The Last of the Nine Old Men goes... Ollie Johnston is no longer with us...
Hey folks, Harry here... Pretty much, my entire life... I've known the name of Ollie Johnston. One of the most beloved animators of all time - he is credited to giving Disney's characters a lot of the warmth we love about them. Before Ollie - Disney characters rarely touched unless they were slapping each other or kicking one another in the ass. Ollie brought the more human relationship to bare focusing on the warm connections that we humans have... the act of holding hands, putting an arm around one another. Ollie animated the three technicolor fairies in SLEEPING BEAUTY, he is who made Thumper blush - and how can you forget that scene where Thumper had to repeat what his mother had told him a billion times... about eating your greens. Then there's the animation of Baloo and Mowgli... one of the greatest friendships captured in ink and paint... all birthed from his pencil. If you've ever rode the train at any of Disney's theme parks - blame Ollie... it was his love of trains which infected Walt into putting that lovable train into Disneyland... and then all over the globe. For lovers of Animation - and young animation enthusiasts - his books that he co-authored with Frank Thomas: THE DISNEY VILLAIN, WALT DISNEY'S BAMBI: THE STORY AND THE FILM, TOO FUNNY FOR WORDS and the great DISNEY ANIMATION: THE ILLUSION OF LIFE.... have been instrumental in understanding gags, villainry, the delicate balance in breathing life into drawings. How to fuse to fuse character, emotion and pathos into every drawing to advance the story of that character that they were bringing to life. He was a brilliant animator - contributing to basically every animated film from SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS to FOX AND THE HOUND. He would direct sequences, supervise the animation - and take on the whole thing himself. If you've seen the brilliant documentary, FRANK & OLLIE - you know what a loss this is. In THE IRON GIANT he was the voice of Train Engineer #1 - and his voice was also heard in THE INCREDIBLES. He was the last of the Nine Old Men... the last soul that was there when Disney conquered the feature format and turned cartoons into feature entertainment from being the shorts before the feature. On top of that... if you've seen FRANK & OLLIE - you know that he was one of the most gentle and kind souls this planet has had. Ollie Johnston was a treasure of knowledge and never hesitated to share that passion with countless animators that adored him and sought out his wisdom. This is an incredibly sad day.
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April 15, 2008, 1:40 a.m. CST
I and many other animators (and fans) are very sad tonight.
April 15, 2008, 1:45 a.m. CST
See Im so upset I cant even type properly.
April 15, 2008, 1:49 a.m. CST
He and frank were great artists.
April 15, 2008, 1:58 a.m. CST
April 15, 2008, 2:03 a.m. CST
by Big Dumb Ape
I met Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas and even got them to sign a copy of THE LLUSION OF LIFE for me. And make no mistake, once again we're talking about TRUE pioneers and guys from another time and age who worked hard, and who succeeded BECAUSE of their talent -- and, as a result, gave the world TRUE works of art. And you want to know something else? When I met Johnston and Thomas they were total gentleman who just felt they had done their job, and best of all they just liked talking to you...sharing stories or giving you tips or whatever...with no ego involved at all. Ollie was just a total class act.<p>You know, I hate news like this. This really depresses me because more and more we are losing people like this. People who represent a golden past where saying someone was talented actually MEANT something, those people actually did have REAL talent, and in a modern age where it seems Hollywood personnel or creative types are all-out ego maniacs and self-centered pricks, those creators were just genuinely sweet, nice, unassuming people.<p>So RIP, Ollie. What you gave to the world has already proved itself to be immortal works. And when you consider the impact it had...and continues to have...on generations of children throughout the world, that's a helluva gift to have given to the world. So bravo to you and I'm sure right now Disney and his reunited crew of Old Men are up in Heaven hard at work on an all-new feature just to show everyone how animation SHOULD be done...
April 15, 2008, 2:06 a.m. CST
Thanks Ollie for making my childhood so wonderful
April 15, 2008, 2:13 a.m. CST
the more impact and importance in Harrys life they seem to have. I suppose we all do need reminding how knowledgeable and attached to the history of cinema Harry is. RIP Ollie.
April 15, 2008, 2:19 a.m. CST
He will be missed.
April 15, 2008, 2:26 a.m. CST
Really? I wasn't aware that SNOW WHITE, PINNOCHIO, Mickey Mouse, BAMBI, SLEEPING BEAUTY, etc were obscure. I had the pleasure of meeting him 5 times in my life spread out since the seventies. In the field of animation, he isn't obscure, he's a giant.
