We’re planning some major expansions to the site this fall, and we’re looking to hire a part-time ad sales rep for Cartoon Brew. If you have experience in ad sales, as it pertains to animation and film, please get in touch with Jerry (contact info here) and let him know what you do. Thanks!
We’re delighted to report that the Cartoon Brew Facebook community recently surpassed
500 600 700(!) members. In the few months that it’s been up, various folks have used it to post short films, link to job listings, and participate in discussions, but it’d be fun to see even more of that happening. In particular, the Wall portion of the page is underused; it’s an ideal format for posting notes about film screenings as well as other animation-related news and events. We started the Facebook community with the idea that Brew readers could have a place to communicate directly with one another. We hope you give it a try sometime.
A few months ago on Cartoon Brew we announced a new and affordable monthly advertising option on Cartoon Brew for independent companies, studios and individuals who couldn’t afford the standard rates that are charged by our ad partner Federated Media. We’ve just set up an Advertising page that offers all the details on this advertising option.
Ollie Johnston’s cameo in Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant
We asked Brad Bird, Oscar-winning director of Ratatouille and The Incredibles, if he could share a few thoughts about the passing of Ollie Johnston. Brad responded with this eloquent piece:
I was lucky enough to meet eight of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men”. I never met John Lounsberry in person, though he did see the film that I made as a kid. The “Old Men” I knew the best were Milt Kahl and Eric Larson, who mentored me directly in early years, and Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, who I often visited and heckled, but didn’t really get to know well until I was working professionally.
In spite of the usual “one happy family” picture that public relations always wants to paint about production teams, Disney’s Nine Old Men were competitive with each other. They would help each other out, but like all artists, they had differences of opinion on how best to approach their work.
Milt’s complaint about Ollie’s work was “There are no extremes! His scenes are all inbetweens!”.
This is, of course, wrong.
But it does capture a truth about Ollie’s work; that it was intuitive, subtle and elusive. It was difficult to see all that Ollie was doing when you flipped his original drawings, because he didn’t push his key poses as far as Milt did graphically, or as far as Frank did performance-wise… but when you saw Ollie’s scenes the way they were intended to be seen– at 24 frames a second– all the beautiful nuances became crystal clear; and his characters were as sympathetic and as full of life as anything seen on screen.
Where both Milt and Frank exerted a huge amount of energy planning their scenes, grappling with problems, exploring every alternative, etc… Ollie just thought a bit, did a few thumbnails and sort of let the scenes happen. This is not to say that he was any less dedicated than any other top animator at Disney, but he didn’t sweat as much in the process. Drawings flowed out of him like water.
Toward the end of his career, when most animators are slowing down, this extraordinary ease enabled him to be a tremendously productive animator; on “The Rescuers” he was producing ten feet of top-quality animation a week, double (or more) the output of his fellow animators.
I came along at a “best of times/worst of times” moment at Disney animation. The worst of times because the studio was creatively moribund and young people were not yet empowered to do anything to change it. The best of times because a few of the old masters were still around, still working, and still able to impart their wisdom to us eager students.
When Frank and Ollie retired from production on the same Friday I was the next animator on Ollie’s desk the following Monday; the very desk he had used for decades to create so many indelible animated moments. I was properly awed as I sat down in Ollie’s chair, at his desk.
As I was checking it out and getting the feel of it I noticed the pencil sharpener was full of shavings. Instead of throwing them out I poured them into a glass jar, labeled it and set it atop the desk. Good luck shavings… a simple reminder of the hard work required to create magic. My own jar of real Disney dust. The last jar.
Ollie got a kick out of that story when I told him, and for years afterward he asked me how the jar was doing. I kept in touch with several of the “Old Men” after they retired, and was particularly happy to pay Ollie and Frank both a hand-drawn and computer generated (both animated by Mike Venturini) tip of the hat in IRON GIANT and INCREDIBLES, which they were surprised and delighted to be a part of so late in their lives.
Ollie was one of the best that ever was and will be. He lives on as an entertainer, a teacher and inspiration for all generations to come. Needless to say, I’ll miss him. But I plan on visiting him as I visit Milt, Eric, Frank and all the others who taught and/or inspired me–
–through their work.. which will be around forever.
