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Tag Archives: Nine Old Men

May 10

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May 10, 2005 – Ollie Johnston Drives the Marie E. at Disneyland

On May 10, 2005, a special ceremony was held in Disneyland for animator and member of the Nine Old Men Ollie Johnston. Under the ruse of receiving a special honor for contributing to the Carolwood organization, Johnson was surprised to find that his locomotive, the Marie E., was on the Disneyland tracks to allow him one last ride. Johnson, along with Ward Kimball and Walt Disney, were train enthusiasts, but in his older age, Johnson had to sell his train as he was unable to operate it. Sold to none other than John Lasseter, Lasseter was able to find a way to bring it to the park in a special ceremony. Friends and family were gathered at Frontierland station to watch Johnson ride his beloved train one last time.

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September 5

September 5, 1912 – Animator, Member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, and Disney Legend Frank Thomas is Born

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“Frank was a giant in our field and he meant everything to me and to all of us who love the art of animation. Besides being one of the key guys to help elevate animation from a novelty to an incredible art form, he was so generous in passing along his knowledge and experiences to the generations that followed.” – John Lasseter

On September 5, 1912, Franklin Rosborough Thomas was born in Fresno, California. Thomas knew from an early age that he wanted to be an artist, and in his sophomore year at Fresno State, his interest expanded into animated films. After graduating from Stanford University, he honed his craft at the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles. After being told by a member of his rooming house that the Disney Studios had an opening, Thomas applied and joined on September 24, 1934 as employee number 224. His first assignment was the animated short film Mickey’s Elephant. In 1941, Thomas was picked to be part of a small goodwill tour of South America, which culminated in the animated feature films Saludos Amigos and The Three Caballeros. As a member of the Nine Old Men, Thomas served as a directing animator for several characters, as well as being well regarded for several of his animated sequences, including the dwarfs crying over Snow White’s body, and Bambi and Thumper’s ice skating scene. Thomas was also the pianist for the famed Disney Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two. In 1978, Thomas retired from the Disney Studios, but still remained involved in the field of animation, co-writing several books with colleague and long-time friend Ollie Johnston, including one of the most important books in the study of animation: Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. He, along with other members of the Nine Old Men, were honored as Disney Legends in 1989. In 2004, Thomas passed away at the age of 92.

April 27

April 27, 2009 – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Hosts “Milt Kahl: The Animation Michelangelo, A Centennial Celebration”

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“The evening will feature an insightful analysis of Kahl’s animation drawings, rare film interviews with Kahl himself, and clips of his work…”

On April 27, 2009, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted a special event titled “Milt Kahl: The Animation Michelangeo, a Centennial Celebration” at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater. Celebrating the life and works of Disney Legend and Nine Old Men member Milt Kahl, the event was hosted by animator Andreas Deja, and featured a panel of those that worked with or knew the man, including Kathryn Beaumont, Brad Bird, Ron Clements, John Musker, and Floyd Norman. The event featured clips of Kahl’s animation, interviews, and an in-depth analysis of Kahl’s work.

March 30

March 30, 1913 – Animator, Imagineer, Member of the Nine Old Men, and Disney Legend Marc Davis is Born

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“When I then came to the studio and met Marc Davis…he was the total opposite of Cruella de Vil in figure, but the sense of taste, that was a guy who really savored life, and you can see it in his animation.” – Animator Glen Keane

