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).