Ollie Johnston’s cameo in The Incredibles
(Above: Milt Kahl, Marc Davis, Frank Thomas and Walt Disney flank seated Ollie Johnston)
Howard Green just sent over the official studio press obituary, released to the media at 11am today:
Ollie Johnston, one of the greatest animators/directing animators in animation history and the last surviving member of Walt Disney’s elite group of animation pioneers known affectionately as the “Nine Old Men,” passed away from natural causes at a long term care facility in Sequim, Washington on Monday April 14th. He was 95 years old. During his stellar 43-year career at The Walt Disney Studios, he contributed inspired animation and direction to such classic films as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Pinocchio,” “Fantasia,” “Song of the South,” “Cinderella,” “Alice in Wonderland,” “Peter Pan,” “Lady and the Tramp,” “Sleeping Beauty,” “Sword in the Stone,” “Mary Poppins,” “The Jungle Book,” “Robin Hood,” “The Rescuers,” and “The Fox and the Hound.”
In addition to his achievements as an animator and directing animator, Johnston (in collaboration with his lifelong friend and colleague Frank Thomas) authored four landmark books: Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, Too Funny for Words, Bambi: The Story and the Film, and The Disney Villain. Johnston and Thomas were also the title subjects of a heartfelt 1995 feature-length documentary entitled “Frank and Ollie,” written and directed by Frank’s son, Theodore (Ted) Thomas. In November 2005, Johnston became the first animator to be honored with the National Medal of Arts at a White House ceremony.
Behind every great animated character is a great animator and in the case of some of Disney’s best-loved creations, it was Johnston who served as the actor with the pencil. Some examples include Thumper’s riotous recitation (in “Bambi”) about “eating greens” or Pinocchio’s nose growing as he lies to the Blue Fairy, and the musical antics of Mowgli and Baloo as they sang “The Bear Necessities” in “The Jungle Book.” Johnston had his hand in all of these and worked on such other favorites as Brer Rabbit, Mr. Smee, the fairies in “Sleeping Beauty,” the centaurettes in “Fantasia,” Prince John and Sir Hiss (“Robin Hood”), Orville the albatross (“The “Rescuers”), and more than a few of the “101 Dalmatians.”
Roy E. Disney, director emeritus and consultant for The Walt Disney Company, said, “Ollie was part of an amazing generation of artists, one of the real pioneers of our art, one of the major participants in the blossoming of animation into the art form we know today. One of Ollie’s strongest beliefs was that his characters should think first, then act…and they all did. He brought warmth and wit and sly humor and a wonderful gentleness to every character he animated. He brought all those same qualities to his life, and to all of our lives who knew him. We will miss him greatly, but we were all enormously enriched by him.”
John Lasseter, chief creative officer for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios and a longtime friend to Johnston, added, “Ollie had such a huge heart and it came through in all of his animation, which is why his work is some of the best ever done. Aside from being one of the greatest animators of all time, he and Frank (Thomas) were so incredibly giving and spent so much time creating the bible of animation — ‘Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life’ — which has had such a huge impact on so many animators over the years. Ollie was a great teacher and mentor to all of us. His door at the Studio was always open to young animators, and I can’t imagine what animation would be like today without him passing on all of the knowledge and principles that the ‘nine old men’ and Walt Disney developed. He taught me to always be aware of what a character is thinking, and we continue to make sure that every character we create at Pixar and Disney has a thought process and emotion that makes them come alive.”
Glen Keane, one of Disney’s top supervising animators and director of the upcoming feature “Rapunzel,” observed, “Ollie Johnston was the kind of teacher who made you believe in yourself through his genuine encouragement and patient guidance. He carried the torch of Disney animation and passed it on to another generation. May his torch continue to be passed on for generations to come.”
Andreas Deja, another of today’s most acclaimed and influential animators paid tribute to his friend and mentor in this way, “I always thought that Ollie Johnston so immersed himself into the characters he animated, that whenever you watched Bambi, Pinocchio, Smee or Rufus the cat, you saw Ollie on the screen. His kind and humorous personality came through in every scene he animated. I will never forget my many stimulating conversations with him over the years, his words of wisdom and encouragement. ‘Don’t animate drawings, animate feelings,’ he would say. What fantastic and important advice! He was one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, and it was an honor and joy to have known him.”
John Canemaker, Academy AwardÂ®-winning animator/director, and author of the book, Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men & The Art of Animation, noted, “”Ollie Johnston believed in the emotional power of having ‘two pencil drawings touch each other.’ His drawings had a big emotional impact on audiences, that’s for sure — when Mowgli and Baloo hug in ‘The Jungle Book;’ when Pongo gives his mate Perdita a comforting lick in ‘101 Dalmatians;’ when an elderly cat rubs against an orphan girl in ‘The Rescuers’ — Ollie Johnston, one of the greatest animators who ever lived, deeply touched our hearts.”
