Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Ollie Johnston: 1912-2008

Ollie Johnston, the last of Walt Disney's celebrated animators known as the "Nine Old Men", passed away yesterday at the age of 95.

To say that Johnston was one of the giants of character animation is an understatement; he, along with his contemporaries at Disney (including his lifelong friend and collaborator Frank Thomas), practically invented it. While he himself was never seen onscreen, his performances as everyone from Pinocchio to Thumper are some of the greatest ever seen on film, still inspiring artists today (including Brad Bird, who honored Frank and Ollie with toon cameos in his films The Iron Giant and The Incredibles). Of the many memorable movie moments Johnston created, highlights include Baloo singing "The Bare Necessities" in The Jungle Book and the dancing penguins in Mary Poppins.

After retiring in 1978, Frank and Ollie wrote four books on animation, including the tome many consider the definitive word on the art form, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. The duo was also the subject of the documentary titled, naturally, Frank and Ollie.

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