Apr 14, 2008
Ollie Johnston 1912-2008
The last surviving member of the Disney animation review board during its golden age-the group of hand-picked artists Walt Disney called his own "nine old men"--and more importantly a beloved artist, mentor, patriarch and husband--passed into history today. Ollie Johnston was 95 years old.
This sad news just came over the transom. Later on I'll try to collect some thoughts, but I'm sure in the meantime many more eloquent tributes than anything I might compose will be posted.
I've had an awful lot of visitors to the blog today due to the news of Ollie's death. It makes me wish that I were better qualified to really write something of substance about him-he surely deserves it. But my take would have to be that of the admiring fan more than anything else. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but there are so many people out there, in the business and just in love with animation who had real, personal ties with and experiences involving him. I'm sure many of them will express themselves in print or elsewhere in days to come, as they have already, for years, in lectures and at schools, in interviews and at tributes and screenings. Those will be the ones to look for. There are bound to be some fantastic and moving memories.
Let's just say that if you ask anyone who's anyone in our business, they'll have a story about Ollie Johnston: his work, his advice, guidance, criticism, inspiration...encompassing all of it the sheer delight of watching his animation performances. That at least I can say I share with them. We all share in it-whether fan, pro, child or adult. He was one of a handful of geniuses of the art who made millions laugh, cry and dream, and most of all believe in his drawings, believe them to be alive. I don't know if he and Frank coined the term "Illusion of Life" but with their book they became the preeminent representatives of that mysterious, wonderful effect. It was all done with drawings. And talent, heart and sincerity. And a heck of a lot of backbreaking work over a disc, work that from his pencil seemed effortless--which was a big part of the trick.
The same goes for his former colleagues. here they are:
Requisiat in pace