions, though, are things that you may not have known, listed here:

  • Ward Kimball was the creator of the character Jiminy Cricket for the movie Pinocchio!  It’s been said that Jiminy resembled Ward Kimball in both looks and mannerisms, so the next time you watch Pinocchio, and look at Jiminy Cricket, you’ll be seeing a glimpse of Ward Kimball as well!
  • In addition to being an animator, Kimball was also a jazz trombonist.  In fact, he was a founding member of the Disney band the Firehouse Five Plus Two Dixieland Jazz Band!  The band became well known in Disney, playing to many different venues.  The members of the band were all Disney Studio employees, and were featured on television shows, in movies, later played live at Disneyland, and even recorded a string of albums.  In fact, at one time the Firehouse Five Plus Two was even outselling Dizzy Gillespie on the Jazz Charts!  But perhaps most importantly, the band was even caricatured in the Goofy short cartoon How To Dance!  A YouTube video of the short appears at the bottom of this post for your enjoyment.
  • However, the real reason I am writing about Ward Kimball isn’t anything to do with his movie roles, the characters he created, or even the Firehouse Five Plus Two.  When I think of Ward Kimball, what I really think of is his and Walt Disney’s love of trains!

Ward Kimball had a train layout in his backyard called the Grizzly Flats Railroad.  He, along with Ollie Johnston, were avid train guys, as was Walt Disney, of course, and it was Kimball that helped Walt Disney build the Carolwood Pacific line he had in his backyard.  Additionally, Kimball was part of the reason that the Disneyland Railroad was built around Disneyland!  I wonder whether or not the Walt Disney World Railroad would have existed if Ward Kimball hadn’t been around to help with the Disneyland Railroad…what do you think?

Ward Kimball officially retired from Disney in 1972, but was also involved in Disney projects long after his retirement.  In fact, Ward Kimball is even the Creator/Designer for the EPCOT attraction World of Motion!

Like all of the Nine Old Men, Ward Kimball was made a Disney Legend in 1989.

Ward Kimball passed away in 2002, and was married to his wife Betty for over 65 years.  Three years after his passing, the 5th locomotive to the Disneyland Railroad was added — and named the Ward Kimball in honor of him.  Here is a great picture of the locomotive, courtesy of the Disney Parks Blog.  Click on over to read more about the locomotive and learn what may be one of the coolest Disney stories ever!

Image ©Disney

Image ©Disney

If you didn’t know, one of the Disneyland Railroad engineers is none other than Nate Lord.  Who is Nate Lord, you ask?  Well, he just happens to be the grandson of Ward Kimball — and he can often be found guiding the Ward Kimball locomotive at Disneyland!  How incredibly cool is that, I ask you?!

Thank you for joining me on our look back at Disney Legend Ward Kimball.

Now, sit back, relax, and enjoy Goofy’s short, How To Dance!  After that, check out the video of Walt Disney and his friends working on the Carolwood Pacific Railroad!

 

Walt Disney and the Carolwood Pacific Railroad

Remembering Disney Legends – Marc Davis

Marc Davis

Disney Legend Marc Davis busy at work drawing.

Hello everyone, and welcome to a special series here at My Dreams of Disney.  Over the next few weeks, we are going to spend a little time and take a look back at some of the great Disney Legends that Disney has produced.  It is a special person who becomes a Disney Legend, and in my mind, there is no better person to start with than one of Walt’s Nine Old Men himself, Marc Davis.

Those of you that are truly into the history that Disney has will know his name, and probably know more about him than I know!  However, if you haven’t heard of him before, that’s okay, because we’ll highlight some of his accomplishments during the course of his extraordinary career at Disney.

Marc Davis was hired as an apprentice animator for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  He progressed through the ranks and worked on character design and other duties for Bambi and Victory Through Air Power.  However, his biggest accomplishments in the animation arena came when he was the person behind some of the greatest woman in Disney lore — Cruella De Vil from 101 Dalmatians, Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty, and Tinker Bell from Peter Pan.

