|Born||Oliver Martin Johnston, Jr.
October 31, 1912
Palo Alto, California, U.S.
|Died||April 14, 2008
Sequim, Washington, U.S.
Cause of death
Oliver Martin Johnston, Jr. (October 31, 1912 – April 14, 2008) was an American motion picture animator. He was one of Disney's Nine Old Men, and the last surviving at the time of his death from natural causes. He was recognized by The Walt Disney Company with its Disney Legend Award in 1989. His work was recognized with the National Medal of Arts in 2005.
He was an animator at Walt Disney Studios from 1935 to 1978, and became a directing animator beginning with Pinocchio, released in 1940. He contributed to most Disney animated features, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia and Bambi. His last full work for Disney came with The Rescuers, in which he was caricatured as one of the film's characters, the cat Rufus.
Johnston co-authored, with Frank Thomas, the reference book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, which contained the 12 basic principles of animation. This book helped preserve the knowledge of the techniques that were developed at the studio. The partnership of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston is fondly presented in the documentary Frank and Ollie, produced by Thomas' son Theodore, who in 2012 also produced another documentary, Growing up with Nine Old Men, included in the Diamond edition of the Peter Pan DVD.
Born in Palo Alto, California, Johnston attended Stanford University, where he worked on the campus humor magazine Stanford Chaparral with fellow future animator Frank Thomas, then transferred to the Chouinard Art Institute in his senior year. Ollie married a fellow Disney employee, ink and paint artist Marie Worthey, in 1943. Marie Johnston died May 20, 2005 at the age of 87.
Ollie's lifelong hobby was live steam trains. Starting in 1949, he built the 4 3⁄4 in (121 mm) gauge La Canada Valley Railroad, a miniature backyard railroad with three 1/12 scale locomotives at his home in Flintridge, California. The locomotives are now owned by his sons. This railroad was one of the inspirations for Walt Disney to build his own backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, which again inspired the building of the railroad in Disneyland. Ollie was a founding Governor of the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society along with his fellow Disney animator and railfan, Ward Kimball. The 1/4 scale Victorian depot from Ollie's backyard was moved and restored to a location near Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn at the area of the Los Angeles Live Steamers club in Griffith Park, Los Angeles.
In the 1960s, Ollie acquired and restored a full-size, 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge Porter steam locomotive originally built in 1901, which he named the Marie E. He also built the one-mile-long Deer Lake Park & Julian Railroad on his 40-acre vacation estate in Julian, California in order to run the locomotive with a small gondola and caboose pulled behind it. This engine and its consist were sold to John Lasseter (of Pixar Studios fame) around 2002. On May 10, 2005, it ran on the Disneyland Railroad during a private early morning event organized by Lasseter to honor Johnston, who was able to take the throttle of the Marie E. one last time. To date, it is the only time The Walt Disney Company has permitted outside railroad equipment to run at any Disney Resort. The engine is still fully operational and presently runs on the private railroad in the Lasseter Family Winery, also owned by Lasseter.
Brad Bird paid a tribute to Ollie Johnston with an animated cameo of Johnston in the 2004 Pixar film The Incredibles , as well as a cameo in his 1999 film The Iron Giant, where he played a train engineer .
Characters animated by Johnston
- Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - Assistant Animator
- Pinocchio - Pinocchio
- Fantasia - Cupids in "Pastoral Symphony", Centaurettes by the lake
- Bambi - Bambi, Thumper
- The Three Caballeros - "The Flying Gauchito", Donald Duck, Panchito Pistoles, Jose Carioca
- Make Mine Music - "Casey at the Bat", "Peter and the Wolf"
- Song of the South - Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox, Brer Bear
- Melody Time - Johnny Appleseed and Johnny's Guardian Angel in "Johnny Appleseed", "Little Toot"
- The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad - Ratty, Moley, Macbadger, Trial Scene, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, Katrina
- Cinderella - Evil Stepsisters, Lackey
- Alice in Wonderland - Alice, King of Hearts
- Peter Pan - Mr. Smee
- Lady and the Tramp - Lady, Jock, Trusty
- Sleeping Beauty - Three Good Fairies: Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather
- One Hundred and One Dalmatians - Pongo, Perdita, Puppies, Nanny Cook
- The Sword in the Stone - Wart, Merlin, Archimedes
- The Jungle Book - Mowgli, Baloo, Bagheera
- The Aristocats - Duchess, Thomas O'Malley, Kittens, Amelia, Abigail, Uncle Waldo
- Robin Hood - Prince John, Sir Hiss, Robin Hood, Little John, Maid Marian
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh - Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, Rabbit, Kanga, Roo
- The Rescuers - Bernard, Bianca, Chairman, Rufus the Cat, Penny, Orville the Albatross
- The Fox and the Hound - Young Tod and Young Copper
- Mickey's Christmas Carol - Ghost of Christmas Yet, Jacob Marley, Bob Crachit
Note: At the time these films were produced it was common for an animator to animate every character in the shot
Other books by Johnston
- Too Funny for Words: Disney's Greatest Sight Gags (ISBN 0-89659-747-4)
- Walt Disney's Bambi—the Story and the Film (ISBN 1-55670-160-8)
- The Disney Villain (ISBN 1-56282-792-8)
- "Legendary Disney animator dies at 95". Associated Press in CNN. Retrieved 2008-04-16.[dead link]
- "'Golden age' Disney animator dies". BBC. 2008-04-16. Retrieved 2008-04-16.
- "Ollie Johnston, last of Disney's elite animators, died on April 14th, aged 95.". The Economist. April 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-26.
- Disney Animator Ollie Johnston Dies at 95. ARTINFO. April 18, 2007. Retrieved 2008-05-14.
- Disney.com Network. "Ollie Johnston (Animation)". The Walt Disney Company.
- Wife of Ollie Johnston dies at Age 87
- Southern California Live Steamers
- Laughingplace.com - A Visit to Ollie's Railroad
- Broggie, Michael, Walt Disney's Railroad Story, 2nd ed., pp. 14-15, 95, 100-4, 112, 143, The Donning Company Publishers, Virginia Beach, VA, 2006.
- Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association - The Last Disney Legend Passes
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ollie Johnston.|
|Wikinews has related news: Disney animator Ollie Johnston dies at 95|
- Frank and Ollie's official site
- Ollie Johnston at the Internet Movie Database
- AWN's tribute to Ollie Johnston
- Disney Legends
- Ollie's backyard railroad
- "Ollie Johnston: Last of the Red-Hot Animators" by John Canemaker - Wall Street Journal - April 22, 2008; Page D9
- Carolwood Pacific Historical Society Web site