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DisneyWard Kimball

Ward Kimball Treasures

I was thinking recently how wonderful it would be if the Disney Company compiled a Blu-ray Treasures collection of projects directed by Ward Kimball. To be honest, it’s hard to imagine a project like this ever happening, especially under the (dormant) Treasures label where the only name promoted is Walt’s. Still, I can’t help but think there must be some way for the Disney company to recognize the work of its most original and experimental director, or in the words of Walt Disney, “the one man who works for me I call a genius.” Ward has inspired everybody from Hayao Miyazaki to Chris Sanders, and it’s high time to introduce his work to new generations.

Some will point out that a decent amount of Ward’s work is already available: Toot Whistle Plunk and Boom and Melody appeared on the Disney Rarities DVD, and the space specials and Eyes in Outer Space were featured in the Tomorrow Land Treasures. However, a lot of Ward’s most memorable work as a director, including some of the studio’s oft-requested cult favorites, have never been released onto DVD. The majority of these works are from his later period when he was at his satirical peak. As an exercise in wishful thinking, here’s what my ideal Ward Kimball collection would include:

* Magic Highway, USA (1958), worth it just for the retro-futuristic “Road Ahead” sequence that later played at EPCOT’s Horizons attraction. (50 minutes)

* It’s Tough To Be a Bird (1969), an Oscar winning short that was also extended into a 50-minute Wonderful World of Color episode.

* Dad, Can I Borrow the Car? (1970), also created as both a short and an extended Wonderful World of Color episode.

* Excerpts from the forty-plus episodes of Ward’s series The Mouse Factory (1972)

* Excerpts from Play Now, Work Later, the aborted project that Ward collaborated on with Stan Freberg in the early 1970s. Freberg recorded a track, live-action footage was shot, and even animation was produced. Let’s see it!

* The 1958 Academy Awards segment that Ward directed which mashed Donald Duck clips with classic live-action films–unseen since its original broadcast over fifty years ago.

* Development materials from the two unproduced space specials about satellites and UFOs.

* A documentary that explores his animation work prior to becoming a director.

* Segments directed by Ward from The Mickey Mouse Anniversary Show (1968), a TV special created in celebration of Mickey’s fortieth birthday.

* Home movies of Ward and Walt Disney traveling to the Chicago Railroad Fair in 1948–it exists!

*The Firehouse Five Plus Two on The Mickey Mouse Club

* This fantastic episode of Tomorrow with Tom Snyder from 1978

Would you fork over a few bucks for this set?

  • Michael Grabowski

    Yes, I would.

  • jam

    Hell Yes

  • Jeffrey Simonetta

    Aww Amid I saw the picture and I got excited. But then I read it and realized you were just wishful thinking. :(

  • Brad Constantine

    You’d have to throw in the Disney Family Album show, as well as the appearance on “You bet your life.” and toss in the soup sequence from Snow White one more time to keep it complete. and make it for blu-ray too!

    • Chris Sobieniak

      Thinking of things I know will never see the light of day on this set, I opt for the one or two cameos he had in Mike Jittlov’s “The Wizard of Speed and Time”, and perhaps “Escalation” as an Easter egg!

  • Ward Kimball is indeed one of the very few innovators at disney’s during the era. Also one of the few who dared to set foot on “dangerous grounds” but in my opinion i think he would’ve been more productive if he was in a different studio say, UPA?..that would’ve been awesome! or at Warner’s having his own unit like the others (Chuck Jones, Robert McKimson etc.) or anywhere else other than disney. I think his modern stuff at disney’s were still a bit restrained probably being wary of walt’s conservative tastes. It’s either that or what we’re seeing in his modern stuff is the highest form of his interpretation of the graphic “modern” stuff.

    • Oh..in connection with the post..i would say that something like what Amid is wishing is not TOTALLY impossible but most probably it won’t happen in our lifetime..not unless disney stops using its name as its main selling point which i honestly think is somewhat unfair to the artists but i guess there’s an unwritten clause or something when artists signed up at disney’s i think they’ve accepted the fact that they’ll probably won’t get much credit other than being called a “Disney Artist”

    • I read in the biography of the 9 old men, that Ward was very close to Walt (*similar tastes in trains! haha)

      Although Walt didn’t always “get” Ward’s style, he did give him quite a lot of leverage in what projects he could do and direct.

