Oct 31, 2012, 6:09 PM
Today -- yes, Halloween -- marks the 100th anniversary of the birth in Palo Alto, California of Oliver Martin Johnston, Jr., better known as Ollie Johnston. He was one of Disney's Nine Old Men, and the last surviving at the time of his death on April 14, 2008 in Sequim, Washington.
Happy 100th birthday to the late Ollie Johnston!
Animator Ollie Johnston infused an unusual level of warmth and heartfelt emotion into his Disney characters. As lifelong friend and fellow animator Frank Thomas recalled, "Ollie was the only one of the Studio animators who was sensitive to character relationships and how they affected story," explained Frank -- "Back then cartoon characters seldom touched unless they hit each other. But one day Ollie said, 'You know, the act of two people holding hands communicates in a powerful way.' And he was right. His warmth made a difference in so many of our characters."
Indeed, Johnston animated such memorable friendships as that of Baloo and Mowgli in The Jungle Book and the sycophantic relationship shared by Sir Hiss and Prince John in Robin Hood. And he valued his own relationship with the characters he animated, including Thumper in Bambi, Mr. Smee in Peter Pan, and the trio of fanciful fairies in Sleeping Beauty. Johnston said, "They were all good friends, whom I remember fondly."
Johnston attended grammar school on the campus of Stanford University, where his father served as professor of Romance languages. After graduating from Palo Alto High School, he returned to Stanford and spent his last year of study at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.
On January 21, 1935, Johnston joined The Walt Disney Studios as an apprentice animator, working on such early Disney shorts as Mickey's Garden and The Tortoise and the Hare, which won an Academy Award for Best Cartoon. He went on to work as animator and directing animator on more than 24 feature films, including, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Song of the South, Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Lady and the Tramp and Sleeping Beauty, among others.
An avid train enthusiast in his spare time, Johnston created a backyard railroad at his home and was instrumental in helping stir Walt Disney's own personal interest in trains.
After 43 years with the studio, Johnston retired in 1978. He went on to co-author four books with Thomas, beginning with the definitive Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, followed by Too Funny For Words, Walt Disney's Bambi: The Story and the Film and The Disney Villain. He and Thomas were also the subjects of the 1995 documentary Frank and Ollie, which chronicles their unique friendship, which began at Stanford, and their creative relationship at Disney.
That same year, Disney artists also paid tribute to the legendary elder animators in the Mickey Mouse featurette Runaway Brain, by creating a villain whimsically named Dr. Frankenollie.
He and Thomas were heard as two old men in the street during one of the final scenes of Pixar's 2004 movie The Incredibles.
"Oh boy." -- Allan Sherman
(This post was edited by eminovitz on Oct 31, 2012, 6:10 PM)