The people who created the great Disney animation classics were called the Nine Old Men, and the last of them, Ollie Johnston, died last week at age 95. Johnston and his closest colleague, Frank Thomas, was featured in the wonderful documentary “Frank and Ollie.” They and the other animators were actors who performed with paintbrushes, creating unforgettable performances. Johnston created Thumper in “Bambi,” Mr. Smee in Peter Pan and the trio of fanciful fairies in Sleeping Beauty.
As lifelong friend and fellow animator Frank Thomas recalled, “Ollie was the only one of the Studio animators who was sensitive to character relationships and how they affected story,” explained Frank — “Back then cartoon characters seldom touched unless they hit each other. But one day Ollie said, ‘You know, the act of two people holding hands communicates in a powerful way.’ And he was right. His warmth made a difference in so many of our characters.”