      That said, I agree. If Ward had the guts to leave his cushy job at Disney(*at least in the 50’s) he’d have excelled somewhere else.

      At least that’s what I’d imagine.

  • Yes!! Credit card is out..

  • Andy

    Oh HELL yes! I loved “The Mouse Factory” as a kid, and I recall the Disney Channel used to play them back when it first started up. Haven’t seen them since.

  • Would you fork over a few bucks for this set?

    A lot more than a few, gladly.

  • Robert Schaad

    Great post Amid. I’d fork over the dough for this in a heartbeat…

  • Mister Twister

    Before I read this article, I was not aware of that man’s, or even his works’, existence.

    Now, I want to buy a DVD set like that!

    Hear me, Di$ney?? I am willing to give you $ for that!~!

  • Yus.

  • I don’t know much about the guy. I’d pay for It’s Tough To Be a Bird, I loved that short as a kid, but I don’t know about the rest. Those seem like interesting rarities but I prefer animated shorts to life action segments. The Magic Highway thing is nicely done, but also a little boring since it’s not really intended to be watched as a regular hosrt.

  • Cyber Fox


  • Joe Heffernan

    I’m in!

  • eeteed

    it’s fun to dream, but if you really want this to happen why don’t you put all of this together as a real life presentation package, find out the proper person at disney to send it to, and send it over?

  • Matthew K Sharp

    I’d be up for one of them. It’d be nice to get an anamorphic tranfer of Toot Whistle etc; even nicer if it included the Academy ratio version too.

    I just hope that if anything like this comes out on Bluray, it isn’t locked to Region A only – these kinds of releases are hardly ever available outside the USA.

  • I would order that from America.

  • Gobo

    In a hot second. Ward was the creative genius behind some of my favorite Disney stuff, and he’s nearly forgotten today — but back then, he did something Walt never did: he made Disney HIP!

  • Was My Face Red

    Oh yes. Please.

  • marcoshark

    Yeah, sign me up for this one too! (gee imagine, people wanting to throw money at the Mouse!!!)

  • Ken Coleman

    In a heartbeat. The subtitle could be “Walt’s Genius”

  • If this were real, I’d be over at Amazon right now buying it!

  • What a Kimball coincidence!
    Next 26th I will give a brief free admission lecture on Ward Kimball and Eyes in Outer Space. Here in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
    Sometimes I think that if Kimball had wrote a book like Thomas and Johnston Illusion of Life, maybe we would have a completely different appreciation on hand drawn animation.

  • As a HUGE fan (*and owner) of most of this DVD series, I’d be against this idea.

    I mean, once you start with one artist, people are going to want “all” the artists. When will it stop?

    And why single out Ward’s work? Just because he’s style was innovating for its time? Many Disney animator’s work was “innovating”. Maybe not as what people would call “cool” today, but still influential.

    If you’re going to expand this wonderful series into “artist”, do it under a different name.

    That’s just my two cents :)

    • amid

      Can you name any other Disney directors who innovated and would be worthy of a DVD release? There really aren’t any others. Possibly the only other directors who come to mind are the stop-motion/paper cut-out works of Bill Justice and X. Atencio, but their innovations were strictly surface style. As filmmakers, they had little to say and no real point of view.

      • I’m predominately talking about “animators” not directors. Ward made some films yes, but he wasn’t the only influencial animator of the time (*like your Cartoon Modern book states)

        And besides, almost all his shorts are in the Treasures set. Even a lot of his “rare” ones (*Disney Rarities, Tomorrowland,ect.)

        I just feel like Ward’s style is over-hyped. You see it everywhere today. OK! He had a great “style” and humor.. let’s move on.

        **I LOVED your book by the way! I appreciate the documentary part of it, as I knew practicly nothing about the other studios or artist. I enjoyed their bio’s just as much as the art (*which is probably what most kids did, look at just the art. Sorry to say)

      • Although not nearly as innovative as Kimball, Jack Kinney is deserving of attention. And since you said directors (not only animation directors) Robert Stevenson deserves consideration, his live films were Disney’s best.

