Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Freeze Frame: Animated Animators - Part One

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston are among the more famous of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” the studio veterans most associated with, and responsible for, much of the company’s classic animation. Thomas and Johnston became especially well known from their various books on Disney animation, and as the subjects of the 1995 documentary Frank and Ollie.

They also became elements in the very art form they mastered and innovated.

Contemporary animation director Brad Bird paid tribute to the pair in two of his films. In The Iron Giant they appear as railroad men, especially appropriate considering Johnston’s longtime passion for trains and scale model railroading, a hobby he shared with fellow animator Ward Kimball and also Walt Disney himself.

Bird brought the two back again in his first film for Pixar, The Incredibles. They appear near the film’s end, uttering the very telling lines “That's the way to do it. That is old school,” and “No school like the old school.”

Bird said in a USA Today interview: "I was fortunate enough to coerce them into doing it for us. It was just a small moment to thank them for all their magnificent moments."

One other homage to Frank and Ollie appeared in the 1995 Mickey Mouse cartoon Runaway Brain. There they found themselves the namesake of the story’s short-lived mad doctor.

Coming in Part 2: The animated animators of The Nifty Nineties.


Maz said...

Great article. I had heard this on a recent podcast. I was going to go back and look, but... Thanks for doing the leg work. Here's a link to Frank and Ollie's website if you have not seen it:

Thanks again,