Last night at the El Capitan theater in Hollywood, industry people and family members gathered to remember the last of the Nine Old Men.
... I'll ... never forget Ollie's enthusiasm and encouragement when I left Disney to pursue computer animation at Lucasfilm Ltd. I invited him (and Frank) to speak to our small group of pioneers. The principles of animation that I learned from them gave me an edge in this new frontier, and were 100% responsible for our success there and later at Pixar. Competitors would ask what software was I using to make my computer animation so funny. Ollie taught us that it's not the tools that make something entertaining; it's how you use them ...
-- John Lasseter
I worked with Ollie in the late seventies. Not only was he a terrific animator and artist, he was one of the gentlest, nicest human beings who ever lived. If he ever had mean or vindictive words to say about anyone, he must have uttered them in the dark of night in a small, empty room. Because I never heard, and never knew anyone who heard, any kind of snark coming from Ollie Johnston.
Even at the end of his animating career, his greatest joy was sitting in his first floor office creating animation. As one veteran of the time told me: "Ollie does eight, nine, ten feet a week, every week. And it's great stuff. I don't know how he keeps it up."
But he did keep it up, year after year, picture after picture. And for that we should all be grateful.
Photographs copyright Mark Kirkland.