Sunday, June 12, 2011

Ward Kimball

Ward Kimball was hilarious.
For the most part his animation differed from the work of his colleagues, it almost seems like once he mastered a certain approach,  he had to change to prevent 
from being bored.  Frank Thomas felt that Kimball's only  sincere character animation was Jiminy Cricket.
 From then on he needed to experiment and explore in order to keep himself entertained. And he always entertained us.

I didn't know Ward as well as the other then living Nine Old Men, but I had been invited to his house on a few occasions, and I even starred in a Disney TV show with him in the mid nineties. 
We had just finished the Mickey Mouse short "Runaway Brain", and the Disney channel wanted to help promote it with a half hour special called  "Mickey reelin' through the Years". It also starred the kid actors from "Home Improvement", who asked us a few scripted questions, and we gave scripted answers.
Except....when it came to introducing me to the kids, Ward had a hard time pronouncing my last name. So it went like, take 11  :  Hia kids, this is animator Andreas Deeeegg.....ohh, sh#@ !!
Somebody finally held up a card board sign with my name spelled phonetically.
That did the trick, and Ward got close enough.
The shooting took all afternoon and into the evening. The kids had finished their parts and gone home, but Ward and I still needed to draw for the camera and comment at the same time. Since it was a getting late, Ward got a little bored with the whole thing.
They wanted him to draw a vintage version of Mickey, so he started and said:
"After I finish a circle for his head, I add two more smaller ones for his ears, Then I draw a line from his neck all the way down to his penis....."
All you heard then was the director yelling :" CUT, CUT, CUT!"
Wards facial expression was priceless, like: what's the matter, anything wrong ?

At the end of the day he gave me his "revised" drawing and signed it.
I have to laugh every time I look at it. 

There are more funny Ward stories for later posts.
Also I need to put together a rough pencil test with one of his scenes from Fantasia.

Below is a beautiful story sketch of Ward, done for the feature "The Reluctant Dragon".
The first photo shows us getting our make up for the TV show.
In the the next one Kimball signs a big board with rough animation images.
I had a bunch of those boards made up to decorate the hallways at Disney.
Then there is the infamous Mickey drawing...which I think is just beautiful.
Following are animation drawings from the deleted Soup eating Sequence,
Jiminy Cricket, Panchito, Donald, Germania from "Education for Death",
the Reluctant Dragon (hysterical animation), Sascha from "Peter & the Wolf",
Tweedledee & Dum, and a cel from "Mars and Beyond".

What a range, what an animator!


  1. Haha what a gem of a story! I always get the impression that Ward's humour was as important a contribution to the Disney studio as his animation. I imagine a lot of tense situations would have been diffused by him over the years. Do you think that's the case Andreas?

  2. Oh yes, Ward made everybody laugh.
    But he had his tough times, too. Ward started animation on the two Siamese cats from "Lady & Tramp".
    I was told that the movement was so zany, it didn't fit with the rest of the film. So those characters got reassigned.

  3. I love this. Ward is one of those characters that I'll always hate that I never got to meet. It seems like he was a real live wire. By the time he achieved "legend" status, I guess he could really say whatever he wanted!

    It's funny that you post this because I've been watching a lot of his old TV animation recently. I taped a lot of things off of television back in the day - things that have never come out on DVD. I've been digitizing them, and it's just constantly amazing how much *fun* the animation is.

    I'm glad you posted that still from "Mars and Beyond"; I've always thought those characters would make the basis for a wonderful dark ride in one of the parks. Visual gags galore.

    The Panchito and Donald drawings are excellent too; I really do love those characters.

    Now, if we can only get Mouse Factory out on DVD...

  4. This is great stuff Andreas. Really loving every post more and more. I really appreciate you sharing your stories about these guys. A lot of us never got the chance to even meet these guys, its just nice of you to share. As far as Ward Kimball, all I can say is that I have always felt bad about that soup eating sequence. Months and months of work down the drain. That is just horrible. As an animator I can understand the pain of losing a shot from a piece of work but not an entire sequence. It was a very long sequence too and with so many characters! My heart really goes out to the guy. Oh and that drawing you posted of Donald after being kissed is just so full of life and vitality, it looks simple but the emotion just reads so clearly, really great stuff.

  5. Wow, coming back from Annecy and finding this blog... These stories and artwork would have made an amazing lecture at the festival, but you are sharing them with everybody online, thanks Andreas.

  6. You just made my morning again Andreas!! Great job!

  7. After Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball's animation is the one I tend to study the most. For some reason I get to watch over and over again his work to try to understand how he did it. He had a great imagination and tried things in his work that no other animator did.

    I have listened to an interview with Walt Disney and he calls Ward a genius. What a compliment from another.

    Too bad those big boards with the rough animation decorating the hallways at the studio disappeared.
    I remember stop by them every day to look at amazing drawings. I also remember Ward going there to sign it.

    It was a great time.
    Thanks for posting this.

  8. I'm running out of superlatives to describe each daily batch of animation goodness - so I'll simply say THANKS Andreas!