Born in Palo Alto, California on October 31, 1912, Johnston attended grammar school at the Stanford University campus where his father taught as a professor of the romance languages. His artistic abilities became increasingly evident while attending Palo Alto High School and later as an art major at Stanford University.
During his senior year in college, Johnston came to Los Angeles to study under Pruett Carter at the Chouinard Art Institute. It was during this time that he was approached by Disney and, after only one week of training, joined the fledgling studio in 1935. The young artist immediately became captivated by the Disney spirit and discovered that he could uniquely express himself through this new art form.
At Disney, Johnston’s first assignment was as an in-betweener on the cartoon short “Mickey’s Garden.” The following year, he was promoted to apprentice animator, where he worked under Fred Moore on such cartoon shorts as “Pluto’s Judgement Day” and “Mickey’s Rival.”
Johnston got his first crack at animating on a feature film with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Following that, he worked on “Pinocchio” and virtually every one of Disney’s animated classics that followed. One of his proudest accomplishments was on the 1942 feature “Bambi,” which pushed the art form to new heights in portraying animal realism. Johnston was one of four supervising animators to work on that film.
For his next feature assignment, “Song of the South” (1946), Johnston became a directing animator and served in that capacity on nearly every film that followed. After completing some early animation and character development on “The Fox and the Hound,” the veteran animator officially retired in January 1978, to devote full time to writing, lecturing and consulting.
His first book, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, written with Frank Thomas, was published in 1981 and ranks as the definitive tome on the Disney approach to entertainment and animation. In 1987, his second book, Too Funny For Words, was published and offered additional insights into the studio’s unique style of visual humor. A detailed visual and anecdotal account of the making of “Bambi,” Walt Disney’s “Bambi”: The Story and the Film, the third collaboration for Thomas and Johnston, was published in 1990. The Disney Villains, a fascinating inside look at the characters audiences love to hate, was written by the duo in 1993.
In addition to being one of the foremost animators in Disney history, Johnston was also considered one of the world’s leading train enthusiasts. The backyard of his home in Flintridge, California, boasted one of the finest hand-built miniature railroads. Even more impressive was the full-size antique locomotive he ran for many years at his former vacation home in Julian, near San Diego. Johnston had a final opportunity to ride his train at a special ceremony held in his honor at Disneyland in May 2005.
The pioneering animator was honored by the Studio in 1989 with a Disney Legends Award. In 2003, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences held a special tribute to him (and Frank Thomas), “Frank and Ollie: Drawn Together,” in Beverly Hills.
Johnston and Thomas were lovingly caricatured, and even provided the voices, in two animated features directed by Brad Bird, “The Iron Giant,” and Disney/Pixar’s “The Incredibles.”
Johnston moved from his California residence to a care facility in Sequim, Washington in March 2006 to be near his family. He is survived by his two sons: Ken Johnston and his wife Carolyn, and Rick Johnston and his wife Teya Priest Johnston. His beloved wife of 63 years, Marie, passed away in May 2005. Funeral plans will be private. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations can be made to CalArts (calarts.com), the World Wildlife Fund (worldwildlife.org), or National Resources Defense Council (nrdc.org). The Studio is planning a life celebration with details to be announced shortly.
Like so many of the great pioneer hand-drawn animators, Ollie Johnston was athletic. As a boy he loved playing touch football in a wide field of haystacks at Stanford where his father was a professor of romance languages. He enjoyed hiking, fishing and swimming in the lakes of the nearby hills. The ironic thing is how his idyllic childhood and adolescence was riddled with poor health, everything from severe sinus infection to measles and chicken pox to palsy.
His dear friend and animation peer Frank Thomas once said that Ollie is “stuck together with spit and string but will outlast everyone.” That has proven to be true.
Ollie was a survivor, a wonderful combination of inner strength and outer gentleness. He could be practical, thoughtful and tough in making life decisions, such as buying property or cutting down a favorite old tree when it loomed dangerously. But he was also a passionate man, full of emotions that found the perfect outlet in his soft, blue pencil lines that, as Glen Keane said, “coaxed into being” the most sensitive of character relationships. “I seem to have a kind of reservoir of feelings about how people felt in certain situations,” Ollie once explained.
He was also a great believer in the magic that happens when two drawings of characters touch each other. “It’s surprising,” he said, “what an effect touching can have in an animated cartoon.” Mowgli literally bear-hugging Baloo; Pongo giving an encouraging lick to frightened Perdita; old Rufus (Ollie’s self-caricature) brushing against sad orphan Penny; Prince John poking sycophantic Sir Hiss; drunken Mr. Smee rough-housing with Capt. Hook are but a few of the vivid physical interactions that Johnston used to unlock personalities who became messengers of emotion that connected with audiences around the world.
