Metro and The Academy release only known film of 1939 Union Station opening parade shot by famed animator who created Jiminy Cricket

In honor of Union Station’s 75th Anniversary, Metro and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in cooperation with the family of Ward Kimball, have restored the only known footage of the historic opening. The parade, documented in the home movie, drew half a million spectators to downtown Los Angeles.

This silent 6-minute color film clip features train engines, vintage automobiles and spectators from the parade on May 3, 1939. The home movie was shot by legendary Disney animator Ward Kimball, creator of numerous classic Disney characters, including Jiminy Cricket in “Pinocchio”, Tweedledee and Tweedledum in “Alice in Wonderland” and Lucifer the Cat in “Cinderella.” In 1970, Kimball received an Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoon) for “It’s Tough to be a Bird.”

Ward Kimball, circa 1948

Ward Kimball, circa 1948

Kimball, was an avid railway enthusiast and collector of old railroad memorabilia. His personal film collection at the Academy Film Archive includes footage of Kimball’s own Grizzly Flats Railroad and documentation of a range of transportation technologies.

The home movie begins with two locomotives that later appear in the parade: the Southern Pacific Number 1 and the Union Pacific Number 22. They are clearly being attended to … probably in preparation for their parade.appearance. If anyone recognizes the people in the clip, please let us know.

6 replies

  1. Interesting that it is steaming up the old freight tracks on Alameda Street. Those were still visible under the pavement at LAUS a few years ago, although I think they were probably orphaned and abandoned when the 101 Freeway slot was built. There were still freight trains on Alameda Street as far north as 7th Street in the 1990s, coming from the south.

  2. Excellent footage! Viewing that was like stepping into a time machine. Thanks for sharing, and a special thanks W.K. and family for preserving
    it. The man was a true legend both in the field of animation and rail preservation. See his personal full sized backyard railroad (The Grizzley
    Flats collection) along with operating
    historic light rail cars at the Orange
    Empire Railway museum in Perris,Ca. Come ride and see how good mass transit in L.A. used to be.

  3. if i’m not mistaken, the Southern Pacific Number 1 train is on display at Travel Town in Griffith Park… THis is great! thank you!

  4. Will copies of the film clip of the LA Union Station opening parade be available to the media and public–so we don’t need to have a poorer quality video grab?

    • Hi Tom,

      The video is owned by The Academy and the Kimball family, Metro has only been granted permission to share their link. For access you would need to request through The Academy.

      Thank you,

      Anna Chen
      Writer, The Source