The Madness of Ward Kimball
By Cory Gross
Each of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men" contributed something of such merit to American animation that there is no sense in trying to decide which amongst them was the greatest. Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Milt Kahl, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman and Ward Kimball had worked with Disney since the late 1920's and early 1930's, their work defining the company's Golden Age. Their collective legacy includes such characters as Maleficent, Shere Kahn, Bambi, Cruella De Vil, Br'ers Rabbit, Fox and Bear, Captain Hook and Mr. Smee, Monstro the Whale, the Queen of Hearts and the occupants of both the Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
My personal favorite, however, is Ward Kimball. A man after my own heart, his first reported drawing was of a steam train. After seeing Disney's Three Little Pigs, this Santa Barbara School of Art student approached Walt and started working for him in 1934. His name can be seen on the credits of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, for which he animated several dwarf scenes and after which he moved on to creating one of the company's most enduring personalities, Jiminy Cricket. The Walt Disney Family Album episode featuring Kimball iterates the challenge of making a ghastly-looking insect into the lovable cartoon character that acted as a veritable mascot for the company for decades. His effervescent style is also notable in Dumbo's crows, Ichabod Crane, Lucifer the Cat and the mice from Cinderella, Professor Ludwig Von Drake, Pecos Bill and Alice in Wonderland's Mad Hatter, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, March Hare, Cheshire Cat, and the Walrus and the Carpenter...