  9. I've always loved Ward's work, especially once he started work on TV (I probably have stronger memories of the old Wonderful World of [Disney|Color] episodes than I do of the golden age movies, growing up in the 70s, and REALLY would like a clean DVD/Blu-Ray copy of Dad Can I Borrow The Car).

    Some have implied that Walt was punishing Ward in a way by taking him out of the "front line" for the films during the 50s, but really we all can see that putting him on the television crew was actually very freeing. He had room to breathe in the many styles he played in which he'd never have had on the big pictures (especially not the way Sleeping Beauty was being so constrained in style). Without his creativity influencing Disney and Disney Education (beyond just the True Life Adventures), we probably wouldn't have one of The Disney Companies's greatest works of the 50s, Donald in Mathemagicland.

    And Pixar's "Your Friend, The Rat" is a wonderful homage to his style(s).

  10. Your posts are just priceless, thank you for sharing. I love reading books on Walt and The Nine Old Men and I'm so excited to keep reading your blog.

  11. Fantastic post yet again... its really wonderful to hear about your interaction with these animation legends...


  12. LOVE the Panchito sketches.

    Christian Ziebarth (I see that another "Christian" posted before me.)

  13. The best post yet! That's hilarious- beautiful selection of drawings.

  14. Ward's always been my favorite of the nine old men, mainly for his stylized work on the Tomorrowland tv shows. I look forward to reading hilarious stories of Ward's antics :)

  15. This is some fantastic stuff, great job Andreas. In many ways a lot of the character of Walt's studio is kept by these guys. To hear sort of second hand of them, how they were as people etc., it just makes it feel more real. I don't know if you've read Neal Gabler's book on Walt's life (it has a lot of criticism positively and negatively) but the book is great on illustrating what life was like working at Hyperion and Seward. It almost felt like these guys had a fraternity or brotherhood when working there. Maybe touch up a bit more on that on future posts. Like the caricature drawings of the guys working, that stuff is fun to see.

  16. So funny !
    I do regret not going up to him one day when i saw him out in the hallway by the elevators while they were visiting the hat building.
    I just didn't want to bother him.

    If I'm remembering right, does his son work for Disney TV ?

  17. Mark,
    I know John Kimball used to work for Disney TV, not sure if he still does.

  18. Thanks for sharing all this, Andreas. I didn't know about this half-hour show! Somebody put it online! :)

  19. That was a great story, Andreas. Thank you for posting it. Just like Marc Davis' draftsmanship I've always been an admirer of Ward's animation. To me, he was the "Id" of the nine old men, he was the one element who had his own "element" to add to the studio and that story truly shows how much of a great person he was.

  20. Great yarn, Andreas! Ward was never conventional. Great drawings too: loved the Tweedles, Germania and the incensed Donald.

  21. I love hearing stories like that, very funny. And again, wonderful drawings.

    And from the pictures it looks like he was a sharp dresser.

  22. To funny, you had me laughing out loud what a man!

  23. Love the Mickey story! hilarious! ;) I was so hooked by all the factual info that the comment he made had me caught off guard and literally laughed in my chair.....great stuff.......thanks for sharing!

  24. DEE-JAZZ!!!
    What a great story!

  25. Ward is one of the greatest of them all, I love crazy animators. I knew he did the Aryan girl in "Education for Death" with Hitler as a Knight, but to be honest - I actually like the scenes with the Kids by Frank Thomas, as they are brainwashed.

    On the drawing with Mickey, with "AN-DR-EAS DEE-JAZZ" and with the name "Bob Smith", that was funny for me as a second because my Maths teacher always uses that name for example names on the board.

  26. Oh man, reading this made me laugh! Pure gold.

  27. This whole post has me laughing. "Or Bob Smith" That is great.

  28. I love The Three Caballeros, and it excited me to no end a few years ago where I was told/read somewhere that the big musical number (the self-titled The Three Caballeros') was in the film was planned/animated by Ward.

    Ward always struck me as a Disney Animator who's humor could have been suited to Daffy and co at Warner Bros and the silliness of the The Three Caballeros musical number cracks me up to this day.

    Thank you for posting some of the artwork from The 3C's... it's easily overlooked in my opinion. Great blog, keep up the wonderful entries!

  29. John Canemaker told me Ward Kimball get angry very easily when he was upset about something or the woke up on the wrong foot. It is not hard to believe: he must have had an extreme character and impulsive, but for me he's the funniest of them all. One think I adore is that Ward caught Walt Disney's attention for a surrealistic painting showing a naked girl sleeping with an older man (wearing his pijama). He had a modern mentality and I remember how much he loved Shrek in 2001.

  30. I had Ward for a drawing teacher the one semester he taught at Art Center back in the 70s...The title was "Action Analysis Drawing" and he'd have us do sequential drawings from the model, using our opposite hand, drawing the "other" side of the model from where we sat, and drawing the model from memory...All great exercises. He never demonstrated how to, just talked how to, and he made great sense...No matter how bad my drawing may have been in my other classes, the drawings done in Ward's monday classes were always consistently good...He suggested I apply at Disney, which I eventually did. I was able to call him from time to time over the years...He was always gracious. A great inspiration and a terrific character....