April 15, 2008, 2:30 a.m. CST
April 15, 2008, 2:49 a.m. CST
what an idiotic post
April 15, 2008, 2:54 a.m. CST
by Bungion Boy
We truly lost a great one. First thing tomorrow I'll pop in my "Frank and Ollie" dvd and cry and bit, and laugh a bit.
April 15, 2008, 2:56 a.m. CST
by Bungion Boy
What a life this man lead. He lived a long, fruitful life, and with his passing we all get to revisit and think about his wonderful work today. You'll be missed, Ollie, but thanks for all the beautiful drawings.
April 15, 2008, 3:38 a.m. CST
Shame he's not going to be here to see the renaissance of Disney hand-drawn animated features. Princess and the Frog remains my most anticipated upcoming project from the Mouse House; no matter how much I adore everything Pixar put out. That Thumper scene about eating your greens - that is just INCREDIBLE.
April 15, 2008, 3:41 a.m. CST
by a rolling stone
We need more creative people like him, before it all becomes CGI carbon copy bullshit.
April 15, 2008, 3:51 a.m. CST
by Big Dumb Ape
Whenever someone actually DIES -- which let's face it is THE most serious thing that we ALL have to face in life and which obviously leaves people in mourning and feeling an incredibly deep sense of loss -- there's always got to be that asswipe who comes into an RIP talkback and who feels the need to sound off by making an asswipe comment. Case in point, the recent Charlton Heston talkback and some of the vile things that got posted there.<p>So just ignore people like Prunkhaft. On the one hand, given the topic at hand and the respect that should be shown, his post shows little class since he chose a forum mourning the dead to take a truly cheap shot at Harry. On the other hand, given that this is a FILM web site, it also shows he has NO sense of cinema history or film appreciation as Harry rebutted and rightly pointed out. For crying out loud, Prunkhaft, "old and obscure"? Learn some actual fucking history already. And I mean going back farther in time then the movie you checked out at the mall last weekend...
April 15, 2008, 3:55 a.m. CST
Well written Harry, a very sad day indeed. RIP Ollie
April 15, 2008, 4:32 a.m. CST
Is at a loss for words today. All nine inspired a generation.
April 15, 2008, 5:35 a.m. CST
This is indeed the end of an era.
April 15, 2008, 6:01 a.m. CST
The art form of film animation has evolved, but the creative souls that first put ink to celluloid laid the foundations. Methods may change, tools may make the job easier, but the spirits of these fine artists and entertainment pioneers lives on forever in the magical works they have created. RIP, Ollie ... thank you and godspeed.
April 15, 2008, 6:26 a.m. CST
by Evil Chicken
What a legacy. Thank you, thank you, thank you, Mr. Johnston. Godspeed
April 15, 2008, 6:38 a.m. CST
by just pillow talk
For kids of all ages, his work will live on for current and future generations to enjoy. RIP Mr. Johnston.
April 15, 2008, 7:17 a.m. CST
modern CGI/effects have so little soul. listening to this man talk about his animation just makes me sad... all this technology yet will we ever again reach this level of heart and soul in animation?
April 15, 2008, 7:19 a.m. CST
by L. Ron Bumquist
I have been meaning to get Frank and Ollie's book for a while now, they're were great. I saw Bambi again for the first time in 25 years and was blown away. It is an awesome piece of film making. They really don't make them like that any more.
April 15, 2008, 7:29 a.m. CST
by Abominable Snowcone
Fellow warciple of Chang! <p> I'm sorry for the passing of Ollie, but I'll be honest and say I didn't know who he was. But fare thee well, oh color master! May yours be a technicolor heaven
April 15, 2008, 7:44 a.m. CST
And what a legasey
April 15, 2008, 7:50 a.m. CST
I also met Frank and Ollie at the Montreal Film Festival - I was Disney's Gofer there - it was 1995, and I think the Texas film society was sponsoring the premier of the Frank and Ollie doc. they were delightful gentlemen with a lot of stories to tell. And I remember that they flipped out over Felix and Norton cookies, a local Montreal cookie brand. Just before Frank Thomas died, they both recorded a cameo appearance they would make at the end of The Incredibles. Another way that these two animation pioneers will be remembered.
April 15, 2008, 8:05 a.m. CST
This where animators of the past have it all over those of today. People like Johnston would do their work with hands, whereas today, it is done with computers. A true artist.
April 15, 2008, 8:07 a.m. CST
The contributions of this man and his peers is immense and will be remembered as long as the human race is still inspired by art.
