Tuesday, April 22, 2008
I will never forget the morning in 2002, when I got an early phone call. The voice on the other end asked if I was Josh. I said yes, and he proceeded to tell me he was Ollie Johnston and he wanted to know if I would like to come to his house for a visit. If there are a million different ways to say "yes", I said them all. It turns out, unknown to me, Ollie was a close friend of my wife's grandfather. And so my wife and I visited Ollie and his wife Marie for an afternoon at his house.
I've met celebrities before, but I have never been as nervous as when I first met Ollie. I think he had just turned 90, but he was cool as a cucumber. He walked us around his property, showing us his trains, artwork,and shared Disney stories. I felt like I was IN the movie, Frank and Ollie. It was great.
Then he asked if I had any artwork with me. I was crapping myself as he looked through my awful portfolio giving me pointers. Then the coolest thing I have ever seen happened. Ollie started talking about character expressions, and then this fragile 90 year old jumped into these exagerated poses with animated facial expressions. It was like I was watching Mr. Smee, Thumper, and the Queen of Hearts come to life right in front of me. I couldn't help but crack up laughing.
Ollie will be missed, but his spirit lives on through his drawings that he gave life too. What a legacy.