It was my luck and pleasure to have known Ollie Johnston as a friend for many years. He was wonderful, warm and gentle man, a teacher and author (like his father), and one of the great artists of animation. I miss him, but find comfort in that I can always find him when I view his amazing and touching animated performances.
The end of an era.
UPDATE (5:18pm): Brad Bird, the Oscar-winning director of Ratatouille and The Incredibles, remembers Ollie Johnston.
UPDATE (5:05pm): A fun Ollie-related image I found in my files. It’s a drawing by Ward Kimball of the 1-D animation unit at Disney. Left to right: Ward Kimball, Clarke Mallery, Ollie Johnston, Mary Schuster and Al Bertino.
UPDATE (12:20pm): The official statement from the Walt Disney Company about Johnston’s passing.
UPDATE (9:00am): Oscar-winning animator, animation historian and author of Disney’s Nine Old Men, John Canemaker, remembers Ollie Johnston.
UPDATE (5:42am): This morning, Hans Perk posted a brief video he took of Ollie Johnston on July 20, 2005. In it, Johnston eloquently explains the importance of creating believable animated characters that resonate with audiences. Hans also has some great Ollie-related posts on his blog here, here, here, and here.
UPDATE (4:54am): Tributes to Johnston, from people who knew him personally and others who simply admired his work, are appearing throughout the online community. Here are some of the better ones:
Michael J. Ruocco
Kate and Terry
UPDATE (10:17pm): A terrific video below in which Glen Keane examines the drawings and animation style of Ollie Johnston. Also be sure to see the three-part Disney “Family Album” documentary about Ollie.
UPDATE (9:35 pm): Howard Green sent us this quote from Roy Disney…
“Ollie was part of an amazing generation of artists, one of the real pioneers of our art, one of the major participants in the blossoming of animation into the art form we know today. One of Ollie’s strongest beliefs was that his characters should think first, then act…and they all did. He brought warmth and wit and sly humor and a wonderful gentleness to every character he animated. He brought all those same qualities to his life, and to all of our lives who knew him. We will miss him greatly, but we were all enormously enriched by him.”
UPDATE: Rebekah Mosely informs us that the Carolwood Pacific Historical Society has a previously planned event on Sunday May 18th at 2pm to dedicate Ollie Johnston’s Train Station at Griffith Park in LA. Their calendar and organization contact information can be found here.
That’s today’s topic of discussion on the Cartoon Brew Facebook page. We’re planning a refresh of the site and want to hear from Brew readers how you’d improve the site’s design and layout, and which technical features and additions you’d like to see implemented on Cartoon Brew.
Cartoon Brew was launched four years ago this month – and my, how we’ve grown. Below are some thoughts on the anniversary from the Brewmasters:
Back in 2003, Amid was updating his Animation Blast website with commentary and news; likewise, I was posting a stream of information and reviews on my Cartoon Research page. I recall a conversation we had at the time, both of us enthused about the potential of the Internet to expand our writing about animation. We were eager to communicate our thoughts, comments and criticism and saw a huge opportunity to expose new talent. This discussion led to our decision to “team up”, and create a new blog to share our ideas on one dedicated site that could lead to something more valuable to us – and our readers. We launched Cartoon Brew on March 15, 2004.
It’s turned out to be the most exciting, fulfilling, pleasurable and yes, time consuming, project we’ve ever taken on. For me, Cartoon Brew is a natural extension of what I’ve always done: communicating with fellow animation buffs and sharing my views, as well as trivia and souvenirs, from a lifetime of cartoon research. I love it.
We’ve watched our humble blog grow from several thousand readers a week to several thousand each day. A little over a year ago we opened our posts to comments from our readers, expanding the conversation to include the entire animation community. I’ve considered all Brew readers to be my friends, as we all share a love for an art form which, despite all its commercial success, is still not completely understood and fully explored by the mainstream public.
And that’s why Cartoon Brew is important to me. If I can enlighten someone to the latest film by Miyazaki, alert you to specific classic animation on DVD, or point even one person towards a Spongebob Squarepants Musical Rectal Thermometer, then I can rest a little easier, knowing I’ve done my job.
Wake up, brush teeth, wash face, put on coffee, log onto the Brew. Working on the site has become second-nature to me. I’m always amazed at how many people tell me that Cartoon Brew is one of their essential daily reads, but what I always forget to reply is that it’s exactly the same for me on the other end. The Brew is such an essential part of my daily life. Even on days when I have nothing to say (obviously, those are pretty rare days), I still check into the site to see what Jerry is writing and what readers are discussing.
