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The last of Disney's "Nine Old Men" - master animator Ollie Johnston


By WcP.Art - Posted on 25 April 2008

(quote)

Oliver Martin "Ollie" Johnston Jr., the last living member of Disney Animation’s "Nine Old Men," passed away Monday, April 14, 2008 at the age of 95 in Sequim, Washington. The generation of pioneers in developing and championing the distinctive Disney style of animation known as the "Illusion of Life" have left behind most memorable work which gives us so much hilarious laughter and many heartbreaking moments...

Johnston was an animator at Walt Disney Studios from 1935 to 1978, and became a directing animator beginning with Pinocchio, released in 1940. He contributed to most Disney animated features, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia and Bambi. He was recognized by The Walt Disney Company with its Disney Legend Award in 1989.

Disney's Nine Old Men
Les Clark (November 17, 1907 - September 12, 1979), who joined Disney in 1927. His specialty was animating Mickey Mouse as he was the only one of the Nine Old Men to work on that character from its origins with Ub Iwerks. Les did many scenes throughout the years, animating up until Lady and the Tramp. He moved into directing and made many animated featurettes and shorts.

Marc Davis (March 30, 1913 - January 12, 2000) started in 1935 on Snow White, and later he went on to develop/animate the characters of Bambi and Thumper (in Bambi), Aurora, Maleficent, and Diablo, the raven (in Sleeping Beauty), and Cruella De Vil (in One Hundred and One Dalmatians). Davis was responsible for character design for both the Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion attractions at Disneyland.

Ollie Johnston (October 31, 1912 - April 14, 2008), who joined Disney in 1935, first worked on Snow White. He went on to author the animator's bible The Illusion of Life with Frank Thomas. His work includes Mr. Smee (in Peter Pan), the Stepsisters (in Cinderella), the District Attorney (in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad), and Prince John (in Robin Hood). According to the book The Disney Villain, written by Johnston and Frank Thomas, Johnston also partnered with Thomas on creating characters such as Ichabod Crane (in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad) and Sir Hiss (in Robin Hood).

Milt Kahl (March 22, 1909 - April 19, 1987) started in 1934 working on Snow White. His work included villains such as Shere Khan (in The Jungle Book), Edgar the butler (in The Aristocats), the Sheriff of Nottingham (in Robin Hood), and Madame Medusa (in The Rescuers).

Ward Kimball (March 4, 1914 - July 8, 2002) joined Disney in 1934. His work includes Jiminy Cricket, Lucifer, Jaq and Gus, (in Cinderella), and the Mad Hatter and Cheshire Cat (in Alice in Wonderland). His work was often more 'wild' than the other Disney animators and was unique.

Eric Larson (September 3, 1905 - October 25, 1988) joined in 1933. One of the top animators at Disney, he animated notable characters such as Peg in Lady and the Tramp; the Vultures in The Jungle Book; Peter Pan's flight over London to Neverland; and Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, and Brer Bear (in Song of the South). Because of Larson's demeanor and ability to train new talent, Larson was given the task to spot and train new animators at Disney in the 1970s. Many of the top talents at Disney today were trained by Eric in the '70s and '80s.

John Lounsbery (March 9, 1911 - February 13, 1976) started in 1935 and, working under Norm 'Fergy' Ferguson, quickly became a star animator. Lounsbery, affectionately known as 'Louns' by his fellow animators, was an incredibly strong draftsman who inspired many animators over the years. His animation was noted for its squashy, stretchy feel. Lounsbery animated Ben Ali Gator in Fantasia in Dance of the Hours; George Darling in Peter Pan; Tony, Joe, and some of the dogs in Lady and the Tramp; The Kings in Sleeping Beauty; The Elephants in The Jungle Book; and many, many others. In the 1970s, Louns was promoted to Director and co-directed Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too! and his last film, The Rescuers.

Wolfgang Reitherman (June 26, 1909 - May 22, 1985) joined Disney in 1935 as an animator and director. He directed all the animated Disney films after Walt's death until his retirement. Some of his work includes the Crocodile (in Peter Pan), the Dragon (in Sleeping Beauty), and the rat (in Lady and the Tramp).

Frank Thomas (September 5, 1912 - September 8, 2004) joined Disney in 1934. He went on to author the animator's bible The Illusion of Life with Ollie Johnston. His work included the wicked Stepmother (in Cinderella), the Queen of Hearts (in Alice In Wonderland), and Captain Hook (in Peter Pan).

Ollie Johnston is one of the legendary Nine Old Men of the Disney studios.
Now, in the years after Walt’s death, a good number of his fellow geniuses are finally starting to get the recognition they deserve. Two of these are veteran animators: Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas who, along with Les Clark, Marc Davis, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery and Woolie Reitherman, comprise the legendary: “Nine Old Men”. These were men, most of whom had come to Disney in the 1930’s, who, by 1950, made up the permanent group of nine supervising animators.

(unquote)

Photos courtesy Walt Disney Company.

Oliver Martin Johnston Jr.

Disney's Nine Old Men

Penny and Rufus in the Rescuers

Mr. Smee in Peter Pan

Frank and Ollie in The Incredibles

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