This week was supposed to be the release date of my biography about artist, animator and director Ward Kimball. However, my publisher, Chronicle Books, hasn’t even sent the book to the printer yet. To put it bluntly, the biography has been stonewalled by the Walt Disney Company for the past year.
I paid a heavy price for writing a book about Ward Kimball, the human being. It didn’t please the Disney Company, who has created their own version of Ward Kimball, a character straight out of Fantasyland which the company unloads onto unsuspecting Disney fans at events like D23. In the words of Michael Barrier, doyen of American animation critics, the Disney company has an “approved narrative”. My book simply isn’t a part of the history they’ve concocted.
In the name of protecting their brand’s integrity, the Disney company has also tried to claim ownership over Ward’s personal life. They have gone so far as to insist that I eliminate stories from Ward’s childhood because his experiences as an eleven-year-old weren’t “Disney” enough. Such attempts to edit the private and personal lives of their former employees are absurd and disturbing, to say the least.
There are people on my side, most notably the Kimball children themselves. They have not taken the Disney company’s disrespectful treatment of their father sitting down. They recently filed a complaint with Margaret Adamic, a contracts adminstrator at Disney Publishing whose department is responsible for granting permissions to use Disney artwork. The Kimballs expressed their dissatisfaction with the company’s “incomprehensibly slow process of Disney employees going through it word by word and image by image to cleanse the book of anything that might raise an eyebrow by any Disney representative.” They also wrote about how they were “disheartened by the treatment afforded Amid in this approval process.”
At this point, I don’t know when, or if, the Disney company will decide to do the right thing. [UPDATE: Disney's lawyers succeeded in killing the book.] In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the positive blurbs the book has received from those who have read advance copies: Brad Bird, John Musker, Henry Selick, John Canemaker, Todd Oldham and Sergio Aragones.
Over the years I saw Kimball at various events and talked to him many times, but I can’t say I really got to know him the way I did several of the others . . .until now. Amid Amidi’s book digs deep into the contradictions that drove one of character animation’s most distinctive voices, an artist whose growth was both stunted and fueled under the paternal gaze of Walt Disney, animation’s most influential leader. Amidi’s meticulous research into Kimball’s life and work, aided tremendously by unprecedented access to Kimball’s journals (as well as page after page of fantastic Kimball artwork), gives a first-time glimpse into the life of one of the true kings of character animation, one of a small group of “golden age” artists upon whose sturdy shoulders all contemporary character animators stand.
– Excerpt from the book’s foreword by Brad Bird, director of Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol, The Incredibles and Ratataouille
Amid Amidi has written a fascinating “Wards and all” biography of the brilliant and iconoclastic animator and designer, Ward Kimball. Amidi details Ward’s amazing ride as one of the men who made Disney “Disney,” but whose constant search for originality and authenticity resulted in tensions between himself and a studio system under Walt Disney, the ultimate producer and self-made man.
– John Musker, director of The Princess and the Frog, Aladdin, and The Little Mermaid
I always considered Ward Kimball a genius, and I had the privilege of meeting him on many occasions. His daughter Kelly invited me out to his house for a wonderful, mind-blowing day where he fired up one of his locomotives, showed me his collection of small toys and planes, and displayed an amazing enthusiasm and curiosity for life that belied his age. After reading Amidi’s engrossing book on Ward’s life, I’m convinced that Ward may have been the most talented artist to ever work for Walt Disney.
– Henry Selick, director of Coraline and The Nightmare Before Christmas
Ward Kimball is a national treasure! Having shaped the imaginations of decades of children and adults, his place in design history is beautifully examined and celebrated in Amidi’s elegant love letter. A must read for design, animation and history fans!
– Todd Oldham, designer
Amid Amidi lassoes the electric, essential Ward Kimball in this profusely illustrated, extraordinarily candid biography. Writing with insight, passion and compassion about his mercurial subject, Amidi takes readers directly into the life and private thoughts of a uniquely modern Renaissance man whose contributions continue to resonate in American popular culture.
– John Canemaker, Oscar-winning animation filmmaker, New York University professor, and historian
I knew Ward and I know his work – he has been the creator of my favorite characters, from Jiminy Cricket to The Three Caballeros. I should say, I thought I knew his work until I read Amidi’s Full Steam Ahead! The book thoroughly explores Ward’s beginnings, his unpublished works, and all the behind-the-scenes details that reveal why Ward Kimball was called a genius. Thanks, Amid, for letting me really know Ward.
– Sergio Aragones, MAD cartoonist and creator of Groo the Wanderer