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Ollie Johnston

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Ollie Johnston
Johnston in 1989
Oliver Martin Johnston Jr.

(1912-10-31)October 31, 1912
DiedApril 14, 2008(2008-04-14) (aged 95)
Other namesOliver M. Johnston, Jr.
Oliver M. Johnston
Oliver Johnston
Alma mater
Years active1934–1981 (at Disney)
1982–1993 (book author)
Known forOne of Disney's Nine Old Men
Marie E. Johnston
(m. 1943; died 2005)

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.[1][2][3] 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.


Johnston was an animator at Walt Disney Studios from 1934 to 1978, and became a directing animator beginning with Pinocchio, released in 1940. He contributed to most Disney animated features, including 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. The last film he worked on was The Fox and the Hound. His work includes Mr. Smee (in Peter Pan), the Stepsisters (in Cinderella), the District Attorney (in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad), and Prince John (in Robin Hood). According to the book The Disney Villain, written by Johnston and Frank Thomas, Johnston also partnered with Thomas on creating characters such as Ichabod Crane (in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad), Sir Hiss (in Robin Hood), and story consultant in Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland.

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.

Personal life[edit]

Ollie Johnston on his backyard railroad in 1993.
President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts on November 9, 2005, in the Oval Office. Among those recognized for their outstanding contributions to the arts were, from left: Leonard Garment, Louis Auchincloss, Paquito D'Rivera, James DePreist, Tina Ramirez, Robert Duvall, and Ollie Johnston.

Born in Palo Alto, California, to Oliver, a Stanford professor, and Florence Johnston, Johnston had two older sisters, Winifred and Florence.[4] Johnston attended Palo Alto High School[5] and Stanford University, where he worked on the campus humor magazine Stanford Chaparral with fellow future animator Frank Thomas, with whom he formed a lifelong friendship. Johnston then transferred to the Chouinard Art Institute in his senior year.[6] Johnston married a fellow Disney employee, ink and paint artist Marie Worthey, in 1943. Marie Johnston died May 20, 2005, at the age of 87.[7]

Johnston's lifelong hobby was live steam trains. Starting in 1949, he built the 4+34 in (121 mm) gauge[8] La Cañada Valley Railroad, a miniature backyard railroad with three 1:12-scale locomotives at his home in Flintridge, California.[9] 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 inspired the building of the railroad in Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Johnston 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 Johnston's backyard was restored and moved to a location near Walt Disney's Carolwood Barn within the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum in Griffith Park, Los Angeles.[10]

In the 1960s, Johnston 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 Deer Lake Park & Julian Railroad (DLP&J) at his vacation estate in Julian, California, to run the locomotive with a small gondola and caboose pulled behind it.[11][12] The Marie E. first ran on the DLP&J in 1968.[13] the DLP&J was 0.5 miles (0.80 km) long and utilized the railroad ties from the defunct Viewliner Train of Tomorrow attraction in Disneyland.[13][14] Johnston sold the vacation estate and the narrow gauge train in 1993.[13] The engine and its consist were later 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.[15] This was the first time that the Walt Disney Company permitted outside railroad equipment to run at any Disney Resort.[15] The engine is still fully operational and presently runs on the Justi Creek Railway, located within the vineyards of Lasseter Family Winery, also owned by Lasseter.[15]

In the 1980s and 90s, Johnston served on the advisory board of the National Student Film Institute and often was a presenter at the annual film festival's award ceremonies.[16][17] 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 Johnston played a train engineer.[18] Both cameos also included Frank Thomas.

On November 10, 2005, Ollie Johnston was among the recipients of the prestigious National Medal of Arts, presented by President George W. Bush in an Oval Office ceremony.

Ollie Johnston died of natural causes on April 14, 2008, at the age of 95. He was the last surviving member of Disney's Nine Old Men at the time of his death.


