Friday, December 3, 2021

Frank and Ollie Interview


Here is a link to a terrific interview with Frank and Ollie. Michael Barrier talked to them in 1987. It is fascinating to see them both talking so candidly. This conversation is more about what went wrong during their time at Disney, and less about what went right. Since many of us know that part already, to hear about their frustrations and disappointments is super interesting. 

At one point Frank talks about how difficult it was to animate Cinderella's stepmother. I had always thought that he enjoyed the challenge of drawing this subtle, powerful villain...apparently not that much. The role wasn't "juicy" enough for him. Frank criticized Milt Kahl's early character designs for Lady Tremaine. Too realistic! You can find those drawings here (followed by a few of Frank' animation roughs):

Here is Mike Barrier's interview:


  1. It's so interesting how they thought of their work as it fit into the overall movie, and how they collaborated with other departments.
    Also interesting to read about how they went about making the films after Walt's passing. I can understand why they did it that way, but I can also understand why some people wouldn't have been happy with that way of doing things

  2. Anyone who spent more than 5 minutes with Frank or Ollie could see how conflicted they were on a particular subject ---that subject's name was Milt Kahl. On the one hand they deeply admired his drawings and were quick to point out the brilliance of his lines. Looking at a Milt drawing, Frank once said to me "That is ONE line going down the neck and all the way down the back. If I tried that the pencil would go whoop." He said those words without a trace of rancor...a difficult thing for a man of Frank's pride and temperament. But...on the other hand... I think it must have been difficult for these two great animators---Frank & Ollie ---to work with one of the great graphic artists of the last century. Maybe this explains the comments about Milt's designs being "too subtle." TOO subtle? Milt's degree of talent would bring out the insecurities in any artist. I recall Ollie would always say "Milt" in place of the word "melt" ---"this key lime pie milts in your mouth." I took that as a touching, almost subconscious tribute to an artist both Frank & Ollie admired ...and found exasperating.

  3. That's an incredible interview. Thanks for sharing, Andreas-- and kudos to Michael Barrier for conducting it way back when.

    I noticed that they called certain gags and acting choices out for being too "shortsy," i.e. too broad. And yet, I can't help but think that films like Robin Hood, where many of the action scenes and set pieces cut corners like mad, could have benefited from the slapstick (dare I say Warner Bros.?) energy Frank and Ollie preferred not to invoke. Then again, did Frank and Ollie work on many of those? Were those all left to trainees?

    I feel obligated to counter this criticism by adding that their scenes of Sir Hiss and Prince John comprise some of my favorite comedy *ever* in the Disney catalog. And in any case, it's intimidating and inspiring to read the words of animators who are so versed in heartfelt animated performance that anything less comes up short.

  4. Frank is my number one.

    His skills was real.
    without propaganda

    many shots that people think were by milt kahl, were by frank thomas.

  5. Hi Andreas,

    Thank you for sharing this interview. My name is Chris and my son (almost 13) loves animation and experiments with a variety of mediums. He loves Frank and Ollie and refers to their rules of animation as a way of improving.

    He and I have been watching all of the Disney animated features in order and behind the scenes documentaries, many featuring you, as a source of entertainment and inspiration. In fact, we just finished Aladdin this weekend. We also watched the Frank and Ollie documentary and I bought him The Illusion of Life for Christmas this year.

    I've also shared The Recobbled Cut of The Theif and the Cobbler and some other stuff about Richard Williams with him.

    Is there any advice you might offer for me to help in encouraging him or any resources you would recommend?

    Thank you again for all of your creative efforts over the years and for the emotional impact of your drawings and animations both in my childhood and as an adult.

    - Chris