After a while Davis transferred to the department that would become Walt Disney Imagineering, and it was there that his signature work would be found on some of the great classic Disney attractions.  All told, Davis worked on the following attractions at Disneyland:

  • Enchanted Tiki Room
  • It’s a Small World
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Haunted Mansion
  • Jungle Cruise

Marc Davis was the last of the famed group of Disney employees dubbed the “Nine Old Men” by Walt Disney himself to be hired at Disney, but in my opinion, his accomplishments stand up to any.  The term “Nine Old Men” was a play on words by Walt Disney as a reference to President Franklin D. Roosevelt and his Supreme Court.  The funny thing about this was that all of the Disney “Nine Old Men” were only in their 20s when they started working with the company!

Marc Davis worked for Disney for 43 years, retiring from active work in 1978 — although he did help with the development of EPCOT and Tokyo Disneyland.  Ironically, yesterday was the 24 anniversary of his induction (along with the rest of the Nine Old Men) as a Disney Legend.

Marc Davis passed away on January 12, 2000, at the age of 86.

Having seen much of his work up close, it is our opinion that some of the great attractions that Marc Davis worked on would not be the same if he hadn’t contributed to them, so My Dreams of Disney salutes him.

Next up on our list of Disney Legends: Ward Kimball, another of Disney’s Nine Old Men.

When Disney Legends Pass Away

Image ©fox4kc.com

Image ©fox4kc.com

When news broke of the loss of Annette Funicello to complications of Multiple Sclerosis, the message boards exploded with people remembering her.  Last night, as I was working on a different blog post, I was struck suddenly by how the Disney landscape has changed over the past months with the passing of some of the great Disney Legends.

Image ©WPTV

Image ©WPTV

You may remember that it’s been about 13 months since we lost Robert Sherman, another great Disney Legend, at the age of 86.  Losing these incredible Disney icons, in some ways, really is like losing a member of your own family.  For so many people, seeing these incredible people on television or in movies, or listening to their incredible music, was like inviting them into your life, and when we lose them, well, perhaps we lose a bit of ourself as well.

As much as I know that death is a part of life, and that, hopefully, those that have passed away know Jesus and accepted Him as their Lord and Savior, and thus, have Eternal Life, the human part of me, the part that loves looking at Disney as more then just a vacation, as an opportunity for us to celebrate who we are — well, the human side of me feels each of these losses more and more.

With each loss of a true Disney Legend, and believe you me, Robert Sherman (1990) and Annette Funicello (1992) were both Legends — it feels like a bit of Disney is being lost.

Each successive death means that one more great person — who lived and breathed the Disney Way — has left us and joined Walt, the Nine Old Men, and many other Disney Legends who left us before.

My friends, I don’t really know where this post is leading me, except to perhaps point out one thing — one very crucial thing that we all need to recognize.  Perhaps, in our own ways, those of us that are Disney Bloggers or Travel Agents, or both, or perhaps those of us that just love to go to Disney Parks, wherever in the world we live and go — perhaps it’s time for us to recognize that we are the next generation of Disney Legends.  Certainly I don’t mean that in a conceited, arrogant, or proud manner — but what I mean is this.  Disney will become what we deem it has become — perhaps not directly, because we don’t control the changes that Disney makes, at least, I don’t, and most of us only play a small role in what Disney does — but indirectly, we hold the keys to what we want Walt Disney World, Disneyland, and the other parks to become.

Regardless of whether you agree with this change or that change, whether you think Disney is just all out for the almighty dollar, and not worried about what Disney is becoming, or any of those outside issues, at the heart of it all, to me, what it comes down to are these questions.  Does Walt Disney World (et al.) still capture the heart, soul, and mind of my child like it did when I was a child?  Also, is the world famous Disney Magic, something that I have written about countless times — does it still exist, regardless of the passing of Legends such as Annette Funicello and Robert Sherman?  Well, if it does, my friends, then in my humble opinion, that is what we need to focus on.

Be proud of who you are.  Take pride in knowing that you, with your love of Disney, all that it is, may perhaps be the next generation of indirect Disney Legend.  Remember those Legends who have left us, because by remembering them, and keeping their love for Disney in your hearts as they did in theirs, you will realize that the love you feel will continue to pass down, generation to generation.