Imagineering Bio: Ollie Johnson
Oliver Martin Johnston, Jr. (born on October 31, 1912 in Palo Alto, California) is a pioneer in the field of motion picture animation. He was one of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and the last living member. His work was recognized with the National Medal of Arts in 2005.He was a directing animator at Walt Disney Studios from 1935-1978. He contributed to many films including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Bambi and Pinocchio. His last full work for Disney came with The Rescuers, which was the last film of the second golden age of Disney animation that had begun in 1950 with Cinderella. In The Rescuers, he was caricatured as one of the film’s most important characters, the cat Rufus. Ollie Johnston on his garden railroad in 1993 Johnston co-authored, with Frank Thomas, the classic reference book The Illusion Of Life. This book helped preserve the knowledge of the techniques that were developed at the studio. The partnership of Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas is fondly presented in the documentary “Frank and Ollie”, produced by Theodore Thomas, Frank’s son.
Johnston attended Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, and Chouinard Art Institute.Ollie married a fellow Disney employee, Ink and Paint artist Marie Worthey, in 1943. Marie Johnston died May 20, 2005. Ollie’s lifelong hobby was live steam trains. Starting in 1949, he built a 1″ scale backyard railroad, with three 1/12th scale locomotives, now owned by his sons. This railroad was one of the inspirations for Walt Disney to build his own backyard railroad, the Carolwood Pacific Railroad, which again inspired the building of the railroad in Disneyland.In the 1960s Ollie acquired and restored a full-size narrow-gauge Porter engine. This engine was sold to John Lasseter (of Pixar Studios fame). On November 10, 2005, Ollie Johnston was among the recipients of the prestigious National Medal of Arts, presented by President George W. Bush in an Oval Office ceremony.