Born in 1912 in Palo Alto, California, Ollie Johnston attended Stanford University and the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, studying under Pruett Carter. He joined Walt Disney Studios in 1935, after only one week of training.
Johnston's first assignment at Disney was as an in-betweener on the cartoon short, Mickey's Garden
. (An inbetweener is an artist who creates the drawings that appear in-between the extremes of an action that are drawn by animator.) The following year, he was promoted to apprentice animator, working under Fred Moore on such shorts as Pluto's Judgment Day
and Mickey's Rival
. His first feature-length film was Snow White and Seven Dwarfs
followed shortly by Pinocchio
His humor, sensitivity and acting abilities proved to have lasting appeal and his skills at communicating these qualities in his drawings earned him a spot as one of Walt Disney's "nine old men." This irreverent reference had nothing to do with age but rather referred to the studio's elite inner circle of animators.
One of Johnston's proudest accomplishments was his work on the 1942 film Bambi
, which pushed the art form to new levels in its portrayal of animal realism. In 1946, for the film, Song of the South
, Johnston became a directing animator. He served in that capacity until his retirement in January 1978 following work on The Fox and the Hound