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Ollie Johnston, last of Walt’s Nine Old Men, Disney Animator dead at 95

Ollie Johnson drawing Johnny AppleseedSome very sad news to impart tonight. Jenny Lerew and a host of other animation sites are paying tribute to Ollie Johnston, who died today at the age of 95 in Sequim, Washington. Our deepest condolences to his family and friends.

Ollie was the last remaining artist from the group that was known as Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. These were the second generation animators who came to be known for their amazing ability to master the illusion of life through the art of animation.

Ollie contributed to many films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio. His last full work for Disney came with The Rescuers but he stayed into touch with the animation community and appeared in many talks and sessions over the years. His contribution to animation through books such as “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life” and “The Disney Villain” are invaluable contributions to the animation world.

Ollie and Walt Disney also shared another passion–trains. Ollie built a 1″ scale backyard railroad, with three 1/12th scale locomotives. He also restored and operated a narrow-gauge engine, the Marie-E (named for his wife), that was recently purchased by John Lasseter and sent to operated up in Northern California.

It truly is the end of an era for animation.

Update: Rebekah at passes along that the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society has an event scheduled for Sunday May 18th to dedicate Ollie’s Station at Walt’s Barn in Griffith Park, Los Angeles, CA. This will no doubt take on special meaning now.

Collected Tributes:

Frank and Ollie’s homepage.

Ollie’s wikipedia page.

Please email or comment to have your tribute included.

9 thoughts on “Ollie Johnston, last of Walt’s Nine Old Men, Disney Animator dead at 95”

  1. It is one of those days that I knew would come, but I didn’t want to think about it.

    He leaves behind an amazing legacy and hundreds of millions of people entertained, artists inspired, and smiling faces.

    Thanks, Ollie.

    Hey, add to that railroad Walt and the others have been working on. I look forward to riding it, but hope I live as long as you did.

  2. The world has lost a pioneer, a master showman, a mentor and a wonderful artist. Thanks Ollie, for inspiring me all my life to be a better artist. My art started with a love of the work of the Disney Nine. We promise to use the wonderment you gave us, the joy you taught us to share, and the way of life you chose to live. Thank You!

  3. Pingback: Walt Disney Studios honors Ollie Johnston 1912-2008 | The Disney Blog

  4. Victoria (Pennick) Yancey

    The others have said it already – the world has lost a great man. Some of my fondest memories growing up were days spent in Julian with him and his family, toodling around on the train. Such a giving person, gentle-spoken, caring… he will always be remembered with affection. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family ~

  5. I was lucky enough to meet Ollie (and Frank) back in 1973 when I first came out to Cal Arts for the summer and then again when I was fortunate enough to get a job at Disney animation in the late 1970s.

    Ollie like the other Disney veterans never got tired of helping us newbies with our drawings. Teaching us to see the character within before concentrating too much on what was on the outside. I remember running into him regularly downstairs and he never minded my goofy questions while being patient and kind with his answers.

    He like Don Griffith, could take your crude attempts at drawing and place a sheet over it and before you knew it, made your mediocre attempt actually look pretty good. You learned a great deal from Ollie and his generation, not just the art of animation, but the heart of animation.

  6. Jon, thanks a lot for mentioning my blog on The Disney Blog – one of my daily stops. :-)

    I think everybody made very clear aour fellings and sorrow towards Ollie and his family. I am a humble animator apprentice, always studying animation history, and the most amazing thing about Ollie is how everyone talks about how wonderful, tender guy he was, even before his great animation talent.

    It’s sad for me that I didn’t have the chance to meet him in person, but luckly his work will live forever.

    Godspeed, Ollie, and thanks! :-)

  7. Hello,

    Oh my Gosh, Victoria, I remember those days. I was there with you and your family riding on the E.Marie. Wow, small world. Our dads working on the railroad with Ollie and the rest of the men. I was so upset to hear about Ollie’s Passing. I have such memories of Julian and the Caboose. I got to see Ollie at Book Signings and shows but it had been awhile. I look back at the pictures I will always remember the fun times. My prayers are with Ollie’s family, your dad was a great man and loved by many.

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