Ollie Johnston, 1912 – 2008

Walt Disney, when he was still alive and his animated movie business was new called his group of 9 animators the “Nine Old Men.” These guys worked on pretty much every old Disney movie you have, up to Robin Hood.

Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas met at Stanford in 1931, then eventually both took jobs at the Disney studio. They worked side by side creating some of our most memorable Disney animated characters. Check out Ollie’s IMDB entry. After a partnership that lasted over 50 years, Frank died in 2004.

Ollie’s passing yesterday closed the book on Disney’s Golden age of animation. As gorgeous as Ratatouille and the rest of the Pixar works are, I can’t lean close to the screen and pick out the pencil strokes like I could in Snow White. Now, what’s seen as “great” animation has gone from being something any kid with a pencil and a scrap of paper can aspire to to something you need expensive software for.

In 1981 they authored “The Illusion of Life,” a fantastic book about animation. When former coworker Damon first arrived at the Courier-Post and found out what a Disney fan I was, he gave me a copy of the book his mother bought him when he was young. It’s lovingly displayed on my shelves along with a Disney snowglobe and a copy of Disney A-Z.

Godspeed, Ollie.

Related Links:
Frank and Ollie’s website: not updated since before Frank’s passing, but a fun read with charming self-portraits
A screenshot of the tribute to Frank and Ollie in the Incredibles: They even did the voices!
Nine Old Men wikipedia entry: This is wikipedia, so it may not be 100% right, but mostly accurate.

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