Year Title Credits Characters Notes
1934 Two-Gun Mickey (Shot) inbetween artist uncredited
1935 Mickey's Garden (Shot) inbetween artist uncredited
1936 Mickey's Rival assistant animator uncredited
More Kittens assistant animator uncredited
1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs assistant animator uncredited
Little Hiawatha (short) Animator uncredited
1938 Brave Little Tailor (short) Animator Townspeople uncredited
1939 Mickey's Surprise Party (short) Animator Mickey and Minnie uncredited
The Practical Pig (short) Animator uncredited
The Pointer (short) Animator: Mickey looking for Bear uncredited
1940 Pinocchio Animator Pinocchio telling a lie Credited as Oliver M. Johnston
Fantasia Animation Supervisor - Segment "The Pastoral Symphony" Credited as Oliver M. Johnston Jr.
1942 Bambi Supervising Animator Bambi, Thumper Credited as Oliver M. Johnston Jr.
All Together (short) Animator uncredited
How to Play Baseball (short) Animator uncredited
1943 Victory Through Air Power (Documentary) Animator Credited as Oliver M. Johnston Jr.
Reason and Emotion (Short) Animator Female Reason, Female Emotion uncredited
The Winged Scourge (Documentary short) Animator uncredited
Chicken Little (short) Animator uncredited
1945 The Three Caballeros Animator Panchito Pistoles, José Carioca, Donald Duck
1946 Make Mine Music Animator Peter
Song of the South Directing Animator Br’er Rabbit, Br’er Fox, Br’er Bear
1948 Melody Time Directing Animator Johnny Appleseed, Johnny’s Angel, Little Toot
1949 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad Directing Animator Angus Macbadger, Rat, District Attorney, Judge, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, Katrina Van Tassel
1950 Cinderella Directing Animator Anastasia Tremaine, Drizella Tremaine
1951 Alice in Wonderland Directing Animator Alice, King Of Hearts
1952 Susie the Little Blue Coupe (Short) Animator
1953 Peter Pan Directing Animator Mr. Smee
Ben and Me (Short) Animator Benjamin Franklin
1955 Lady and the Tramp Directing Animator Lady, Jock And Trusty
1959 Sleeping Beauty Directing Animator Flora, Fauna And Merryweather
1961 One Hundred and One Dalmatians Directing Animator Pongo, Pertida, Nanny, Dalmatian Puppies
1963 The Sword in the Stone Directing Animator Merlin, Archimedes, Arthur
1964 Mary Poppins Animator The Penguin Waiters
1967 The Jungle Book Directing Animator Bagheera, Mowgli, Shanti, Baloo
1968 Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (Short) Animator Rabbit, Kanga, Roo, Winnie the Pooh and Piglet
1970 The Aristocats Directing Animator Marie, Toulouse, Abigail And Amelia Gabble, Uncle Waldo
1973 Robin Hood Directing Animator Robin Hood, Little John, Prince John, Sir Hiss
1974 Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (Short) Directing Animator Pooh and Piglet
1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Animator
The Rescuers Directing Animator Miss Bianca and Bernard, Rufus, Penny, Orville
1981 The Fox and the Hound Supervising Animator Young Tod, Young Copper, Chief
1987 The Chipmunk Adventure Special Thanks
1992 Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland Story Consultant Credited as Oliver Johnston
1995 Frank and Ollie (Documentary) Himself
1999 The Iron Giant Additional Voices / Animator Himself
2004 The Incredibles Additional Voices / Special Thanks Himself

Books by Johnston[edit]

  • Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life (1981)
  • 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)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Saperstein, Pat (April 15, 2008). "Animator Ollie Johnston dies at 95". Variety. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  2. ^ "'Golden age' Disney animator dies". BBC. April 16, 2008. Retrieved April 16, 2008.
  3. ^ "Ollie Johnston, last of Disney's elite animators, died on April 14th, aged 95". The Economist. April 24, 2008. Retrieved April 26, 2008.
  4. ^ 1920 United States Federal Census
  5. ^ Palo Alto Union High School Madrono Yearbook, 1931
  6. ^ "Ollie Johnston". D23. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  7. ^ Ziebarth, Christian (May 31, 2005). "Marie Johnston, Wife of Legendary Disney Animator Ollie Johnston, Dies at Age 87". Animated Views. Retrieved January 10, 2020.
  8. ^ Hiney, Harlan. "Early Years 8 - Early Member Oliver M. Johnston Jr". Southern California Live Streamers. Archived from the original on March 25, 2014 – via Internet Archive.
  9. ^ Mastanich, Richard (May 11, 2000). "A Visit to Ollie's Railroad". The Laughing Place.
  10. ^ Eades, Mark (August 20, 2015). "Memories of Walt Disney's steam train from his daughter". Orange County Register. Archived from the original on July 12, 2017. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  11. ^ "Pacific Southwest Railway Museum Association - The Last Disney Legend Passes". Archived from the original on October 13, 2011. Retrieved March 25, 2014.
  12. ^ "4433 Deer Lake Park Rd". Trulia. Archived from the original on August 6, 2017. Retrieved August 6, 2017.
  13. ^ a b c Amendola (2015), p. 124.
  14. ^ Broggie (2014), p. 103.
  15. ^ a b c Amendola (2015), pp. 131–133.
  16. ^ National Student Film Institute/L.A: The Sixteenth Annual Los Angeles Student Film Festival. The Directors Guild Theatre. June 10, 1994. pp. 10–11.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  17. ^ Los Angeles Student Film Institute: 13th Annual Student Film Festival. The Directors Guild Theatre. June 7, 1991. p. 3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  18. ^ "Brad Bird on Ollie Johnston". Cartoon Brew. April 15, 2008.


External links[edit]