End of the Line

sscn3026.JPGsscn3025.JPGsscn3024.JPGsscn3028.JPGsscn3011.JPGsscn3009.JPGsscn3004.JPGsscn3007.JPGsscn3006.JPGsscn3012.JPGsscn3005.JPGsscn3003.JPGsscn3013.JPG

I was reading the Pennysaver (a local adzine) on Weds. and noticed an ad: “Estate Sale: Residence of Ollie J., Disney animator…” It was almost as if the organizers of the sale were trying to keep it a secret! Poor Ollie, I thought, he must have decided to sell everything and go to assisted living. As it turned out, Ollie has gone to Oregon to live with his family, as Don Hahn, Disney producer, (pictured above gesturing toward a chair) told me. (Don is working on a documentary about his friend, Joe Grant.)  I went to the estate sale both Friday and Saturday (May 18th and 19th). I didn’t see too many people I knew besides Don. All the household effects, dishes (see above), clothing, tools, garden equipment, books were all for sale. I took my wife to see the house on Saturday, and she suggested I buy one of Ollie’s hats and a plaid shirt to remember him by. I’m glad I did (see above of me relaxing in Ollie’s back yard wearing one of his hats). There was a bit of Disney memorabilia of course, mostly research material that Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston assembled for their books. Piles of photocopies of Disney animation drawings and story sketches, some loose, some mounted on illustration board. There was a whole box full of large photostats of Disney drawings, mostly storyboards. The stats must have been done recently, as they would combine Jungle Book Bill Peet story sketches with drawings from Donald Duck shorts like “Donald’s Gold Mine”, for instance. Probably material assembled for the book “Too Funny for Words”. At any rate, they were priced at $100.00 apiece (see above)! Ollie’s signed copy of Mike Barrier’s “Hollywood Cartoons” book was available for $60.00, as were things like some drawings that Nancy Beiman sent to him (there were a lot of things like that in the sale). Some of Ollie’s engineer caps were available from his live steamer train days at $75.00 a throw, including a photo of Ollie on board his engine. They all sold. Ollie collected Bing Crosby 78s, I bought one for $3.00 that had Bing on one side and Russ Columbo (his rival), on the other side! There was a whole box of scripts and story conference notes from the Disney films (photocopies). They wanted $10.00 a page for them, but that turned out to be negotiable. I found some notes from the Soup sequence from Snow White, as well as “Night on Bear (sic) Mountain” from Fantasia, mostly Walt, Dave Hand and Perce Pearce trading ideas, fun stuff to read. Ollie had a lot of books, some of which are pictured above. The prices for most of the hard backs were between $60.00 and $150.00. In a room covered with train wallpaper was an antique engineer’s lamp made over into a ceiling fixture, price: $2000.00! On Saturday, a very nice lady was getting quite emotional over that lamp. All of Ollie’s miniature trains were either sold or donated to the live steamers exhibit in Griffith Park. If there was any original art, most of it was not at the sale. I found one watercolor that was very nice, but not by Ollie.

It was a sad occasion, yet happy too (for me). The neighborhood Ollie lived in (La Canada) was and is absolutely beautiful. Both Ollie and Frank Thomas bought a lot of land to build their respective rambling ranch style homes on, probably in the late 1930s. The oak, eucalyptus and sycamore trees on the properties are stately and in prime condition. It was fun to see the remains of Ollie’s famous backyard railroad (see above). The little yellow train barn was charming and Ollie’s trestle in front of the house was a miniature masterpiece of construction. As you can see by my expression sitting in Ollie’s back yard, I finally came to the party! It felt so good just to BE there! I always wanted to visit the famous pair of animators at their homes, but never was invited. This was the last chance for me (heck, the last chance for ANYBODY). It’s interesting that Peter Schneider, who used to be the president of the animation division at Disney, owns the Tudor style mansion right next to Ollie’s house! Ollie was very nice to me on at least one occasion, when I put together a film tribute to Fred Moore at ASIFA Hollywood a few years ago. As feeble as he was, Ollie took time to answer letters about Fred Moore’s family, and talked by telephone with me about Fred’s auto accident and other things. Evidently, Mrs. Thomas is still living in the house next door to Ollie’s. Cathy and I walked around the neighborhood on Saturday and looked at the Thomas home from the outside, it too is beautiful, very big ranch style home with teal green trim and on a big lot surrounded by California oaks. The documentary, FRANK AND OLLIE, doesn’t begin to convey just how impressive these homes were. The neighborhood is now filling up with mansions, one was under construction. Cathy and I noticed that one of the homes across the street had a miniature train trestle in it’s front yard, but the tracks had been removed. Evidently, Ollie’s train inspired the sincerest form of flattery from some of the neighbors as well. Imagine what that area was like when Frank and Ollie bought the land. Probably an oak grove that had to be cleared for ground breaking. La Canada is the essence of old California ambiance. What a great couple of days at Ollie’s house!

