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Ollie Johnston (1912-2008)

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I talked about it on today's MouseStation podcast, but realized that perhaps I should also post this here for those that don't listen to the show.

Animation legend Ollie Johnston, the last surviving member of Walt's Nine Old Men, passed away from natural causes at age 95 on Monday at a long term care facility in Sequim, Washington. Johnston served as animator and directing animator of some of the best-loved Disney animated classics, including Show White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Cinderella, Lady and the Tramp, The Fox and the Hound and many more.

But he was perhaps more influential in passing along his talent and knowledge than in his actual work. Working with his colleague and friend Frank Thomas, Johnston created four books including the one that is on the shelf of most animators to this day: Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. Other books include Too Funny for Words, Bambi: The Story and the Film, and The Disney Villain. The duo were profiled in the feature-length documentary "Frank and Ollie", written and directed by Thomas' son Ted Thomas. The duo also made a cameo appearance in Pixar's The Incredibles.

Johnston animated such classic characters as Thumper, Pinocchio, Brer Rabbit, Mr. Smee and the fairies in Sleeping Beauty, among others.

Johnston started at Disney in 1935, working on Mickey Mouse cartoon shorts first as an in-betweener and then apprentice animator under animation legend Freddie Moore. He worked on virtually every Disney animated feature feature until his retirement in 1978, but continued to consult and teach Disney animators for decades.

Like many others of Disney's core group, Johnston was a train enthusiast. He ran a miniature railroad at his home in Flintridge, California, and a full-size antique locomotive at his former vacation home near San Diego, which actually rode the rails at Disneyland during a special ceremony in his honor at Disneyland in May 2005.

Johnston was honored as a Disney Legend by the studio in 1989, and was honored together with Frank Thomas by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (the Oscars organization) with a special tribute in 2003.

He moved to Sequim, Washington two years ago from California in order to be near his family. Marie, his wife of 63 years, passed away in May 2005. He is survived by his two sons and their families. In lieu of flowers, the family is suggesting donations to the California Institute of the Arts, the World Wildlife Fund or the National Resources Defense Council.

Sheila Hagen will have more about Ollie Johnston in a feature article on Monday.

Our condolences go out to all of Ollie's friends and family.

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Updated 04-18-2008 at 09:35 PM by Mark Goldhaber (Added links for donations to family-requested organizations)

The Walt Disney Company , Featured , Walt Disney Studios , Walt Disney Animation Studios


  1. bloodnswash's Avatar
    Thank you for posting this. Because I don't do MouseStation podcast, I was a little bummed the other day when I saw that MP only had something for Ollie Johnston under the podcast section. Glad to see you added the info here for us regular me. :o)