Friday, March 26, 2010
Pre-Game Warm-Up: Frank and Ollie
One of the most prominent legends of the Walt Disney Studios is that of the Nine Old Men, Walt's personal nickname for his core animators (the name was cribbed from F.D.R.'s less charitable description of the Supreme Court). Disney's nine all started with the studio in the early 30s, (except for Les Clark who joined in 1927 working on Steamboat Willie). They all stayed with the studio for decades. After Walt's death in 1966 they became the torchbearers for the original guard, preserving the integrity and legacy of animation at the studio.
Two of these Nine Old Men were Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston; classmates, collaborators, neighbors and best friends for seventy-plus years. They are the subjects of the lovingly produced Frank and Ollie, a low-key, charming documentary released by the Disney Studios in 1995. The film was directed by Frank's son Theodore, who uses his close relationship to catch many intimate moments between his family and Ollie's, including a touching scene of Ollie's wife Marie dancing happily to Frank's piano playing in his living room. Interspersed throughout the film are vintage footage from the studio, moments with Disney historians slobbering over themselves in awe of the work Frank and Ollie created, as well as cute vignettes of Ollie acting out a classic animated scene, followed by the scene itself.
In regards to their output here is a list of scenes and characters Frank and Ollie were responsible for:
-The "Pastoral Symphony" in Fantasia
-Pinocchio's nose growing
-Half of the Jungle Book (including the final scene)
-Thumper meeting Bambi
-Pongo licking Perdita in 101 Dalmatians
-The ugly stepsisters in Cinderella
-Rufus the Cat in the Rescuers
-The funeral scene in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
-The spaghetti scene in Lady and the Tramp
-"I've Got No Strings" from Pinocchio
-The pond skating scene in Bambi
-The Queen of Hearts
-Flora, Fauna and Merriweather
Frank and Ollie is a loving portrait of two lives spent tirelessly in pursuit of artistic acheivements. The film is a victory lap of sorts but it would not be the duo's last hurrah. A decade after the documentary's release, Frank and Ollie make their last onscreen appearance at the end of Brad Bird's the Incredibles. What could be more fitting than going out in cartoon form?