Saturday, April 14, 2012

This Day in Pixar History: Ollie Johnston (1912 - 2008)

This will be remembered as a sad day across the animation world. Ollie Johnston, the last of Walt Disney's Nine Old Men, passed away on this day in 2008 at the age of 95. Johnston started at The Walt Disney Company in 1935 and worked on such classics as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio, Bambi, The Jungle Book and The Fox and the Hound. He brought life to such memorable characters as Thumper, Pinocchio, Baloo and Mr. Smee. He was an inspiration and mentor to many animators, not just within Disney but artists at Pixar and throughout the industry. With his long time friend and fellow Disney animator Frank Thomas, they wrote what is considered the bible for animation, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. One of Johnston's favorite sayings (as told by Andreas Deja, a leading animator at Disney) was "Don't animate drawings, animate feelings."

Like Walt Disney, Johnston loved steam trains and owned many throughout his life. One of these, a steam locomotive he named "Marie E.", was later sold to John Lasseter, who continues to maintain and operate it. Brad Bird also worked with and admired both Johnston and Thomas, so much so that he gave them both cameo parts in The Iron Giant and The Incredibles.

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