17 Responses to “End of the Line”

  1. Thad Komorowski Says:

    Thanks for the report. Wish I could’ve seen it!

    TK

  2. nancy beiman Says:

    How sad, Mark.
    I have Ollie’s and Frank’s letters to remember them by. That is enough.
    This should not be happening. Someone should have donated some of the materials to a museum….I hope that the items find good homes and the people who bought them think of Ollie often.

  3. tony rizo Says:

    wow! what an incredible day to see how a legend lived his life.

    There are a lot of people out there that are so interested in animation and it’s history, me included. I read on cartoon brew’s blog about HB being turned into a fitness club. How sad! you know what’s interesting is that the Max Factor building was turned into a small Hollywood Museum, but what about animation is there anything that shows us or our children what we grew up with. I think as artists we were always taught art imitates life, well so does animation just in a funny way. I grew up on HB and I had The Banana Splits posters that my mom bought for me to put into my bedroom when I was a kid. (wish I still had those)

    It would have been cool if there were some private investors or even the city that would have taken over a landmark building like HB and turn it into an animation museum (which this city needs as we were the animation capital of the world for some time). But then we have to put on our bean counter hats and determine if it would have been cost effective.

    Just my two cents, Mark thanks for the great pics! it must have been very cool none the less.

  4. Beth S Says:

    Mark,

    You blog is absolutely wonderful. I’m glad that I found it.

    It sounds like you had a wonderful and memeorable time at Ollie’s home.

    Talk to you soon.

    Beth

  5. David Nethery Says:

    Thanks for the report , Mark. Kind of sad .

    I wonder , did anyone get Fred Moore’s pencil ? In the documentary “Frank & Ollie” and a couple of other places it is mentioned that Ollie kept one of Fred Moore’s pencils for inspiration and as a memento of his days as Fred’s assistant. Ollie had that pencil stub taped up on the window of his studio room at home .

    Did someone get the Freddy Moore pencil relic or is it still there , taped to the window, waiting for the whoever buys the house to take it down and toss it in the trash ? (”Gosh, what the heck is this old pencil stub doing taped to the window ? We’ll have to use a razor blade to scrape that old scotch tape residue off…” )

  6. Mark Kausler Says:

    Hi Nancy, Dave, Beth, Thad and Tony,
    I wish I had a dollar for every time I hear the words “animation museum”. Collectors collect, but nothing ever happens. The motion picture Academy is trying to start a cinema museum in Hollywood, I hope they make it, it’s been tried many times before (remember Debbie Reynolds’ attempt?). I thought of that pencil too, Dave, but Ollie evidently did take that to Oregon with him. Tony, speaking of the Banana Splits, I read over on Earl Kress’ blog that they can’t re-issue the shows because a lot of the elements have deteriorated and can’t clear music rights! So hold on to your memories. Another thought, how many of today’s “animators” will ever live the life style that Frank and Ollie had? Not many, I would wager, thanks to the “global economy”.

  7. tony rizo Says:

    MArk,

    What a bummer, that was such a fun show, my son is 3 and he would absolutley love it. I would think that they would still be able to make money off of it. Speaking of memoribilia, I was in LA shooting B roll of a commercial and drove past where the Bullwinkle store used to be, standing behind the chain link fence was of course the “Bullwinkle” statue if no one has read the “Moose that Roared” I suggest picking up a copy as it is a great read. Jay Ward along with a number of artists and animators in the industry during that time were absolutely brilliant!

    TOny :)

  8. tony rizo Says:

    For what it’s worth Global economy has seemed to help large companies successfully complete work at a fraction of what it costs to do here in the US. I can’t say that I blame them, I think the blame lays all over our country, not with just our federal govt but local govt as well. How are we to keep work here in the US when it can be accomplished overseas for a thrid of the cost. We simply cannot compete because of the price structure here in our own backyard.

