Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life is a book by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, two Disney Legends of animation counted among the famous group of Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men. The book topped the list of “best animation books of all time” in a poll at AWN, and is still used as a reference for inspiration on character animation.
I have this book and can’t recommend it highly enough for anyone who wants to better understand the animation process. After reading it, my own drawing skills improved noticeably!
In 1980, they appeared on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson to plug the book and chat about animation. Here they are on stage:
During the interview, Carson mentions that they are almost unknown, despite the fact that they had worked on some of the most famous animated films of all time. They replied that they liked it that way!
They mentioned that when they would sit in a theatre to watch their films with children, they would almost die. Why? Because children could be so cruel! No wonder they preferred to hide back in the studio.
Carson asked about the rumors that Walt Disney was a cold man and hard to work for, among other things. Both men answered that he was all of those things. However, they clarified that it was also a great pleasure to work for Walt because he was so inspiring, albeit awfully tough! Perfection was expected at all times.
Carson next marvels at how animators are able to give life to even inanimate objects, so Frank and Ollie pulled out the following drawings to illustrate the point:
And last but not least:
Who Wouldn’t Be?
It was great to see these Disney Legends chat about their passion for animation. But it almost wasn’t to be! Frank wanted to be a landscape artist and Ollie was heading towards a career in magazine illustration. But Disney put out a casting call and both answered, arriving at the studio to become lowly In-betweeners before rising in the ranks to full-fledged animators.
The Interview Ends
Look to the left in the above picture and you’ll notice another Disney Alumni, Suzanne Pleshette (January 31, 1937 – January 19, 2008). You may remember her for her roles in The Ugly Dachshund, Blackbeard’s Ghost, and The Shaggy D.A.
Also, if you look to the far right in the above picture, you can see Carson holding up the book in question (blurry though it is).
For the full interview (5:54), please take a listen. It’s well worth it:
Frank and Ollie on Carson