The film primarily consists of Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston’s anecdotes of their careers as animators during their long tenure at Walt Disney Studios, beginning with their hiring a couple of years before the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. They talk about the successes and difficulties of the Walt Disney studios throughout their careers, including the production of Disney’s early works such as Pinocchio and Fantasia, decrease in business due to World War II, the unexpected death of Walt Disney in 1966, and the importance of The Jungle Book’s success in 1967. These anecdotes are punctuated by archival footage from various Disney films, as well as interviews with contemporary Disney animators, animation historians, and interviews with Frank and Ollie’s wives. Footage of Frank and Ollie’s daily lives at their nearby homes in La Cañada Flintridge, California is also featured.
Periodically in the film, Frank or Ollie (usually Ollie) will act out or describe a scene from a Disney film that they animated, and then show the scene from the film. This demonstrates the importance of acting in animation. Several of their anecdotes were also about how other animators did their scenes. The film also talks about Disney’s Nine Old Men, the senior staff at Walt Disney Studios. Ollie Johnston’s beloved model railroad and the book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, written by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, also feature prominently in the film.
So I watched this documentary last night as I assigned it for a film history class for kids. It was the first time I watched it but I’ve perviously watched several interviews with the two animators as well as having read The Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. They are two of my favorite animators at Disney, well once were, and their work is just incredible. They basically created the animation process with Walt himself. You can read more about that in my Disney Animation Techniques, which is where i break it down according to the book. However, I did learn a few new things about these two friends like how Fran Thomas was in the band Firehouse 5 and how Ollie Johnston’s love of trains and model trains inspired Walt Disney and sparked his own interest in Trains. The documentary told of their life but there were a couple of great scenes where they stopped and explained the importance of animation and their techniques. It is a great documentary to watch before analzying Disney’s animated films.