Back row: Milt Kahl, Marc Davis, Frank Thomas, Eric Larson and Ollie Johnston Front row: Wolfgang Reithermen, Les Clark, Ward Kimball and John Lounsbery
Walt Disney’s nine old men were a group of Walt Disney’s supervising animators who help created Walt Disney Studio’s classic animated features such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” onward to “The Rescuers”. The members of Disney’s Nine Old Men are Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reithereman and Frank Thomas. Walt Disney jokingly called this group of animators his “Nine Old Men” by referring the U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s nine Supreme Court judges and most of whom were over the age of 70 at the time. Even though, most of the animators were in their 30s and 40s. This talented core of animators had stick with Walt Disney until his death in 1966. Together, they weathered World War II, a nasty animator’s strike and near-bankruptcy after box office failure likes “Fantasia” and “Sleeping Beauty”. Over the decades, there also grew an inner circle, who were indispensable to Walt's operations. They were animators who had proved their worth so completely that Walt admitted that sometimes their instincts were even better than his. All members of the group are now deceased. The first being John Lounsbery who died in 1937 and the last being Ollie Johnston who died in 2008. All of these nine gentlemen have been acknowledge as “Disney Legends” in 1989.
Leslie James Clark was born in Ogden, Utah on November 17, 1907. He was the first of the nine old men who join Disney Studio on February 23, 1927 which just a few days after graduating from high school. He started worked as an inbetweener (an artist who creates the drawings that appear in-between the extremes of an action that are drawn by animator) on “Steamboat Willie” in 1928. Clark specialized in animating Mickey Mouse as he was the only one of the Nine Old Men to work on that character from its origins with Ub Iwerks. He took over from Ub Iwerks in animating Mickey Mouse in 1930. However, Clark’s true debut as an animator was the first silly Symphony, “The Skeleton Dance” (in particular a scene of a skeleton playing ribs of a bony buddy like a xylophone). Clark entered animation at a pivotal time and took part in events that shaped not only Disney’s future but the history of the art from itself. Clark was one of Disney’s true veteran animators as he working with Disney from as early as “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit” and made contributions on almost every pre-1960 Disney classic animated features such as “Fantasia” and “Dumbo”. Clark did many scenes throughout the years, animating up until “Lady and the Tramp” and he was promoted to directing and animating shorts and features likes “Alice in the Wonderland” and “Peter Pan” for the studio until his retirement. Clark retired on September 30, 1975. He had spent 48 years animating and directing for Walt Disney and this making him the longest continuously employed member of Walt Disney Productions. After suffering from cancer, Clark passed away on September 12, 1979. His career highlights are “Pinocchio”, “Saludos Amigos”, “The Three Caballeros”, “Make Mine Music”, “Cinderella”, “Lady and the Tramp” and “One Hundred and One Dalmatians”.
"Les quietly went ahead perfecting what he did best, constantly at art class working hard to improve and learn. There was much admiration for this quiet, thoughtful man, who came in with no art background yet through sheer determination and desire not only kept up, but helped advance the art with his refinements of many fundamentals." -Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston
Marc Fraser Davis was from Bakersfield, California. He was born on March 30, 1913. He was the last of the Nine Old Men who joined the Disney Studio on December 2, 1935. Like Lounsbery, Davis also began as an apprentice animator on “Snow White and...