Friday, June 24, 2011

Ollie Johnston

Almost everybody who knew Ollie Johnston wanted to adopt him as their grandfather. He was kind and patient with everybody who wanted to talk to him.
But make no mistake, when asked for his opinion about drawing, animation or filmmaking, he would tell you very honestly and clearly what he didn't like about it,.....but still in his nice friendly voice.

I made a habit of always asking Ollie as well as his esteemed colleagues what they thought about any animated films I had worked on (then I  mentally ran for cover).
Ollie and Frank particularly liked "The Little Mermaid", they had a problem with a scene from "The Lionking", when young Simba sits by Mufasa's dead body.
"We wouldn't have done that" I remember Ollie saying. "Remember Bambi? We never showed the dead body of his mother."  I silently disagreed with them on this point, I think these moments in both films work very well as they are.
Their criticism didn't go into animation that much, more often it was about character development and story. Or things like we overused the camera in "Rescuers down under", and "Roger Rabbit"  really wasn't their cup of tea.  Animated characters banned to live in a Toontown ghetto?  Oh no!!

Once in a rare while you would get a compliment on your work, which was brought up in passing. I remember Ollie, Frank and Marc Davis kind of liking Jafar. When I heard those words I thought, I am so going to run home, write this down and frame it!  And call Mom and Dad, and my old art teacher and.........
Well, I didn't write it down, but it felt awfully good for a while.
And before I forget, Milt Kahl did tell me that he enjoyed "Great Mouse Detective" very much.

Back to Ollie. As you can see in the drawings below, Ollie put a lot of love into his animation. "When I was doing Pinocchio" he told me once "I thought of the character being real, a living person, not a drawing." I know that's how he felt about all of his characters.
Sometimes Ollie supervised a character along with other animators.
Pinocchio and Bambi with Frank and Milt. Alice with Marc and Milt. Other times he gave knock out solo performances like Smee, Baloo or Prince John and Sir Hiss.

Have a great weekend everybody and enjoy this Ollie Johnston gallery.
(More pencil tests to come later....I promise).






















30 comments:

  1. Hi Andreas,
    Here is a link cool clip of Ollie and you can see and feel the powerful passion he has for this craft. Its so contagious. The Iconic work he has done.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FSNUBCWsptk

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  2. Hey Andreas,

    Thank you for scanning in such large images...it's great to be able to see the details in these amazing drawings

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  3. wow what a perfect little sir hiss drawing! cool ichabod as well! although all the drawings are awesome

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  4. Wonderful stuff! I didn't know Ollie did the scenes of Ichabod Crane kissing the flower.

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  5. So good! Thank you for creating this blog!

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  6. Absolutely gorgeous. Thank you so much for posting!

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  7. What a master of animation art he was, and his art remains so alive... so approachable. I regret so many of us never got the chance to meet him but sure am glad you did! He had to have been very pleased to see you carrying the art of animation forward. Thanks for sharing these Andreas.

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  8. Hi Andreas
    Thank you for this truly inspiration blog!
    I hope you are back at Disney soon, creating more magic!

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  9. Beautiful, I particularly like the dogs.

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  10. Your story brought back memories. I was at a Frank and Ollie book signing at a local comic shop and after they signed my book, handed them some of my published artwork - and then literally ran away. They called me back and were very kind and complementary - making a memory I will always treasure.

    They weren't just great artists - but great people as well.

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  11. These are so lovely! I love Ollie's distinctive style; his feather-light pencil strokes really betray the affection he felt for his characters.

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  12. These are great!!

    What is the drawing above the one of Baloo?

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  13. It's wonderful to hear the anecdotes from your work with him (and the other animators). I really like the Ichabod Crane sketch.

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  14. David,
    those are dalmatian motion studies (without the spots).

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  15. Thanks, Andreas. Fantastic images by a fantastic guy! I have a cel of the Gabble Sisters and Uncle Waldo of which I am particularly fond...

    My favourite piece in this glorious collection? No question: Peter relieving his sleeping grandfather of his pop-gun! Glorious!

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  16. thanks for sharing all this great stuff.

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  17. Andreas, could I interview you by mail for this blog of Disney in Spain?
    http://informemosdedisney.blogspot.com/

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  19. Loved it! Andreas, you forgot to mention one of his best creations: Anastasia and Drizella! In the 2005 special edition DVD, Ollie said that Walt asked him to do Anastasia less ugly in the scene when the Duke arrives and she says: your grace! Very funny! Ballo and the Three Good Fairies from Sleeping Beauty are my favorites after the stepsisters...

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  20. Andreas,

    Thank you for sharing your treasure trove with us.

    My only experience with Ollie is when he came with Frank to give a half week of lectures at Nelvana in 1978. We were all young animators there and were hungry for pearls of wisdom. Ollie and Frank worked extremely well off each other...but that's not surprising as they were best friends.

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  21. If everyone wanted to adopt Oliie as their grandfather, then I think a lot of us would like to adopt you as our older brother.

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  22. Capt. Tomorrow,
    I take older brother...sounds better than uncle. :)

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  23. Several have alluded to Ollie's ability to teach and I hope in time we can hear more about that. It appears he not only had the gift for animation but a wonderful ability to demonstrate his understanding to others as well. The books he authored on the art of Disney animation are treasures.

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  24. Andreas, thank you so much! I had the happy privilege of meeting Ollie and his wife Marie on several occasions, and I was the lucky recipient of his annual Christmas Card for many years. And as you say, he was mostly complimentary on then-recent animation and reserved his criticism mostly to matters of character development and story, which mattered greatly to him...as much as draftsmanship.

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  25. If there's any of the Nine Old Men I admire the most, it's Ollie Johnston. His quote about drawing what the character is feeling is brilliant. Andreas, thanks again for sharing these drawings with us! :)

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  26. I completely agree on the Mufasa thing. The Lion King is my favorite Disney movie for so many reasons and it solidified my desire to become an animator. Bambi worked too and it had a lot of impact on many people just they way it was, and I am glad we never saw Bambi's mother dead.

    Also I would like to say Scar will always be my favorite Disney villain on account of he was the only one (that I can remember) to ever accomplish what he set out to do! Extremely gutsy, and Ollie was right they would never have done that and I don't think at this point society would ever let that happen again in an animated film from Disney, but we'll see...

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  28. Hi Andreas,I've found your blog yesterday! Wir lesen jetzt auch in Deutschland mit :-). Via frankanollie.com I had email contact with them in their early nineties. I wrote a 'fan letter', got answer and was very, very proud. On the walls at my home, there are a baloo cel, an O'Maley close up cel, I am happy to own an 'baloo model sheet' from Ollies estate (ebay sometimes has real treasures) and there is a signed Todd drawing next to your (!) Jaffar and Tigger 'edding-scetches'. I am happy to read this blog from now on.
    TV-Plans for Germany are growing very slowly, but I will keep working on it. Have a good time, liebe Grüße Christian

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