April 16th, 2008
02:54 PM ET

The Disney tradition

Ollie Johnston, the last of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men," died Monday. He was 95.

Ollie Johnston was the last of the Disney stable of animators known as the "Nine Old Men."

Johnston and his colleagues, including Frank Thomas, Eric Larson and Ward Kimball, are the animators responsible for that distinctive invention: the "Disney film," the feature-length animated classics that include "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," "Pinocchio," "Fantasia" and "Lady and the Tramp." The early films, in particular, are flawless combinations of art and story, so timeless and indestructible the studio could release them every seven years and instill a sense of wonder each time.

Today we live in an age of computer animation, technologically spectacular but sometimes wanting creatively. Too many films substitute artistic detail for story, something that Walt Disney didn't tolerate, especially in the early days. (As noted in Neal Gabler's brilliant biography "Walt Disney," he rode his animators hard but maintained a paternal relationship until a mid-'40s union dispute. Indeed, the contrasts between the buttoned-down Disney and the wild men over at Warner Bros.' "Termite Terrace," chafing under the stewardship of Leon Schlesinger, say much about the style of their productions.)

There are notable exceptions, none better than Disney's natural successor (and affiliate), Pixar. In the "Toy Story" films, "Monsters Inc." and particularly Brad Bird's amazing work, you can see the attention to detail - including story detail - Disney would have enjoyed. The Nine Old Men would be proud.

It's no surprise that both Johnston and Thomas had small roles in Bird's "The Iron Giant" and "The Incredibles." They knew who upheld tradition.

- Todd Leopold, CNN.com Entertainment Producer

Filed under: movies

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. maartjekogel€r!

    Kungfu Panda 2

    September 19, 2010 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
  2. Denepheraspab

    Someone Leaked the movie from the studios and its great! The Sceanrio and the plot was extreamly well played out. i loved every minute of it!

    Watch The New Twilight Movie Online Now

    September 23, 2009 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Linda Smith

    Sorry to see how the Disney Dynasty has changed
    into a money machine that has no more heart.


    May 12, 2008 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bob

    The recent efforts of Disney/Pixar are, simply put, astounding for their color, action and special effects. But for me as a child of the 50's and early 60's, nothing will compare to the brilliance of Snow White, Pinnochio and the more recent Beauty and the Beast, Alladin, et al. The Nine Old Men and the generations they taught the craft are the true artists of animation. The Mickey Mouse of the previous era is the one I will remember for all time. For me, the old hand drawn and painted animation is the standard. RIP Ollie and thanks to you and all of the 9 Old Men for the memories that will last me for my lifetime.

    April 25, 2008 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jared

    The passing of this great man is a blow to the world. He and is cohorts were the beginning of what we know as the magic of the Walt Disney Company. Walt Disney and his 9 old men started a tradition that continues today. The magic and the wonder of Disney movies will continue for generations to come.

    April 24, 2008 at 10:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joan

    The animated films of Walt Disney Studios will live on forever. Our children know and love the characters that these great men created. Snow White was released over 70 years ago, and yet, she is still the subject of coloring books, toys and halloween costumes today. That is an incredible legacy. We will miss you.

    April 24, 2008 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. larry

    As with time things change, always have and always will. Perhaps the true masters have passed and we are left with countless memories of full emotions. We are now the story tellers to our children. It is though our eyes and hearts that the Disney Magic will live on, however I dare say that the people at pixar and the such have been left a wonderful gift the gift of knowledge , how true films of magic are made and I believe they in turn will only make them live on. Good bye to the old nine and good luck to the new guys in town, for you have much work ahead of you. Keep the Magic alive.

    April 22, 2008 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Julie

    Every adult and child in America owes Ollie, Walt and the other Great Old Men an eternal debt of gratitude. Our lives would not be the same without them. The animation studios of today lack the elegance and beauty of their predecessors. Farewell, Ollie. May you rest with sweet dreams.

    April 20, 2008 at 11:44 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Wes

    Of course this is a sad day, but what is sadder I think is the passing of the greatness that Walt Disney Studios used to have.

    These days, most of the Disney animated movies are mediocre at best and I've been an animation fan for years.

    I fear we'll never see the likes of Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, Snow White and others again.

    April 18, 2008 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Nhat

    It's extremely sad to hear about all this. His work is pretty inspiring within Disney works of art. As Pixar grows, I believe they would help define the greatness and tribute all that has developed as of today to the Disney's Nine Old Men.

    April 18, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Dawn

    As someone who grew up with a family firmly rooted into the Disney tradition, I found myself saddened at the final bow of Disney's Nine old men. I can remember first seeing Snow White in the theater as a little girl and realizing there was something special there. I only hope that Pixar does continue on the tradition and do it justice so that when I have children of my own someday, I can share that same special feeling of 'this is Disney' with them.

    April 17, 2008 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |

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