        But I totally agree that a Kimball DVD/BluRay would be very welcome. As a dream bonus feature it would be great if there were some storyboards or concept drawings from his version of Babes in Toyland, that he didn’t get to direct (less imaginative Jack Donohue directed).

  • To add.. What’s the big deal with Blue-Ray?

    These restored classics are FINE the way they are. I can see the beautiful detailed backgrounds of these films great! Why do we need to spend more money on “slightly” crisper versions?

    I bought 101 Dalmations recently, and was disappointed A LOT at the restoration of it. It looks TOO clean and I don’t see the original beauty of the “rough-zeroxed-lines” anymore.

    I’m looking for an older dvd edition of this movie now ;)

  • Brent

    If they kicked in some audio files of some of the radio show appearances that Ward and the Firehouse Five did around 1950, I’d buy it in a heartbeat.

  • Ignatz the Brick Pitcher

    At first blush, I fervently believed this was actually a forthcoming Treasures DVD. LOOL Shame on you, Amid! Always read the print first, right?

    Good idea! Great minds think alike. I had the same notion to recognize Kimball’s output on a Treasures DVD, as well. To boot, Disney should release all of their surreal dream-themed cartoons as an installment in the Treasures series – e.g. Destino, Thru the Mirror, Mickey’s Garden, excerpts from Dumbo and Alice and Wonderland, etc.

    These subjects would be a great way to reboot Treasures as they are as entertaining as existing releases in the series. Can I get an Amen?! LOOOL

  • Regarding Disney’s reluctance in promoting individuals other than Walt – It’s always blown my mind that they authorized the publication of the Albert Hurter tribute, “He Drew As He Pleased” in 1948.

  • akira

    hell, why not put a reel of at least a half hour of his best disney feature animation… and then they can go on and do a set for each of the nine old men, then go on to some of the other animators…


  • Rick R.

    There would never be enough retailer interest to create such a set. Bad-mouth Disney all you want, but they can only make things for retail that they have a chance of selling at least 30,000 sets of. (30,000 was the edition number of the last wave of Treasures, down from 150k sets made on the first wave of the series, and I’m guessing those numbers are why the Treasures line is no longer running. That and how they already got most of the library out they think will sell.)

    How about a 9 Old Men limited box set for D23 members, like the new Treasures complete set they are presently selling? Might only be 2,000 sets made at a ridiculous price, but that would be the most realistic way to get such a set made.

    • TsimoneTseTse

      That would be your target audience, but the material in the Treasures set was already researched, compiled, designed for dvd, produced & marketed individually for mass retail. That took scores of individuals, departments & outside sources to get in our hands. Correct me if i’m wrong, but D23 pieces are usually commissioned to one artist or a small team. Ward (God bless ‘im)probably isn’t “worth” that much to the powers that be.

      Can anyone tell if Ward had any input to the “Fun to be Free” song that accompanied his attraction?
      That oozes w/Firehouse Five & Spike Jones.

      • Rick R.

        You are right that deciding the playlist, digging the works out from the vaults, color timing/remastering, and doing Behind the Scenes stuff and the Leonard Maltin “gee, didn’t people back then suck for using Italian accents” (paraphrase from “Mickey Mouse In Living Color Pt 2”) can’t be done for free.

        But, if $200 a set times 2,000 sets would equal $400k in income, I don’t see it outside the realm of possibility either. Certainly it could be done for $75k. Make it “collectible,” toss in a polystone something-or-other and special edition of an existing book and the 9 old men, and there ya go.

        You are probably quite right, but that’s the only fiscal model I can think of to do something like this.

  • I’d buy it! And of course we’d need similar sets for the rest of the 9 Old Men, not to mention one each for Ken Anderson, Bill Peet, Mary Blair. . .

    In that last clip Kimball reminds me of the ‘middle-aged’ Brad Pitt in Benjamin Button!

  • dbenson

    Since most of the great animators’/artists’ work is already out there — albeit scattered within larger works — one viable solution would be a series of documentaries, a bit more ambitious than the too-short “Family Album” segments. We can’t really hope for features like “Frank and Ollie” or “Ub Iwerks: Hand Behind the Mouse”, but at least featurettes that point up their work with animation pros explaining their impact.

