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.
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!
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
Did you know…about the Disneyland Railroad
Did you know that the Disneyland Railroad was originally name the Santa Fe & Disneyland Railroad? Step on board the Disneyland Railroad at any of the four stops along it’s journey — Main Street, U.S.A., New Orleans Square, Mickey’s Toontown, or Tomorrowland, and revel in this classic mode of transportation that takes us back to the turn of the 20th Century. There are five different trains to ride on. They are the C.K. Holliday, the E.P. Ripley, the Ernest S. Marsh, the Fred Gurley, and the Ward Kimball.
- The C.K. Holliday train is named after the founder of the Atchison & Topeka Railroad, Cyrus Kurtz Holliday. This train was introduced on Opening Day of Disneyland, July 17, 1955.
- The E.P. Ripley train is named after the first president of the Atchison & Topeka Railroad, Edward Payson Ripley. This train was also introduced on Opening Day of Disneyland.
- The Fred Gurley train is not one of the original Disneyland trains, but it has the distinction of being the oldest train at Disneyland! This train was built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1894 — before Walt Disney was even born! This train will celebrate its 120th year of service next year! It was introduced at Disneyland on March 28, 1958, and is named after the president of the Santa Fe Railroad, Fred G. Gurley, who was president from 1944 – 1957.
- The Ernest S. Marsh train is named after the man who was the president of the Santa Fe Railroad when this train was introduced at Disneyland on July 25th, 1959.
- The Ward Kimball train is named in honor of one of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men and Disney Legend, Ward Kimball, who, along with fellow Nine Old Men member and Disney Legend Ollie Johnston, were huge train enthusiasts, just like Walt.
The last piece in the puzzle that is the Disneyland Railroad is the Lilly Belle Presidential train car, which is, of course, named after Walt Disney’s wife Lilly. Make sure you check it out for an incredible step back in Disney history!
- 15 Days til Disneyland – Radiator Springs Curios! (mydreamsofdisney.com)