Oct 31, 2006

Happy Birthday to the great Ollie Johnston


25 years ago I was calling around to every bookstore in the greater Los Angeles area to try and locate the first copies of The Illusion of Life. I finally found it in Century City, an hour's drive away from my home in Los Feliz. I can still remember the breathlessness with which I rushed across town, threw down my 60 bucks(quite a bit of change in those days), and hustled back to my car. I can vividly remember at every stoplight down Santa Monica Blvd. opening the cover and flipping through the pages, trying to get a preview as I couldn't wait to get home and really start digging in.
I'd seen the book in galley form at the Disney studio archives a few months earlier but I'd been limited by time to reading very little, and besides--there were none of the all-important illustrations. That book, cowritten by Ollie Johnston along with his great friend the late Frank Thomas, was a bomb tossed into a desert of animation present. Very little was going on in 1981 to compare with, say 1941, and we were starving for such a book--one that would give us drawings, movement, acting, film-building...all of it behind-the-scenes takes on working at the world's greatest animation atelier in the most fertile years of the film industry, from one of its greatest animators. Ollie and Frank had come through with the goods...a cherry to top the perfect parfait of dozens of drawn characters made real.

So, for all the careful performances, for all the heart and warmth and the commitment to character animation that has inspired generations of artists and many millions of others, I humbly bow and offer Ollie a heartfelt "Happy Birthday!". Thanks, from all of us.

5 comments:

Patrick said...

Me too. I wish Ollie a wonderful birthday.Thankyou Jenny for this post.I got mine 22 year ago, Bibo and the gang bought it for my birthday. 7 years later, I move to London , my english started to improve and I finally manage to read this great book ,and not only look and try to understand by looking at the drawings.

the doodlers said...

That's a beautiful picture of him too.

mark kennedy said...

Well put, jenny, a very nice tribute.

antikewl said...

Happy birthday Ollie. I know I'm definitely not the only one to love that book! :)

NARTHAX said...

Doubleday Books in Century City was the first to have "Illusion of Life" on sale in L.A back in 1981. I went there too and got the first copy they sold.