One of Walt Disney's original "Nine Old Men," Ward Kimball was once called a genius by Walt. In this interview, he relates tales from his "vacation" with Walt, and offers some rare glimpses into Walt's personality, as well of his own!
SB/AL: Ward, tell us a bit about Walt Disney. You're one of Walt’s original “Nine Old Men,” and that gives you a unique perspective, how was he to work for?
Ward: One of the most often asked questions from contemporary Disney admirers is, “What was Walt like?” This is closely followed by questions about what it was like to work for him, was it true he was hard to work for? I try to answer these questions by saying that Walt Disney was a complicated person to completely understand. We never openly, to his face, questioned his ideas or decisions. He was the boss. Sometimes he might be agreeable to our guarded suggestions. Other times, he could be very rough with his criticisms of our efforts. He knew the results he wanted and it was clear that he expected his artists to follow along and not be dismayed if he changed his mind on a story point in a picture. Curiously, he most never complimented us to our face if he liked something we had done. If he liked your work, you might find a raise in your next pay check, or he might mention your work favorably to a third party and such praise would trickle down to you second hand. Part of his genius, besides being a good story teller and gag man, was his uncanny ability to anticipate what his movie audiences would go for, or what was good or bad about story content or an animator’s drawing in plusing a story sequence. He could tell whether a layout man’s layout or a painter's background were good. Walt’s genius lay also in his ability to apply constant pressure on his artists to improve their work, even beyond their own goals or expectations. Walt’s demands on all of us to turn outa product that was universally entertaining as well as believable and to bring all the factions and departments together to make this possible best sums up Walt’s genius.