Ward Kimball might be the most important name in animation you’ve never heard: one of Disney‘s first animators, he worked on the dwarfs for “Snow White,” designed Jiminy Cricket for “Pinocchio” and redesigned Mickey himself in the ’50s. Later he became a member of the “Nine Old Men” who advised and counseled Walt and the Disney company for decades. All that, and he mentored Brad Bird, Pixar‘s presiding genius and one of the most important figures in animation today.
Kimball had hobbies too, though, and one of them was trains: he was fascinated by railways and collected railway memorabilia (Kimball is part of the reason Disneyland features lots of train-related attractions). So it’s hardly surprising that when Los Angeles’ Union Station, the last of the great, palatial American train stations opened in 1939 just down the road from Disney, he was there with a camera, shooting the only known footage of the opening. It’s silent but fascinating stuff, even if you can’t tell one train from another: the outfits alone are worth it, and the whole event has the feel of the “Main Street USA” parts of Disneylands all over the world. It’s especially odd to think that once he was done, the man behind the camera wandered back up the road and sat down at his desk to animate “Fantasia.” Oh, and he was a legendary jazz trombonist. Watch below.