Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Ollie Johnston: 1912-2008

Monday, Ollie Johnston died.

You may not know the name, but you know his work. He was the last surviving member of Disney's Nine Old Men, a group of men who were responsible for advancing the art of animation at Disney's studio. Ollie himself worked on everything from short cartoons during the early 30's to The Rescuers and The Fox and the Hound. That's quite a resume.

Just think of some of those classic movies he helped bring to life. No, I'm not up enough on my animators to know which characters he worked on specifically. But his work contributed to such classics as Snow White, Fantasia, Pinocchio, Cinderella, Peter Pan, 101 Dalmatians, and The Jungle Book to name but a few. And those films would have been much less without the talents of Ollie.

Keep in mind that during that time, the Disney Studio was constantly changing and innovating. Go back and watch Snow White, then watch Peter Pan and The Jungle Book. The changes in technique and technology are remarkable.

Ollie had the pleasure of working for years with his best friend, Frank Thomas, another of the Nine Old Men. Together, they wrote a book on animation that is considered a standard in the field today.

He was 95. And no one lives forever. But I can't help feeling that an era has died with him. Now, none of the artists who helped make animation what it is today are alive. That's a piece of history that we can't get back. That's especially troubling now that hand drawn animation has all but fallen out of favor.

So, Ollie, thanks for the hours of enjoyment you and your contemporaries have given me. I will enjoy your rich legacy for the rest of my life.

This post is part of Watercooler Wednesday. Come join the fun.

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