Creativity and the Huggajeedy Eight

The late Carl Fallberg was a talented Disney writer and cartoonist and he was my go to guy regarding the history and events at Walt's cartoon factory in years past. Carl told me this zany group of studio musicians called themselves “The Huggajeedy Eight” and the band was a fixture during noontime dances at Walt Disney's fledgling animation studio in the late thirties and early forties. Of course, the band was made up of studio employees, most of whom were animation artists. When asked what the heck “Huggajeedy” meant, Carl replied, “It was just a dumb name.”

Now, if you're at all familiar with your Disney history you'll know that the trombone player on the right is animator, Ward Kimball. You'll also probably know that Kimball went on to found another musical group while working at the Walt Disney Studio and that band became known as, “The Firehouse Five Plus Two.” While most animators tend to be low key and reclusive, Ward Kimball was anything but that. I was already well aware of Kimball and his band long before I arrived at the Disney Studio in the fifties. The Firehouse Five Plus Two had already appeared in movies, television shows and even jazzed things up at the opening of Disneyland Park in 1955. Kimball had made appearances on radio and television shows and even traded barbs with famed comedian, Groucho Marx on his television show, “You Bet Your Life.” Clearly Disney's most high profile animator, Ward Kimball was legendary long before given the title by the Disney Company.

When I arrived at the Walt Disney Studio in 1956 I wasn't surprised at the cacophony echoing through the halls of the Animation Building. It appeared Ward Kimball and his dixieland jazz band decided to practice in one of the large story rooms on the third floor. It didn't matter what floor you were on because the sounds of the band playing at full tilt could be heard on all three floors. Had this been taking place at any normal office the band members would have been told to pack up their instruments and move to another space where they wouldn't disturb the workers. However, if the racket - uh, music didn't bother Walt Disney, who else would dare to complain?

That's the way it was back in the good old days of Disney. Artists were allowed to do their own thing and creativity flourished. Apparently, this simple truth was well understand by Walt Disney. It's a shame nobody seems to have a clue today.

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