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RIP: Ollie Johnston 1912 – 2008

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Ollie Johnston, the last of Disney “nine Old Men” animators, and one half of the famed “Frank ‘n’ Ollie” duo has died, taking with him another piece of history.

The “Nine Old Men” were Les Clark, Wolfgang Reitherman, John Lounsbery, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Eric Larson, Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. As animators and directors they worked on all the significant Disney films from Snow White on to The Rescuers and gave life to such characters as Malificient, Shere Khan, Cruella de Vil, Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Brer Rabbit and so on.

Johnston was the last surviving member, and with his frequent partner Thomas authored several classic book on aniation, including The Illusion of Life.

Mark Evanier has some remembrances here and Jim Hill here. Although Hill attempts to remember the train-loving Johnston as a real person and not just the symbol of an end of an era…well…it is the end of an era. The Disney animated film classics stand as one one of the most prolonged achievements of 20th century imagination and are arguably the greatest single achievement of corporate creativity ever. Johnston was an integral part of that and you’ll be seeing lots of tributes to this consummate craftsman, artist and teacher over the next few days. Cartoon Brew has many many links including a tribute from John Canemaker:

Ollie was a survivor, a wonderful combination of inner strength and outer gentleness. He could be practical, thoughtful and tough in making life decisions, such as buying property or cutting down a favorite old tree when it loomed dangerously. But he was also a passionate man, full of emotions that found the perfect outlet in his soft, blue pencil lines that, as Glen Keane said, “coaxed into being” the most sensitive of character relationships. “I seem to have a kind of reservoir of feelings about how people felt in certain situations,” Ollie once explained.


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