On March 30, 1913, Marc Fraser Davis was born in Bakersfield, California. After moving around several times due to his father’s job in oil fields, Davis enrolled in the Kansas City Art Institute after high school, which was followed by enrollments in the California School of Fine Arts and the Otis Art Institute. In 1935, Davis was hired by Disney as an apprentice for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He soon rose through the animator ranks, working as a story sketch and character designer for Bambi and Victory Through Air Power. He continued to work on Disney animated features as a character designer, and is particularly known for creating the looks for Tinker Bell from Peter Pan, Alice from Alice in Wonderland, and Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians, among others. Davis was also an animator for several key short films, including Duck Pimples and Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom. In the mid-50s, Davis began working for Walt Disney Imagineering, working as one of the original Imagineers on such attractions as it’s a small world, Pirates of the Caribbean, and The Haunted Mansion. His wife and fellow Disney Legend Alice also worked with Disney park attractions, creating costumes for the audio-animatronic characters. In 1978, Davis retired after 43 years at Disney, but continued to work in a consulting role. He and Alice continued to support the California Institute of the Arts. In 1989, Davis was honored with the other Nine Old Men as Disney Legends. In 2000, Davis passed away at the age of 86.

January 22

January 22, 1995 – The Documentary Film Frank and Ollie Previews at Sundance

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“In film after film, some of the most sublime performances ever to flow from a pencil were created by two star members of Disney’s original team, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. Their contributions to the legacy of these films is the focus of this fascinating and entertaining portrait.”

On January 22, 1995, the documentary feature film Frank and Ollie had a special preview at the Sundance Film Festival. This was the debut of the film, which would go on to premiere at other national festivals, winning the audience favorite award several times. The film chronicles the careers of and friendship between Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, prolific animators and members of the Nine Old Men of the Walt Disney Studios, and was written and directed by Frank’s son Theodore.

July 27

July 27, 1962 – The Firehouse Five Plus Two Records at the Golden Horseshoe

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“The happiest band I have heard in a long time.”

On July 27, 1962, the Dixieland jazz band Firehouse Five Plus Two recorded their performance at the Golden Horseshoe in Disneyland. The band was made up of several Disney employees, including leader Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, Harper Goff, Danny Alguire, Clarke Mallery, Monte Mountjoy, and Ed Penner. This would be the first of two performances recorded and later released on albums through the Good Time Jazz Records label.

June 26

June 26, 1909 – Animator, Member of Disney’s Nine Old Men, Director, and Disney Legend Wolfgang “Woolie” Reitherman is Born

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“I just felt [animation] was a twentieth century art form, probably the most unique of anything that had appeared on the art horizon for decades since perspective. I was just fascinated because you could move those things. You can’t move a painting.”

On June 26, 1909, Wolfgang Reitherman was born in Munich, Germany. His family moved to California when Reitherman was an infant. Fascinated with airplanes from a young age, he attended the Pasadena Junior College to study aircraft engineering, and later got a job at Douglas Aircraft as a draftsman. Reitherman changed his career path in 1931 to study his other passion of art, enrolling in the Chouinard Art Institute, studying watercolor. As fate would have it, Reitherman met an instructor who taught at the Disney Studios, and in 1933, Reitherman joined the company in the animation department. When World War II began, Reitherman served in the Air Force, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross for his services in Africa, China, India, and the South Pacific. He returned to the studio after the war, and contributed to more than 30 Disney short films throughout his career, including Water Babies and Donald in Mathmagic Land. Reitherman also contributed to several feature animated films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Cinderella, and One Hundred and One Dalmatians.

Reitherman’s first foray into directing came with the animated feature film Sleeping Beauty. In 1961, Reitherman was named co-director of the film One Hundred and One Dalmatians alongside Hamilton Luske and Clyde Geronimi. In 1963, Reitherman was named the director of the film The Sword in the Stone, a first for an animator in the studio’s history. He would continue to serve as an animator of Disney features, which include The Jungle Book, The Arisocats, Robin Hood, and the cartoon feature Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day. A trademark in Reitherman’s films was the reuse of animation, as evidenced in Robin Hood’s “Phoney King of England” scene, which borrowed heavily from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. In 1981, Reitherman retired from the Disney Studios, having dedicated nearly 50 years of his life. Unfortunately, Reitherman died in a car accident on May 22, 1985, in Burbank, California. As a tribute to his life and his work at Disney, he was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989.