Sunday, September 23, 2012

Kimball Mice



This photo was probably taken in 1949 when Cinderella was in production. I don't know who the visitor is, but he is a lucky guy to be taken to Ward Kimball's office for a visit by Walt Disney himself.
The movie was perfectly cast in terms of animation. Marc Davis and Eric Larson drew the title character, Frank Thomas animated the stepmother, Ollie Johnston did the comic stepsisters and Milt Kahl was responsible for the King, the Duke as well as the Fairy Godmother.
There was no better animator to take on Lucifer, the cat, and the mice characters than Ward Kimball.
By the late 1940ies there had been numerous designs and concepts for animated mice, so how on earth would you go about creating fresh looking personalities for these rodents ?
Story artist Bill Peet came up with early designs, already full of character.



Ward polished these concepts for full animation and animated them with his sense of zany timing and inventive acting. Everyone of these poses for Jaq show the energy and characteristics of a real mouse. Outstanding character animation !!







If you aren't looking forward to Amid Amidi's upcoming book on Ward Kimball, I can't help you.
Here is the link to pre-order it:


23 comments:

  1. oooh i love the charisma of these drawings!

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  2. joe grant told me the whole film was produced in 9 months, no wonder with these leading character animators,

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  3. Wonderful drawings. One question, who animated the prince?

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  4. Great movie, great characters! But the prince was the most boring character i've ever seen in a movie! :))

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    1. I recall thinking the same way. It's funny how some Disney princes tend to be that low-key for us to forget 'em!

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  5. I heard Ward was the one who didn't need to use live action reference like the rest of the animators.

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    1. Because he never animated realistic humans.
      That said, there was live action reference shot for characters like Jiminy Cricket, Tweedledee and -dum, the Mad Hatter and the March Hare, all Kimball characters.

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  6. Oh, so that little one's name is Luke! Gosh, I love the mice :D Especially in the beginning of "A Dream is a Wish" – don't you hate waking up with your tail in a gigantic knot? ';)

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  7. Bill's drawings are fantastic, and Ward really plusses them. Wards drawings leave me speechless. The mice were my favorite of the characters in the movie. Thanks so much for sharing the drawings.

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  8. Well, its definitely a staged publicity photo of some type, possibly for a magazine or something. The other guy was probably someone well known at the time, a celebrity or executive or something.

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  9. Those poses are beautiful. These are some of my favorite characters. Seeing little Luke in the character line up just cracks me up. Great post. I just love seeing pictures of Walt and the animators.

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  10. Andreas, What were Mr. Kimball's experiences after the WDAS? We know Milt took up fly fishing and wire sculpture, and Eric continued teaching. Did Ward have anything special he was up to? Also, I want to take this time to just say thank you. You have been a great influence in my choice to pursue animation, albeit before I even knew your name. Just as the Jungle Book did for you, The Lion King was one of the main reasons I began to really say "My God! People do this for a living"! You, my friend, are forever a part of my life.

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    1. Kimball had a ton of hobbies.
      He was into restoring vintage trains (real trains), he had a huge antique toy collection, he painted and did "kinetic" art.
      Thank you for your kind comment.

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  11. Today is an awesome day in Denmark. Cinderella is release on Blu-ray.
    And a book about Ward Kimball is awesome too. Now i know what i want for my birthday

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  12. Love what Ward and Lounsbery did with the cat and mice. Years ago I checked out a scene of Ward's original animation on Cinderella from the "morgue." I believe it was the amazing one where Lucifer is lifting the teacups looking for the mice. Written in blue on one of the drawings was a note from Ward to one of his assistants: "The stooge enters here." "The stooge" Ward was referring to was Cinderella, and the casual contempt he displayed with this comment explains some of the coolness between Ward and some of the other of the Nine Old Men who prided themselves on sincerity in their animation. There was a feeling that Ward, although brilliant, increasingly had a jaundiced view of the
    'straighter' characters in the features.

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  13. Hi Andreas, thanks for this post. Cinderella is my favorite, so everytime you post something on the movie new questions come to my mind. I'd like to know who animated Bruno and Major. No making of talked about the animation of these characters and I can't help but wonder why. (I supposed Fred Moore draw them since they remember me the first generation's style, expecially Bruno, but I have no evidence to support my thesis). Also I'd like to know your opinion about the colors of the new blu-ray edition. Are they close to the original 1950 Technicolor version for you? Sometimes the colors of Cinderella's gown seem to be far too bright (expecially while she's entering the palace). Maybe I was spoiled by my esposition to the old VHS versions in my youth, but I remember the dress was desaturated in several scenes (almost grey, actually). Her orange hairs are rather odd too and I can't help but wonder if they were intended to be a burnt blond or just ocher. Thanks for the drawings of Cinderella's characters you did for the Collector's DVD gift set (your singature next to Ollie Johnston' one always brings a tear to my eyes and a smile to my lips) and for your imitation of Ilene Woods saying "Now Jaq..." (it made me laugh out loud)

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    1. The early Bruno scenes with Cinderella talking to him were animated by Norm Ferguson, he also did Bruno facing off Lucifer
      toward the end of the film. Other minor scenes were animated by John Lounsbery and Cliff Nordberg.
      Haven't seen the new Bluray of the film yet.

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  14. I guess the prince character is dull, because the mice have taken the "hero" part for themselves ;) They are the most proactive characters in the film, and I love their performance!

    But they look so much better in original Ward Kimball's drawings - thanks for posting them!

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  15. And animating too realistic character makes character dull. Like 3D, they could make near realistic look nad almost moving too, but it´s dull. I think, that´s the point of (drawing) animation, that you could make them look other than realistic and make some rough thing to character. That makes it intersting.

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