    If Disney is looking to port the shorts to Blu Ray, a project like this could be used to justify the upgrade (rather than a teen music video of “Minnie’s Yoo Hoo”)

  • dbenson

    As for other stuff still in the vault, is there much there besides “Song of the South” and some later featurettes? “Mouse Factory” and the old Sunday night shows hold a lot of nostalgic interest, but the former is exclusively old clips with comic hosts, while the latter’s cartoon episodes might have new linking animation.

  • Terry Walsh

    Fans of Ward’s Disneyland TV Space shows may find this story of interest.

    Art Stevens, a key member of Ward’s unit and my mentor when I began my career in animation at Disney in 1971 told me the following story.

    Ward had prepared a Leica reel pitching his ideas to Walt for a series of TV specials which became “Man and the Moon”, “Man in Space” and “Mars and Beyond”. In the screening room Art was sitting directly behind Ward and Walt.

    When the pitch to Walt was over, according to Art, Walt picked up a note pad, wrote his name on it and handed it to Ward saying “Go ahead with this; you have a blank check”.

    Art told me that he couldn’t wait to get to work in the morning on those shows; it was pure joy.

  • Bill

    I have most, but I’d buy it on Blu-Ray. I would also love a music only CD of Magic Highway! Buddy Baker was great at that 50’s modern music.

  • Brian Mitchell

    There’s plenty of Ward Kimball material in the Disney vaults including Ward’s last project at Disney, The unseen pilot of Bingo. Ward did some of the best Von Drake animation in the old World of Color TV shows and he created some very fun title sequences for Disney live action pictures like The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin and Million Dollar Duck.
    Beside the Disney material, there’s footage of the Firehouse Five Plus Two in music shorts (similar to music videos)that aired on TV in the 50’s…I know because I have about five of em. Great stuff!
    They should have released this in the first wave!

  • I’m a total Ward Kimball geek. Not only did I hang out in Ward’s 2nd floor unit, but I was in the theater to watch the sound mixes on his films and on stage two when filming “The Mouse Factory.”

    Being a pal of his son, John I was lucky enough to play saxophone with Ward over at animator, Charlie Down’s home and spent Saturdays talking the old days with Ward and Betty. Man! Those were the days.

  • TsimoneTseTse

    How much did Walt think of Ward?
    Walt fired him.

    Then later rehired him.

    How many others shown the studio gate did Walt ever allow to return?

  • Correction. Walt never fired Ward. True, Kimball was removed as director of “Babes in Toyland,” but that’s a long and complicated story.

    Ward went on to work on other Disney projects, and Walt always respected Kimball. Forget the fan boy stories. I was there the whole time.

    • TsimoneTseTse

      Thanks for clearing that up Mr Norman. It has never tarnished my image of him, just great to know that Walt thought highly enough of Ward despite the turmoil.

      I had the pleasure of meeting Ward, Marc & Frank at the opening of the Animation Studio in FL. They were unattended by any Disney staff & were able to be quite candid about Disney/MGM. (You can imagine Ward’s salty comments)

      • Ron

        “(You can imagine Ward’s salty comments)”

        Such as? You can’t give us a set up like that and not tell at least one of em. Come oooooooon…

  • Brian Mitchell

    There’s plenty of Kimball touches in Babes In Toyland.

  • Why isn’t this real?

  • jon

    Yes, I’d buy this. I’d also buy a Treasures set titled “Corrected Versions of the Stuff We Screwed Up the First Time.”

  • Ron

    This is a great idea. I hope someone at Disney sees this and follows through on it. I might also like to see a Bill Peet collection. Though there might not be enough there to warrant a whole DVD set (of stuff that was uniquely his like Ward’s vs. collaborative- not to diminish his contribution) but I could be wrong about that- and I hope they prove it so.

  • Tim

    Mars and Beyond from Disneyland 1955 or ’56 was Ward’s
    best work.

  • Erik

    Certainly a talent to be reckoned with. I know people like Mr. Kimball are considered contrary to the Disney style, and could’ve excelled elsewhere. But it’s because of these mavericks that a studio like Disney can grow and diversify its content.