Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Nine Old Men of Disney

Les Clark (1907 - 1979) The first of the "nine old men," Mr. Clark joined Walt Disney in 1927. His specialty was animating Mickey Mouse, starting with Steamboat Willie. Later, he worked on educational films, and he retired from Disney in 1975. He died in 1979. He was named a Disney Legend ten years after his death.

Marc Davis (1913 - 2000) Mr. Davis began working with Disney in 1935, during the production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He developed and animated many of the best-remembered characters, including Bambi, Thumper, and Cruella DeVil. He played a significant role in the development of the story and characters for many "E-Ticket" rides, including the Haunted Mansion and the Pirates of the Caribbean. He formally retired in 1978, but remained active with the development at attractions at EPCOT and Tokyo Disneyland. He was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989. He died on 12 January 2000, after a brief illness.

Ollie Johnston ( - ) Mr. Johnston graduated from Stanford University. In 1935, he was an animator for the Studio at the Walt Disney Company, where he worked on two dozen films, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He retired in 1978, and was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989. His life was the subject of a documentary, with Frank Thomas, in a 1995 film called Frank and Ollie. (reviewed at He was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989.

Milt Kahl (1909 - 1987) Like the other "nine old men," Mr. Kahl was an animator and started at Disney in 1934. He was a Directing Animator for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, as is recalled as one of the finest animators ever to work with Disney. Mr. Kahl died two years before being recognized as a Disney Legend in 1989.

Ward Kimball ( - ) Mr. Kimball joined Disney in 1934, and is best remembered for his creation of Jiminy Cricket in the movie, Pinocchio. He worked in a variety of areas for the Walt Disney Company, and his love of trains not only started Walt on the hobby, but was reflected in his work as a consultant for the EPCOT attraction, The World of Motion. He was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989.

Eric Larson (1905 - 1988) Mr. Larson shared a birthday (September 3rd) with Yale Gracey, one of the lead designers of the Haunted Mansion. Mr. Larson began at Disney in 1933, animating most of the Disney classics including Snow White..., and Cinderella. His good humor and expertise made him not only an executive in the training program for new animators in the 1970's, he was also a well-loved mentor. His death in 1988 was a tremendous loss to all, and he was recognized as a Disney Legend in 1989.

John Lounsbery (1911 - 1976) Mr. Lounsbery began his career at the Studio in 1935, working on the classic features starting with Snow White... He died in February 1976, and was honored as a Disney Legend in 1989.

Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman (1909 - 1985) Mr. Reitherman joined Disney in 1935, as an animator and director. He is best remembered as a director for Sleeping Beauty, and as the director fully in charge of The Sword in the Stone. He directed and produced all of Disney's animated features after the death of Walt Disney, until Mr. Reitherman retired in 1980. He died in May 1985, and was recognized as a Disney Legend in 1989.

Frank Thomas ( - ) Mr. Thomas was both an animator and author, ceaselessly creative in both fields of endeavor. As an animator, he joined the Studio in 1934 and worked on many early shorts. Later, working on the classics, he created memorable scenes, such as Bambi and Thumper on the ice, and the Lady and the Tramp moments where the couple are eating spaghetti. Mr. Thomas retired from Disney in 1978, but continued to work prolifically as an author, sometimes in partnership with his old friend (and fellow member of the "nine old men"), Ollie Johnston. Their books include the ultimate animation classic, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. (See Mr. Johnston's bio, above, for their documentary.)

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