Creator: Disney's Nine Old Men
Back row: Milt Kahl, Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, Eric Larson, and Ollie Johnston. Front row: Woolie Reitherman, Les Clark, Ward Kimball, and John Lounsbery.
Some of the most revered animators in the History of Animation
, Disney's Nine Old Men
were a group of Walt Disney
's top animators, some of whom would even become directors. They also taught and mentored many of today's top animators, both at Disney and elsewhere.
The Nine Old Men in question are:
- Les Clark: Working with Disney from as early as Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, and having worked on almost every pre-1960 Disney feature sans Bambi and Sleeping Beauty, Les was one of Disney's true veteran animators. He animated up to Lady and the Tramp, and after that he was promoted to directing and animating shorts and featurettes for the studio until his retirement in 1975. In fact, due to being with Disney from the very beginning, Walt originally chose him to write The Illusion of Life, but he passed away during preliminary research.
- Marc Davis: Got his start in 1935 as an animator on Snow White, training under veteran Grim Natwick, and would later do animation for characters like Bambi and Thumper, Tinkerbell, Maleficent and her raven, and Cruella De Vil. He quit animation in 1961 to work on the Disney Theme Parks, designing for such iconic rides as The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.
- Ollie Johnston: Got his start in 1935 working Snow White. Noteworthy work of his includes Mr. Smee, the Stepsisters in Cinderella, the District Attorney in The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, and Prince John in Robin Hood. He and his longtime partner Frank Thomas authored the three books "The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation", "Too Funny For Words" and "The Disney Villain".
- Milt Kahl: Started at Disney in 1934, and was easily Disney's most skilled animator, capable of animating the most notoriously hard characters, particularly the human males. Scenes animated by him tend to be noticeably more fluid and better drawn. Works of his includes Shere Kahn, Prince Phillip, Edgar the Butler, The Sheriff of Nottingham, and Madame Medusa.
- Ward Kimball: Joined Disney in 1934, and was easily Walt's most unique, "Cartoony" director, and Walt's personal favorite as a result. Noteworthy work of his includes Disney's most cartoony short, "Toby Tortoise Returns", Jiminy Cricket, the Three Caballeros theme from the movie of the same name, Lucifer the cat and Jaq and Gus from Cinderella, the Mad Hatter and Chesire Cat in Alice in Wonderland, and the two UPA-influenced Adventures in Music Duology. He later directed the Tomorrowland episodes of the Disney anthology series, and would go on to win an Academy Award for the short It's Tough to Be a Bird. Animation fans have often cited Ward as "the Tex Avery of Disney". Walt also praised him as a genius and the only person who was his equal (though he did dislike his UPA influences).
- Eric Larson: Joined Disney in 1933. Notable work of his includes the Aracuan bird, Peg from Lady and the Tramp, the Vultures in The Jungle Book, Peter Pan's flight over London, and Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear in Song of the South. He would later be given the job of training new Disney recruits in the 70's.
- John Lounsbery: Started in 1935 and, working under Norm 'Fergy' Ferguson, quickly became a star animator. Lounsbery, affectionately known as 'Louns' by his fellow animators, was an incredibly strong draftsman who inspired many animators over the years. His animation was noted for its squashy, stretchy feel. Lounsbery animated Ben Ali Gator in Fantasia; George Darling in Peter Pan; Tony, Joe, and some of the dogs in Lady and the Tramp; The Kings in Sleeping Beauty; The Elephants in The Jungle Book; and many, many others. In the 1970s, Louns was promoted to Director and co-directed Winnie The Pooh And Tigger Too and his last film, The Rescuers.
- Wolfgang "Woolie" Reitherman: Joined Disney in 1935 as an animator and director. He directed all the Disney features after Walt's death up till his retirement. Some of his work includes Monstro in Pinocchio, the Crocodile (in Peter Pan), the Dragon (in Sleeping Beauty), and the Rat (in Lady and the Tramp).
- Frank Thomas: joined Disney in 1934. He went on to author The Illusion of Life with Ollie Johnston. His work included the wicked Stepmother (in Cinderella), the Queen of Hearts (in Alice in Wonderland), and Captain Hook (in Peter Pan). Amongst animators, he's most famous for coining the phrase "Don't animate what the character is doing, animate what they're thinking."
Movies featuring animation from all of the Nine Old Men include Cinderella
, Alice in Wonderland
, and Peter Pan
Common tropes include:
- Animation Bump: Any scene under their supervision, especially if it's a Milt Kahl scene.
- Awesome McCoolname: Wolfgang Reitherman.
- Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Easily Ward, noted by the Disney Family Album as "The Disney animator who never grew up".
- Cool Old Guys
- Passing the Torch: Around the 70's to early 80's.
- Rail Enthusiast: Ward and Ollie were noted railway enthusiasts and actually got Walt Disney to have his own backyard railroad in his Carolwood home.
- Shout-Out: Runaway Brain, The Iron Giant and The Incredibles make shout outs to Frank and Ollie.
- Frank and Ollie even make a small cameo in The Iron Giant, voicing two railroad workers that were drawn to look like them.
- Same thing in The Incredibles. Two old men at the end of the climactic battle against the Omnidroid are animated to look like, and are voiced by, Ollie and Frank.
- Spiritual Successor: Many of the renaissance-era animators, such as Glen Keane, Andreas Deja, John Lasseter, and Brad Bird, all of whom were their proteges.