Ollie Johnston: Animator Was Last of Walt Disney's 'Nine Old Men'

by Andre Soares

Ollie Johnston Frank ThomasOllie Johnston Jr., the last of Walt Disney's “Nine Old Men” – veteran animators of the old school nicknamed after Franklin D. Roosevelt's description of the U.S. Supreme Court – died at a long-term care facility in Sequim, Washington, on April 14. He was 95.

Among Johnston's most important creations were the characters of Bambi and Thumper for Disney's 1942 animated feature Bambi, the Three Good Fairies for Sleeping Beauty (1959), and Mowgli and Baloo for The Jungle Book (1967).

He also worked in a number of other Disney features, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), the penguin-waiters sequence in Mary Poppins (1964), and The Rescuers (1977).

The California-born (in Palo Alto on Oct. 31, 1912) Johnston received the National Medal of Arts in November 2005. He and friend and fellow animator Frank Thomas (left photo) were the subject of the 1995 documentary Frank and Ollie, directed by Frank's son Theodore Thomas. (More on Frank and Ollie.)

“Ollie's death truly marks the end of the 'Golden Age' of hand-drawn Disney character animation that blossomed in the 1930s,” said Oscar-winning animator and historian John Canemaker. “He was a great and nuanced animator who could handle sentiment and comedy with equal aplomb, as well as a sweet and generous mentor to many.”

John Canemaker's quote: Los Angeles Times, which offers a thorough obituary and several photographs.

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