Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Last of Disney's "Nine Old Men" Passes On

Legendary Disney animator Ollie Johnston, the last survivor of Disney's "Nine Old Men," has passed away at age 95.

For decades Ollie lived next door to fellow Disney animator Frank Thomas, who died at the age of 92 in 2004. FRANK AND OLLIE chronicles their working and personal relationship.

Leonard Maltin's new book, MOVIE CRAZY, has a fascinating interview with Ollie's late wife, Marie, and Betty Kimball, who was married to Disney animator and man-of-all-trades Ward Kimball. Marie and Betty inked cells for the Disney art department.

Like Walt Disney and Ward Kimball, Ollie loved trains and owned a full-sized locomotive engine, which was named the MARIE E., afer his wife. A couple years ago, Ollie sold his beloved train to Pixar head John Lasseter, who arranged a wonderful surprise: he had the train put on the tracks at Disneyland and brought Ollie to Anaheim for a last ride on the train. Leonard Maltin's account of that morning is available at the official Frank and Ollie site.

In November 2005, President Bush awarded Ollie the National Medal of Arts.

Anyone who loves movies, animation, or Disney owes a great debt of gratitude to Ollie Johnston. His work has profoundly impacted all our lives.

Update: A tribute at The Shelf, and 2719 Hyperion reminds us of the great tribute to Frank and Ollie at the end of THE INCREDIBLES.

Thursday Update: The obituaries from London's Daily Telegraph and The Times.


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