On this day in 1935, Ollie Johnston joined the Walt Disney Studios as an apprentice animator (at $17 a week). He went on to be a pioneer in the field of motion picture animation and become one of Walt Disney's "Nine Old Men."
Born in Palo Alto, California in 1912, Johnston attended grammar school on the campus of Stanford University (where his father was a professor). After high school he returned to Stanford but spent his last year of study at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.
As an apprentice animator for Disney, Johnston worked on such early shorts as Mickey's Garden and The Tortoise and the Hare. He went on to work as animator and directing animator on more than 24 features, including Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Song of the South, and Cinderella.
An avid train enthusiast, Johnston created a backyard railroad at his home starting in 1949. He built a 1" scale railroad with three 1/12th scale locomotives. This railroad influenced Walt Disney's own interest in trains.
After 43 years with Disney, Johnston retired in 1978 but went on to co-author books with fellow-animator (and best friend) Frank Thomas.
On November 10, 2005 Ollie Johnston was awarded the prestigious National Medal of Arts (presented by U.S. President George Bush). Mr. Johnston had certainly come a long way since January 21, 1935!
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