5 Facts About Disney Legend Ward Kimball

by | Mar 4, 2022 | Disney History, Disney Legends, Disneyland Parks

Learn about Disney Legend Ward Kimball, born 3/4/1914.

Ward Kimball was one of the original animators at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Born in March 1914 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Kimball discovered a love for drawing at an early age, which made it easy for him to choose a career path.

Though Kimballl died in 2002 at the age of 88, his legacy lives on to this day through his unique animations. Let’s learn more about the life of Disney Legend Ward Kimball below.

Lead photo courtesy of D23

1. One of Nine

Ward Kimball was one of the very first animators for Walt Disney Studio. He was part of a group called Disney’s Nine Old Men, who were the core animators at Walt Disney Productions and worked on memorable films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and The Rescuers.

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Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. Photo courtesy of the Walt Disney Company.

The name “Nine Old Men” was coined by Walt Disney himself as a reference to President Franklin D. Roosevelt calling the U.S. Supreme Court nine old men in what was intended as a dismissive comment. Disney’s Nine Old Men, however, were in their 30s and 40s when they got this name—hardly old, even by the 1930s’ standards.

2. A Career in Magazines

Before Ward Kimball became an animator for Disney, he had his heart set on a career as a magazine illustrator. It wasn’t until he saw Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs that he considered a career in animation.

After seeing Three Little Pigs at a matinee in Santa Barbara, Kimball set off for Hollywood where he joined Walt Disney Studios in 1934

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One of Ward’s most beloved characters is Jiminy Cricket. Photo courtesy of Disney

During his tenure, he animated some iconic characters like Jiminy Cricket (Pinocchio), Tweedledee and Tweedledum (Alice in Wonderland), and Lucifer the Car (Cinderella).

3. All That Jazz

Kimball was enthusiastic about jazz and played trombone in a seven-piece band called Firehouse Five Plus Two. The band toured the country from the 1940s to the 1970s, playing at jazz festivals, clubs, and college campuses.

In 1954, Kimball appeared on an episode of You Bet Your Life, where he played his trombone alongside the house band at the urging of Groucho Marx.

Walt Disney didn’t have a problem with Kimball’s side gig as a jazz musician, provided it didn’t interfere with his main career as an animator. And Kimball made it work, successfully following both passions for decades.

Check out the Firehouse Five Plus Two in action:

4. Trainspotting

In addition to being an avid jazz fan and musician, Kimball was very enthusiastic about railways. In fact, he is reported to have had a railroad on his 2-acre property, along with a full-sized locomotive.

It’s also reported that his first-ever recognizable drawing as a child was of a steam locomotive, which suggests his love for trains began at an early age and continued throughout his life.

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A train on the Disneyland Railroad was named in Ward Kimball’s honor. Photo courtesy of Disney Parks Blog

As a tribute to his love of trains, the Disneyland Railroad’s No. 5 engine was named after him posthumously in 2005. For a while, Ward’s grandson, Nate Lord, periodically operated that very train at Disneyland.

5. One-of-a-Kind Animations

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Disney Legend Ward Kimball. Photo courtesy of D23

One of the things that helped Ward Kimball stand out from the crowd was his love for creating characters that looked more comical than lifelike. Because of this, Walt Disney called Kimball a genius in the book “The Story of Walt Disney.”

Looking at Kimball’s animations, even today, it’s easy to see why.

Remembering Disney Legend Ward Kimball

Ward Kimball was named a Disney Legend in 1989 in honor of his animation legacy at Walt Disney World.

In remembering Ward and all of Disney’s animators, this month’s issue of WDW Magazine is dedicated to art and animation. Become a digital subscriber today for instant access to this issue and over 100 other special issues full of exclusive subscriber content.

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Posts by Catherine Hiles

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Catherine Hiles is a mom of young kids and therefore an avid Disney+ watcher. While it's her kids who request Disney soundtracks to play in the car, she often finds herself driving solo while belting out "Into the Unknoooooooooooown!" She also enjoys eating and running, although not at the same time.
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Authored by
Catherine Hiles

Catherine Hiles is a mom of young kids and therefore an avid Disney+ watcher. While it's her kids who request Disney soundtracks to play in the car, she often finds herself driving solo while belting out "Into the Unknoooooooooooown!" She also enjoys eating and running, although not at the same time.
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