April 15, 2008, 8:08 a.m. CST
April 15, 2008, 8:13 a.m. CST
Ollie Johnston joins the other nine at the big drawing board in the sky.
April 15, 2008, 8:26 a.m. CST
this animator saddened. rest in peace ollie. animation has lost a giant. but he's left us with a great foundation in the world of animation. who are todays chuck jones and ollie johnston's?
April 15, 2008, 8:32 a.m. CST
by Gungan Slayer
His passing marks the end of an era. He will be missed greatly. Thanks Ollie for all the great times and great films!
April 15, 2008, 8:45 a.m. CST
He was obscure, in that, nobody knows who he was and nobody knows his name. Sure his animated work is well known, but if you sat 100 people in a theater and quizzed them on who the 9 men were that made the Disney films, you'd get 100 Walt Disneys, and zero anything else.<p> obscure artist is obscure.
April 15, 2008, 8:45 a.m. CST
by The Funketeer
Just because you haven't heard of someone doesn't make them obscure. Did you not read Harry's obit? Did you see the films he's worked on? I'm willing to guess you've seen most of his major works without bothering take the time to learn who made them. The Nine Old Men had a tremendous impact on animation and their influences are still being felt today. The fact that they're all gone now is worth noting. I suggest you take Harry's suggestion and watch Frank and Ollie which is a great documentary not just about animation but about a lifelong friendship.
April 15, 2008, 9:06 a.m. CST
Most moviegoers wouldn't know these guys (okay, maybe Williams), but people visiting a film appreciation site? Certainly. Ollie Johnston is about as obscure in the film/animation world as Clive Davis would be in the music world.
April 15, 2008, 9:06 a.m. CST
by Osmosis Jones
And Thumper in Bambi remains one of the most insanely endearing characters in cartoon history, due in large part to Johnston's impeccable animation. A genius and a gentleman, he will be missed.
April 15, 2008, 9:37 a.m. CST
in the same way that George lucas is obscure to my gran. Its your own ignorance that makes him obscure. He's an absolute legend to all animators. The illusion of life is practically the animation bible. RIP
April 15, 2008, 9:46 a.m. CST
Without his vision and memorable sceens, many people would not have been inspired to go into animation let alone be transported to another world of magic and wonder watching his work on the silver screen. RIP Ollie; you were the best.
April 15, 2008, 9:55 a.m. CST
a stirring tribute... there's not much else to say... he started something big, and showed the world love...
April 15, 2008, 11:05 a.m. CST
The world feels a little less magical today...
April 15, 2008, 11:48 a.m. CST
So sad. I met him briefly at an NFT evening in London - he signed my "Illusion of Life"! Guess if *that's" amongst my most treasured possessions?! Rest well Ollie - a great talent well used :-)
April 15, 2008, 12:14 p.m. CST
I don't think these guys are going to be treated like the pioneers they were outside of the animation community in my lifetime. What a great story.
April 15, 2008, 3:12 p.m. CST
Ive already said my bit but i wanted to come back and say more...im an animation student, and because of this bit of news today has been quite an unproductive day. Ive been watching Disney films a lot, and even though he was 95, this still comes as a shock... he was a true legend of animation.... to the point where i now feel like i have to push myself even harder now that he's gone. The last of the greats has gone and those of us that are left need to carry on the tradition of quality that these guys put in place. We owe it to those guys to be great; to build on the things they created. They believed animation was the greatest artistic medium in the world, and they were right. Ollie may have stopped animating a long time ago, but every animator in the world should use this moment to look over The Illusion Of Life again, remember why they got into this stuff, and why they love it... and then push themselves just a little bit harder, for Ollie.
April 15, 2008, 3:40 p.m. CST
Meet him and John Lasseter in 1980 when they toured NYU film school about the future and history of Disney animation. Lasseter was a Disney employee back then. Ollie was great in person. End of chapter in animation.
April 15, 2008, 4 p.m. CST
by Fireball XL-5
For the fitting tribute to Ollie Johnston. I interviewed him back around 1989. I was a a young reporter then, nervous about approaching such an important figure in film history. What a relief to find that he was a most lovely man, friendly and so generous of spirit. And so, yet another part of a far gentler time has passed from us. Rest in peace.
April 15, 2008, 6:51 p.m. CST
April 15, 2008, 8:50 p.m. CST
Loved your work AND your books... you guys made millions of people very happy!
April 15, 2008, 9:30 p.m. CST
April 16, 2008, 8:47 p.m. CST
This is a great great loss. Keep on drawing Ollie. I'll need plenty of toons to watch when I get to heaven. ;) RIP
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