Original Disney Studios animator dies in Sequim

Fans of Walt Disney’s animated motion pictures from the mid-20th century may not know Oliver “Ollie” Johnston by name, but his characters have lived on in their hearts and minds.

Johnston, the last of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” died of natural causes April 14 at the age of 95 in Sequim.

Johnston had been living in Dungeness Courte, a Sequim long-term care facility, for about a year. Both of his children, Rick and Ken Johnston, have lived on Blue Mountain since the late 1990s. Marie Johnston, Ollie’s wife and former ink and paint department employee at Disney Productions, died in 2005 of pneumonia.

Johnston was with Walt Disney Studios from the beginning in the 1930s. Disney nicknamed his nine core animators, some of whom, including Johnston, later became directors, the “nine old men,” referring to what Franklin D. Roosevelt called the conservative judges of the U.S. Supreme Court, even though the animators were in their 30s at the time.

Known to be one of Johnston’s favorite projects, “Bambi” has brought tears to the eyes of children and adults alike for generations. Johnston drew Bambi and his rabbit-eared pal Thumper, among other characters.

Johnston shared the spotlight of a 1995 documentary dubbed “Frank and Ollie,” which also covered animator Frank Thomas, one of the “Nine Old Men.” Thomas died in 2004 at the age of 92.

Thomas and Johnston were neighbors while animating for Disney and later collaborated on lecturing tours and writing books, including the classic “Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life.”

Johnston and Thomas also had cameos and input on recent animated releases “The Iron Giant” (1999) and “The Incredibles” (2004).

Johnston’s other credits include “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “The Jungle Book,” “Robin Hood” and more.

He was born on Oct. 31, 1912, in Palo Alto, Calif. His father was a professor at what would later be his alma matter, Stanford University.

Johnston received the Disney Legends Award in 1989 and in 2005 was the first animator honored with the National Medal of Arts at the White House, among other prestigious awards.

Disney studio representatives are planning a tribute to Johnston near Hollywood. The family will hold a private memorial service locally.

Instead of flowers, the family asks donations to be made to the California Institute of the Arts, the World Wildlife Fund or the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Box: A snapshot of Ollie Johnston’s filmography according to Internet Movie Database:

• “Little Hiawatha” (1937)

• “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937)

• “Pinocchio” (1940)

• “Fantasia” (1940)

• “Bambi” (1942)

• “Peter and the Wolf” (1946)

• “The Wind in the Willows” (1949)

• “Cinderella” (1950)

• “Alice in Wonderland” (1951)

• “Peter Pan” (1953)

• “Lady and the Tramp” (1955)

• “The Legend of Sleep Hollow” (1958)

• “Sleeping Beauty” (1959)

• “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” (1961)

• “The Sword in the Stone” (1963)

• “Mary Poppins” (1964)

• “The Jungle Book” (1967)

• “The AristoCats” (1970)

• “Robin Hood” (1973)

• “The Rescuers” (1977)

• “The Fox and the Hound” (1981)

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