As we begin our fifth year, we have big plans for the website. We are currently hard at work on a relaunch of CartoonBrewFilms. The idea continues to grow and morph but our goal remains the same: making quality animation available to a wide audience while making filmmakers money for their work. We’re also looking at numerous ways to extend the Cartoon Brew community, both through real world events and through online sites. Along those lines, we recently started a Cartoon Brew Facebook community (for Facebook members only) that allows readers to interact with one another through the discussion boards, and share links to films and articles with one another. Whereas the comments section on the Brew is for specifically responding to items that we post, the Facebook community is an opportunity for any reader to initiate a discussion or post interesting items.
This is also a good time to thank a few of our friends without whom we couldn’t be doing this site: the fine design team at Also Design who redesigned our website and logo, the sales team at Federated Media who help bring us corporate advertisers that we could otherwise never get on our own, and Leslie Cabarga who came up with the original set of Brew logos…remember these?
We’re going to begin doing a regular roundup that indexes some of the more noteworthy items on Cartoon Brew. Here are some of the news items that created the most buzz and generated the most discussion during the past couple months. Any that we missed?
The Little Island by Richard Williams
Hatti Noel as Hyacinth Hippo: Part 1 and Part 2
1930s Wartime Japanese cartoon
The Rocky and Bullwinkle statue: Part 1 and Part 2
Spongebob Rectal Thermometer and Spongebob Voice-overs
Kung Fu Panda Trailer
In by Philipp Hirsch and Heiko Tippelt
Why Don Hertzfeldt Probably Won’t Win An Annie
Marcell Jankovics’s FehérlÃ³fia
Lili Chin and Eddie Mort Abandon Flash Animation
Diznee’s Aladin and Ratatouille Knock-off
Studio 4Â°C’s Genius Party
The Hard Lessons of Kwicky Koala
Academy Ignores Animation for Best Foreign Film
Who Writes Cartoons?
After some record-breaking days of traffic last week, we’ve decided to take the next big step and upgrade Cartoon Brew to its own dedicated server. We hope that this will speed up everybody’s site load times as well as prepare us for future traffic spikes. The transition to a new server has not been especially smooth, hence the downtimes during the past couple days, but everything should be back to normal after this weekend. Thanks to all the Brew readers for your patience and support!
We are happy to announce that Cartoon Brew is now accepting ads from third-party advertisers (in other words, you) in our right-hand column. Many individuals and companies have commented to us throughout the past year that they’d like to advertise on Cartoon Brew but that they can’t afford the prices that our ad partner, Federated Media, charges for the large vertical and horizontal banners. While we’re thrilled to have major advertisers like Adobe, Cartoon Network,Verizon, Toyota and Hewlett-Packard occupying those spots, we also recognize the importance of giving independent companies, studios and individuals the chance to promote their projects in an affordable manner to the Cartoon Brew readership.
So we’ve decided to introduce a new advertising option of 125x125px square boxes in the right-hand column of this site. Previously we have only used these smaller ads to promote our personal projects and to support special causes, but now we will be adding your ads to the mix. We are selling these spots for only $250/month. That buys you an uninterrupted month-long campaign on Cartoon Brew, which receives an average of over 200k unique visitors/month and over 300k page views/month. If you’re interested in purchasing an ad, contact either Jerry or Amid through our bio pages at the top of this site and we’ll set you up. As a bonus, the first two advertisers who sign up will receive $50 off of their first month.
Good Grief! The conversation continues on our post about the Michaelis bio of Charles Schulz. Schulz son Monte adds some additional comments today, as well as new reactions from Schulz daughters Amy and Jill.
(Note: To keep the discussion from breaking into numerous threads, comments are closed for this post but can be continued in the other post with Schulz’s family comments.)
A new short (notably our first foreign one) launches this afternoon on CartoonBrewFilms: Carnivore Reflux directed by Eddie White and James Calvert of the People’s Republic of Animation, a young and quickly rising Australian animation studio. Stay tuned for many more terrific animated shorts, both international and domestic, set to debut on BrewFilms in the coming months.
It’s so difficult to find folks down at the Comic-Con so here’s a thread where we can do a roll call of animation folk who’ll be attending this year. If you’re on a particular panel or just want to mention that you’ll be in attendance, let us know in this thread. Both Brewmasters Jerry and Amid will be down in San Diego. Say hello if you see us there. This comment thread is ONLY if you want to mention that you’ll be down there next week.