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

To learn more about these two animation greats, and the rest of Disney’s Nine Old Men, check out my review of the book Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men.

Top Five Live-Action Disney Actresses

The fun thing about watching Disney movies is seeing a favorite star again and again. Walt knew talent when he saw it. But whereas some actors returned for numerous movies, the same isn’t as common for Disney actresses. So this list was harder to do than its male counterpart! Please check out that list by reading Top Five Live-Action Disney Actors.

Thinking of females who popped up fairly often we might list Kathryn Beaumont or Mary Costa, but they only appeared as voice artists in animation. Julie Andrews, Jodie Foster, Sandy Duncan, all appeared in one or more memorable Disney live-action movies.

But we want only the best in our Top Five List! So to quote one of our ladies who didn’t make the list: “Well Begun is Half-Done!”

Number Five: Suzanne Pleshette

Suzanne Pleshette

(January 31, 1937 – January 19, 2008)

Not the first name that comes to mind when asked for a Disney actress. You probably remember her better from The Bob Newhart Show? But the Disney films she did are memorable: The Ugly Dachshund, Blackbeard’s Ghost, and The Shaggy D.A.

Walt found her interesting as she was far from a Princess on or off the set! And if you can make Uncle Walt smile because you’re naughty… that’s got to be worth something!

Number Four: Dorothy McGuire

Dorothy McGuire

(June 14, 1918 – September 14, 2001)

If Fred MacMurray was the father everyone wished they had, Dorothy McGuire was the mother. Playing that role in three Disney classics: Old Yeller, Swiss Family Robinson, and Summer Magic.

Her career was far more extensive both before and after Disney, but with only three outings for Disney, it puts her further down on the list.

Number Three: Luanna Patten

Luanna Patten

(July 6, 1938 – May 1, 1996)

The cutest little girl in Disney films! Her biggest role was her first for Disney in Song of the South (a film unfortunately ‘banned’ at the moment), followed by a good showing in So Dear to My Heart.

She didn’t have much to do after that, appearing in promotional spots or in connection segments in package films like Melody Time and Fun and Fancy Free. Johnny Tremain was her last film for Disney.

Not the most impressive list of movies, but considering how hard it was/is for a female to repeat with Disney, it is impressive that this little girl managed to do it!

Number Two: Hayley Mills

Hayley Mills

(April 18, 1946 -)

It all began with Polyanna. And of all the ladies on this list, Ms. Mills is the one who made the race for the Number One spot a close one!

Her list of movies includes Parent Trap, In Search of the Castaways, Summer Magic, The Moon-Spinners, and That Darn Cat! (her last Disney film, excepting the remake of Parent Trap).  During her six-year run at Disney, Mills was arguably the most popular child actress of her era. Oh, and she’s a Disney Legend (1998).

But not even all that could topple the lady at the top of the list:

Number One: Annette Funicello

Annette Funicello

(October 22, 1942 – April 8, 2013)

From the original Mickey Mouse Club, the opening of Disneyland, numerous guest spots on Disney programs both promotional and on TV, Disney Serials, a singing career on the Disney label, oh, and a few movies, this gal not only tops the female list of Disney stars, but challenges every male star for supremacy!

Add a series of beach movies (minus a visible navel to please Walt) and Skippy peanut butter and you’ve got quite a career there!

What else can one say about this Disney Legend? (1992)

Runner Up: Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury

(October 16, 1925 -)

Only starring in one Disney movie (Bedknobs and Broomsticks, 1971) she seems to be well-known by Disney fans, with a following befitting ones who have done far more for Disney. Perhaps it has something to do with a little animated film called Beauty and the Beast? But remember, animated films don’t count for this list!

Ms. Lansbury is forever immortalized for her television series Murder She Wrote (pray Jessica never comes to your town!) But she will also be remembered for her small body of work with Disney (unless that age of not-believing actually happens.)

Conclusion: Wow, that was hard! Obviously my list is personally motivated and thus open to criticism and at the very least, reorganization. Do you agree with my list? Or would you like to add someone? Please let us know in the comment section below!