Saturday, September 30, 2006

Tales From Ward K. III -- When Will The Old-Timers Retire? (circa 1978)

Another chunk of the Ward interview from the Spring of '78. Ward left the studio in 1973, after a weird dispute with then-chairman Card Walker over a granite portrait of Walt Disney displayed on the first floor of the old Animation Building. Ward thought it was ugly (he was right) and said so in a memo.

Apparently, Card Walker didn't take kindly to Mr. Kimball's criticism of Walt's stone portrait. And soon after, Ward departed the studio. Left unfinished was a half-hour featurette starring an animated dog named "Bingo," voiced by Stan Freberg (a project I'm told Mr. Walker also didn't like.) ...

Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas and Ward Kimball (photo by Dave Mastanreh)

Ward Kimball: ...I don't know why all the animators are getting all the press now. Our comedy and what we did was...everybody thinks it's so great now. It was a result of Disney being there and furnishing the great ideas which made the place go up and we're now cashing in on this.

How long will Woolie keep working there?

Hulett: Maybe another five years...

Ward Kimball: Why did Frank and Ollie retire?

Hulett: They got tired of going to all of Woolie's damn meetings. (Hulett -- 28 years later -- I was more than a little wrong here. Frank and Ollie retired mostly because they had a book, "The Illusion of Life," that they wanted to write.)

Ward Kimball: Well, all you had to do, I used to tell them, you guys are crazy. How long have you been here? Since 1934 or 1935? And you put up with this sh*t? I said, "Why don't you guys speak up?" Ollie and Frank, if they got bored with a meeting, of COURSE they should have left. Milt Kahl used to do this: "Well, I've had enough of his sh*t!" and walk out.

Has Ken Anderson retired yet?

Hulett: Yes. (Ken had hung it up a couple of months before this interview. Apparently Ward hadn't gotten the memo.)

Ward Kimball: Yeah, Ken was so frustrated because Walt wouldn't accept Ken as any kind of a story man. Walt had that way about him. Once you did something, he wouldn't recast you. He never saw you as anything but an animator or a good story man or a mediocre assistant.

Of course poor Ken, like so many of the artists there, suffered and were second-class citizens when compared with Bill Peet. There was nobody at Disney's who was like Bill Peet, and nobody appreciated him. Peet was the closest thing to Walt we ever had story-wise, just a genius, and yet he's not getting any acclaim at all. He and Woolie, here you got these talented artists with ideas coming in against Woolie's scattered way of handling a situation. I don't think Woolie basically has a story sense, but anyway there was this conflict that built up, and Peet was drinking at the time, and so he says "f*ck it" and walks out.

(Hulett: Bill Peet left Disney's midway through "Jungle Book." Bill had creative differences with Walt, got increasingly frustrated, and decided to go his own way.)


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