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Report: John Canemaker, Frank and Ollie at the Los Angeles Museum of Art
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Then we hustled back to the theater for the screening of Peter Pan and the 1995 documentary Frank and Ollie [Directed by Theodore Thomas, Frank’ s son]. What a rare treat when Frank and Ollie introduced the films themselves! I happened to have my recorder so I have scripted most of the brief dialogue.

After thunderous applause Frank said “Where were all of you when I needed you. (laugh) all of those tough scenes that didn’t come off so good” Then he commented on Peter Pan. He said that when he was animating Captain Hook, there was one particularly difficult scene, interacting with Mr. Smee (gestured too Ollie). Upon returning home that night he felt sick and later found that he had pneumonia, and was hospitalized and off work for 3-5 weeks. He wondered who was finishing his scene, “probably someone who didn’t know anything”. When he returned he found “the thing hadn’t been touched! They hadn’t even dusted it!”

Then Ollie told how he got assigned to Smee was mostly due to Frank. He said they were having a pencil test for Walt on Alice in Wonderland, the scene with “my Alice’s” and “Frank’s doorknob”. And as Walt was watching the scene fly by he asked Ollie, “Did you do all those Alice’s?” Ollie stated, “ Walt would never gave a direct compliment he would only say something like that. “Well, We’ll have to put you on Wendy in Peter Pan. That’s when Frank said dryly, “That’ll kill ‘im”. “Then all of the story sketch men were drawing Smee as having Big Ears and Nose and glasses”. (Frank, while Ollie was saying this is behind him pointing to him and grinning) Ollie continued, “One day they were talking and they all said “Hey that’s Ollie”… so that’s how I got cast on that.

Frank had one more story about Peter Pan that came from England. They were very proud of Mr. Barrie’s play and story and “anyone touching anything about was just .. thrown out of the country”. Walt of course had “slipped through “and came to the theatre where it was being shown where he overheard two women talking. “One of them said “Oh I heard it has been terribly Americanized” and the other one said ”Yes but when you see it, it isn’t so bad.” They thanked us all and shuffled off, Frank ringing his bell and tooting his horn that he has attached to his walker. To be in the presence of living examples of Disney history is a rare treat.

On a personal note, they both look frailer then the documentary depicts from 6 years ago. Yet they both are exactly the sweet personalities that you get to know in the film. You just want to hug them both and thank them over and over for your own special moments experiencing their craft. It is also a tribute to having and being, life long friends, and how such positive elements in life can sustain one into old age and generate vast creativity. I want to be just like them when I’m 89.

Pic1.jpg (20387 bytes)
Ollie Johnston (left) and Frank Thomas (right)

 

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-- Posted February 5, 2002
-- Story and pictures by Jeff in Orange County

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