Frank and Ollie
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Frank & Ollie 

Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston were both born in California in the same year; 1912; Frank in Santa Monica, Ollie in Palo Alto.  Although they had quite different personalities, they found that they worked together very well.

Frank was always planning, forever thinking his way through the problems, keeping everything orderly, even in wild, crazy, impossible actions.  Ollie was more emotional, sensing tender, delicate scenes, unexpected actions and deep feelings.  Both of them were known for their ability to create warm, believable characters who could be either lovable or threatening, or both.

Frank had made a movie spoof of Hollywood's view of college life back in 1930.  It was very successful and made $1000 over expenses at the local theaters.  He had no idea of animation at that time but liked the idea of making films.  Ollie was interested in art.  In college he drew pictures of his favorite athletes, which were printed in the San Francisco Chronicle. In 1931 they met at Stanford University where they were both enrolled in the Art Department. However they discovered that they were more interested in gags and screwy routines for school shows than they were for painting and design classes.  It was the beginning of a long friendship as they gained attention to their monthly cartoons in Stanford's humor magazine and developed a new perspective on college life.

After college they came south to attend Chouinard's Art Institute where they studied with famed illustrator Pruett Carter. Suddenly drawing and design became very important.  Carter's chief interest in his magazine work was in making the figures look like they were thinking and getting involved in the situations, and showing how they felt about their predicaments. This was a new philosophy for Frank and Ollie and one that stimulated the desires they had in their own drawings.

It was still in their minds in 1934 when Carter stopped teaching and the two young students went to the Disney Studio seeking employment.  Ollie had considered going into magazine illustration, but once he saw the acting possibilities in the animation, he was hooked.  This was just what he had always wanted.

Fortunately it was what Walt wanted too.

This began a spectacular 43-year career at The Walt Disney Studio as top animators, directors and story men. Frank and Ollie gave the illusion of life to some of the most endearing animated characters to ever appear on the screen. Their humor, sensitivity, and acting abilities proved to have universal and lasting appeal and their skills at communicating these qualities in their drawings earned them places as two of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men."

Both men retired in 1978 to write the books about animation and the pictures they had created.  Nearly five years were required to complete the first definitive book, Disney Animation; the Illusion of Life that was published in 1981, it was followed by Too Funny For Words;  Walt Disney's Bambi, The Story and The Film; and The Disney Villain which was translated into French two years later. The Illusion of Life has been translated into Japanese and was so popular that it recently had a second printing.

If you want to learn more about the motion pictures and books Frank and Ollie contributed to, visit our "Our Work" pages.  To learn more about Frank see Frank's Page.  To learn more about Ollie see Ollie's Page.

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