While searching through my shelves over the weekend I found this wonderful poster created as a tribute to Ollie Johnston. I needn't remind you that Ollie Johnston is one of Disney's famed Nine Old Men and Ollie was the last of that illustrious group to depart. Actually, I think perhaps this particular poster may have been created for Ollie's memorial service. In any event, it's something very special and that's why I held on to my copy.
I received a call from my pal, Robert Tyler last week and while chatting with Robert I remember he was a regular visitor with Ollie Johnston over the years. Bob would drive up to Ollie's home in La Canada Flintridge and would spend the day talking with the Disney veteran. The years had passed quickly and suddenly Ollie found himself alone. HIs long time friend and colleague, Frank Thomas had sadly departed and their wonderful collaboration on an amazing series of Disney books on animation had come to an close. Of course, Ollie Johnston received many visitors during those years. Everyone from Disney historians, artists, authors and researchers. Each were eager to speak with the Disney master. They were there to see his collection of artwork and gain information and insight about the Golden years of animation at the Walt Disney Studios. Considering this, I mentioned to Bob why his many visits with the Disney Legend were unlike any of the others who made the trek to Ollie's home.
Bob and Ollie had become friends while working at Disney in the seventies and the two seem to enjoy each other's company. When I spoke to Bob, he wondered why Ollie considered his visits so special. I gave this some thought and came up with an answer. You see, while friends and fans were eager to visit the master animator to either see his artwork, gain information or insight, Bob's visits were totally different. That's because my friend had no agenda. The only reason he visited Ollie was to sit and chat. Often time, these visits would last all day and I think Ollie enjoyed every minute.
I know people are often wary of encroaching on a person's privacy. Especially the privacy of someone who is well known. However, you'd be surprised to learn how many older folks welcome a little socializing. After living an active life, few retired people want to sit alone in their home. When a visitor comes to call, it's a welcome break from the usually boring day. I think Ollie Johnston, like most retired masters from Walt's famous studio were pleased to know they were not forgotten.