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