ED BLACK who wrote the following very informative story about top-animator WARD KIMBALL, and about activities at WALT DISNEY PRODUCTIONS, has had a varied experience in the communications field. He has done newspaper editorial cartoons, and has been a news broadcaster and disc-jockey in a number of cities near his home base in Youngstown, Ohio. At the time of this writing he is in Hollywood, and in frequent contact with the Disney people he speaks about in this article. We appreciate very much also the cooperation of the Disney organization in bringing details of all the interesting developments at the studio to our readers.
The art of animation in the United States has been through hard times during the last 15 years. Debuting in a comparatively crude style in the fledgling era of films circa 1905, animation reached its zenith in the 1930s under the aegis of the late Walt Disney and such other producers as Paul Terry, Leon Schlesinger and Walter Lantz.
Following World War II economic problems began to set in, television entered the scene and profits for animation — and live-action films as well — began to taper off. By the mid-fifties animators were joining the ranks of the unemployed in droves. Studios such as Warner Brothers, MGM and Universal simply closed down their animation departments.
During the “golden age of animation” the late Walt Disney had built a huge; modern air-conditioned studio in Burbank where close to 1,000 artists toiled solely on animated shorts and feature-length productions. Since the end of World War II Walt Disney Productions has gradually switched to more live-action production and less animation.
Nowadays, as one strolls over the neat, sylvan Burbank lot, the evidence of the switchover is readily visible. Four spacious sound stages have been built where a parking lot used to be. On the backlot the usual outdoor film settings have been constructed: a western town, a contemporary small town and a residential neighborhood.
The Animation Department at Disney’s is still active, though its ranks have shrunk considerably over the last 30 years from 1,000 artiststo about 50.
One of the best spokesmen on animation is Ward Kimball, a bespectacled Oscar-winning producer-director of Disney animated productions. He is considered by his colleagues as one of the top animators in the business. Kimball came to the Disney studio in 1934 when he was 20 and has been associated with animation there ever since.