Virgil "VIP" Partch, one of Johnston's assistants, depicts Ollie receiving a compliment from a director on a well-done scene.
Word reaches us that Ollie Johnston passed away yesterday. He was the last of the Disney animation pillars, and he crossed the big river at age 95 ...
I knew Ollie for years, working with him on The Fox and the Hound before his retirement at the tail end of the 1970s.
Ollie was, first and foremost, a tyro animator. When Woolie Reitherman tried to drag him up to one of Woolie's patented, all-day story meetings around the big director's desk in Woolfgang's office, half the time Ollie would not show up. Ollie once told me:
"Gee, those meetings. They go on and on, and we argue over dialogue, and I've got a scene I should be doing down in my office. You guys can do all that without me ..."
Ollie was gentle, gentlemanly, considerate of other people's feelings. I never knew him to utter an unkind word to a co-worker. When he and Frank retired from their first-floor animation duties and moved to a big third-floor office to write "The Illusion of Life," Ollie asked me to read an early draft. I did, and thought it was terrific. He expressed gratitude that I had taken the time. In reality, I was the grateful one, being allowed to read it at all.
He was the last of nine charmed lives that made magic on movie screens for a half-century, and now he's gone. Thanks for everything, Ollie. All of us are the richer because you graced the planet.
Addendum: The Disney press release lionizing Mr. Johnston is here.