    I know Canada’s govt. gives deep incentives to their entertainment industry (please do not mistake this information as completely accurate as I am not an economist just a concerned artist) I have worked on several 3D shows that have gone to Canada, Prague and even Bulgaria. Our cost of living is extremly high here in california. Yet everyone thinks you’re rich, when they don’t realize that the 1200 sq foot apt you’re renting is nearly $2,000.00 a month, a significant portion of your slaray.

    If you look at history even in animation with “Bullwinkle” being done in Mexico (not all of it) or Tom & Jerry being done in Prague (again not all of it but a significant amount) “Buzz Lightyear” saturday morning cartoon show (Disney Japan until it closed).

    Back on point to living the lifestyle, there is a resurgence because of 3D animation and gaming but before long that will go overseas as well. Not all of it mind you but a good portion. I apologize for sounding like a doomsday person. I love the animation industry, I just don’t know how to help keep what we all love alive and being able to make a decent wage so that we can survive. Other than to try to increase my skills and kick out the best product I can.

    Best of luck to us all in the industry!

    Keep on Drawing!

    Tony :)

  9. Rick Farmiloe Says:

    Hey Mark.

    Glad you were able to go and get a few things. I didn’ t know about it until it was too late…..:-( I feel sick that I missed it. I’m glad there were enough animation veterans that showed up that really appreciate Ollie and all that he was. It’s just so sad that these wonderful artists are passing away. When I started at Disney, 7 of the Nine Old Men were still around. Such great memories I have of talking to them, and learning from them. They left us with an amazing legacy and continued inspiration. Ollie was a master and a wonderful teacher. I’m glad you were able to get a few nice items to help remember him. Let’s hook up soon, Mark. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  10. RedTango Says:

    Thanks for the report on the sale…I go to estate sales almost every Sat. in the foothills and heard about Ollie’s sale a bit too late in the afternoon. But by the sound of some of the prices you mentioned for some of the stuff, I don’t think I would have found much I’d be interested in purchasing.
    Funny that Fred Moore’s pencil actually came up in conversation..that was one of the first things I thought of when I was told about the sale..oh no! Did they throw it away??? That’s the REAL museum piece. I’m glad he took it with him and will be moving to a more peaceful enviornment up in Oregon. Thanks for posting all the photos, too.

  11. Blaine Says:

    Nice to see ‘em get rid of his copy of Hollywood Cartoons.

  12. Harry McCracken Says:

    Great report–and great to see you blogging, Mark.

    Whenever I think of Frank and Ollie’s homes, I think of the time about ten years ago when I drove by them with Maurice Noble–who lived nearby, in La Crescenta–and he dolefully told me that Thomas and Johnston were still annoyed with him over the strike. It was amazing to realize that the emotion was still so raw, six decades later, that some of the few folk who were fortunate enough to still be among the living remained at odds over it….

    –Harry

  13. Eddie Fitzgerald Says:

    A poignant and well-written piece! Great to see that you have a blog now!

  14. Marvin Stevens Says:

    Mark, Have wondered what had happened to you, been reading about some of the things you have been doing on cartoonresearch….have purchase some DVD from Jerry`s Garage sale….wished you would e-mail me sometime, would like to hear from you again….I still live here in Mo….Marvin

  15. Mark Says:

    Hey Marv,
    I can’t get a fix on your email address. Is it that “brerrabbit” one? You can email me at mkausler@earthlink.net. Great to hear from you after all these years. Glad Missouri still has you; stay out of St. Louis, it is now “the most dangerous city in the U.S.”.
    Mark

  16. Marvin Stevens Says:

    Mark, Just sent you an e-mail message useing your e-mail address above, just wanted to let you know and hope that you get it ok….my e-mail address is brerrabbit85@hotmail.com…sorry that it took me so long to get back with your return message but just got back on this page…Marvin

  17. Fred Cline Says:

    Hey Mark,
    I heard about that sale afterward from a friend who is not in animation and just stumbled into it because he lived in the neighborhood. He bought some sort of biological textbook on essential oils! Great pics - thanks for posting them. I wish I had known about the sale before it happened - but I would have balked at the prices! I have posted a letter about my relationship to Mary Blair on my blog. It’s the text of a letter that I sent to John Canemaker when he was researching his Mary Blair book. Also, I have posted a motion graphic piece by Preston Blair (extremely rare) that he did at TV Graphics, Inc. in NY. I think you’ll really like it.
    www.fredcline.blogspot.com
    FC

Leave a Reply