As indicated by the front-cover stamp, this is the Walt Disney Studio Library’s copy of the June 1955 issue of The Studio. The magazine is accompanied by the original library checkout card, featuring the names of five Disney artists who read and referenced the magazine over a nearly five-year period.
Disney fans and theme-park aficionados alike will recognize the magazine’s date of issue as prefacing one of the studio’s biggest moments in its history: the opening of Disneyland. In fact, Dale Barnhart, (1918-1996) the first animator to borrow the magazine, did so just four days prior to the park’s legendary Press Preview event on July 17, 1955. Barnhart, who’d begun his career at the studio a few years prior, was at the time working primarily as a layout artist on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color. He would go on to contribute to such Disney classics as One Hundred and One Dalmatians, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh.
Ten days after the grand opening, the magazine passed to animator Victor Harboush (1924-2009). Harboush, a former art-school classmate of Eyvind Earle, was hired by Disney in 1952 on the recommendation of his friend to assist in the production of Peter Pan. A year later, he served as assistant art director on the shorts Melody and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, the latter of which won an Academy Award. He also worked on layouts for the classic animated films Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty (handling the “Thorn Forest” sequence, which had stymied the production unit for quite some time before Haboush took over), and One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Throughout the 1950s, largely to help fund Walt’s ambitious Disneyland project, the studio briefly licensed its animated characters to outside corporations for use in advertising. Several commercials were designed and produced by the studio-tandem of Harboush and colleague Tom Oreb to promote the likes of Nash and Hudson cars, Ipana toothpaste, Welch’s grape jelly, and Cheerios and Trix cereals. The two were a dynamic team, and when Oreb left the company, Harboush followed, though both returned to help finish Sleeping Beauty, which had been stalled in production for several years. Soon after, Harboush would set out again on his own, first in animation, then by launching a live-action studio and settling into a long career of television commercial work, directing more than 1,500 ads over the course of three decades in the business.
The next name on the list is that of Fil Mottola (1915-2008), who worked as a background painter on Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color, as well as feature films Peter Pan, Lady and the Tramp, Sleeping Beauty, and The Sword in the Stone during his twelve years at the studio. In 1961, he left to pursue an independent career as a painter and became a well-respected and highly-regarded abstract artist, whose work continues to be sold in galleries and at auction to this day.
In the summer of ’59, Dale Hennesy (spelled incorrectly by the librarian as Hennessy) added his name to the list of employees to consult this copy of The Studio. Hennesy (1926-1981) was a second-generation Disney artist, his father Hugh contributing to numerous classic shorts and features over a more than twenty-year period. During his own tenure, the younger Hennesy’s many concept illustrations helped take the Disneyland project from dream to reality. In the early 60s, he departed the studio, transitioning into the field of production design, which eventually led him to an Academy Award for his work on Fantastic Voyage and two more nominations for Logan’s Run and Annie, the latter coming posthumously after Hennesy sadly passed away midway through filming.
The final name on the list, and easily the most recognizable, is that of Disney Legend Ward Kimball (1914-2002). Termed a “genius” by Walt himself, Kimball’s impressive career at the studio began in 1934 as an inbetweener, and was quickly promoted to assistant animator, working mostly under the Silly Symphony and Mickey Mouse banners. The young artist was then given the career-defining task of animating the first-ever full-length feature in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. As one of the artists that would collectively become known as Disney’s Nine Old Men, Kimball contributed over the next four decades to many of the most celebrated shorts and films ever made, responsible for the creation of such characters as Jiminy Cricket, Ludwig von Drake, Jaq and Gus from Cinderella, and Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum, the Mad Hatter, and the Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland fame. Having co-directed the animated shorts Melody and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom, which snagged an Academy Award, he was tapped to direct the groundbreaking Tomorrowland “space” episodes of the Disneyland television series, Man in Space, Man and the Moon, and Mars and Beyond. Towards the end of his career, Kimball also directed another Academy-Award winner: the 1969 educational short It’s Tough to Be a Bird. Even after retiring in the early 70s, he continued work as a consultant for the company on a variety of animated, live-action, and theme-park projects. Also of note is the fact that Kimball was an accomplished musician, and the founder and trombonist of the Dixieland band “Firehouse Five Plus Two,” which counted several Disney artists among its members. The group recorded more than a dozen records over two-plus decades. In addition, Kimball was a train-lover and hobbyist, his backyard railroad, “Grizzly Flats,” prompting Walt to build his own, the famous “Carolwood Pacific Railroad,” which represented the very first manifestations of the dream that would eventually become Disneyland. Kimball and the other Nine Old Men were among the first to be awarded Disney Legend status in 1989. Consistent with the animator’s renowned sense of humor, the handprints he made for his Disney Legend plaque both feature an extra finger. In 2005, he was posthumously honored when Disneyland’s #5 locomotive was dubbed the “Ward Kimball.”
This vintage copy of The Studio and accompanying library card represent the careers of five talented individuals—including one of the most well-known animators the field has ever known—who contributed to the company during one of the most memorable periods in the company’s history.