Walt's Genius

While we're waiting for the new Ward Kimball biography to happen let's take a moment to talk about the Disney Legend. I remember speaking with Ward's son, John about the diary his dad kept. I can imagine much of these insights were going to be revealed in the biography Amid has written. Regretfully, that book has been delayed and right now it's anyone's guess how long it will be before we'll have the opportunity to read this long awaited book.

I still remember the day I learned of Kimball's retirement from the Walt Disney Company. It hit like a ton of bricks. Somehow, it just didn't seem right that Kimball would leave the Disney Company. Naturally, I've gotten use to Disney icons being shown the door at the Mouse House. I won't mention any names but some very important Disney people just don't seem to be welcome at Walt's magic factory these days. And, the fact they've given their talent and energy to the big mouse over the years hardly seems to matter. However, I digress.

Once Ward retired from the company in 1973 he continued to enjoy and develop his interest in trains. Ward collected trains since he was a boy and he shared the interest with his father and uncle. In 1938, Ward and his wife Betty bought their first, second-hand, full sized steam locomotive from the abandoned Nevada Central Railroad. Among Kimball's collection of full-size trains were a Baldwin coal-burning 2-6-0 (1881), a plantation wood-fired Baldwin 0-4-2T (1883), and a passenger coach. Kimball's railroad hobby was a break from work at the studio, and over time Ward's hobby grew into the Grizzly Flats Railroad. Believe it not the engine house was located right behind his home in San Gabriel.

Though I've enjoyed a love of trains a bit myself, I really wanted to talk about animation when I had Kimball to myself on weekend visits to his daughter, Kelly's Highland Park home. This was back in the sixties, and our conversation included everything from animating the crows in Dumbo to Kimball's upcoming stint as a live-action director on Disney's “Babes in Toyland” where Ward would be at the helm of both the live and animated portions of the motion picture. Of course, you Disney buffs know this major role for “Walt's genius” hit a major snag and Kimball was removed as director. That's a pretty big story all by itself and it's a story I'll save for another day.

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