ILLUSION OF LIFE Plugged on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson

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.

Illusion of Life Cover

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:

Illusion of Life 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!

Illusion of Life Frank

Frank Thomas

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.

Illusion of Life Ollie

Ollie Johnston

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:

Illusion of Life Sad SackIllusion of Life Happy SackIllusion of Life Nosey SackIllusion of Life Tickled Sack

And last but not least:

Illusion of Life Tired Sack

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.

Illusion of Life Wrap Up

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

Book Review: Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men

Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men
The Flipbooks
 Author: Pete Docter
  • Hardcover: 1408 pages
  • Publisher: Disney Editions; Gft Dlx edition (Mar 12 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-13: 978-1423151050
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 14.7 x 17 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 2.7 Kg
  • Price: $60.00 US / $60.00 CAN

Content:

This box set of nine flip books pays tribute to Walt Disney’s original animators–the Nine Old Men: Les Clark, Eric Larson, Frank Thomas, John Lounsbery, Ward Kimball, Ollie Johnston, Mark Davis, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Milt Kahl. Each flip book features an iconic scene from an animated Disney feature in its original line-drawn form, having been selected from among a wide range of films for great movement and classic characters. The films include Alice In Wonderland, Dumbo, Fantasia, Peter Pan, Bambi, Lady and the Tramp, 101 Dalmatians, and Pinocchio. Such iconic clips from the reel of Disney animation history include: Lady and the Tramp’s moonlit spaghetti dinner; Sorcerer Mickey’s ordeal with a horde of mops; and Thumper’s announcement that a prince has been born!
In addition to the flip books, the box contains a booklet providing additional information about the artists
Review:
This is a different kind of book set. It doesn’t take more than a few minutes to flip through the nine books and to catch a glimpse of what an animator sees when proofing his work. But it’s a few minutes well spent!
Pete Docter obviously put a lot of love into this publishing project and it shows. The introductory booklet provides a wonderful insight into each of the nine men featured along with a ‘remembrance’ from a modern animator currently working for Disney.
We’ve all heard of Walt Disney’s nine old men, but now we can really get to know them!
Docter concludes the booklet with a section describing The Animation Process.
Conclusion:
Again, this is a very special book set, and as such won’t appeal to everyone. For the Disney or animation fan, it will be a welcome addition to any existing library. But it doesn’t take long to flip through it, literally, and so some may question the value at $60.00 US.
I would give this release a 4 out of 5 stars, mainly because of the value issue for the general public. And even many Disney readers may end up looking at it once and rarely again. But for the Disney fan, obviously it will rate higher!
I’d like to thank Disney Publishing Worldwide for sending me this preview copy.