Open main menu

Wikipedia β

Disney's Nine Old Men were Walt Disney Productions's core animators,[1] some of whom later became directors, who created some of Disney's most famous animated cartoons, from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs onward to The Rescuers, and were referred to as such by Walt Disney himself.[Note 1] All members of the group are now deceased. John Lounsbery was the first to die, in 1976 from heart failure, and the last survivor was Ollie Johnston, who died in 2008 from natural causes. All have been acknowledged as Disney Legends.




By the time Robin Hood was released, only four of the Nine Old Men (Kahl, Lounsbery, Thomas, and Johnston) were still animating at Disney, although Eric Larson was still working for Disney as a talent scout and trainer, Wolfgang Reitherman was by then directing and producing films, and Marc Davis was helping to create Disney theme park attractions. Lounsbery died in 1976, Kahl retired the same year and died in 1987. Thomas, Johnston and Davis retired in 1978, and Thomas and Johnston later enjoyed cameos in the Brad Bird-directed films The Iron Giant (Warner Bros., 1999) and The Incredibles (Pixar, 2004). Thomas died shortly afterwards in 2004, and Johnston, who was by then the last surviving "Old Man", died in 2008.

As well as being honored as Disney Legends in 1989, all of the Nine Old Men were separately honored with the Winsor McCay Award (the lifetime achievement award for animators) during the 1970s and 1980s.

As part of their work for Disney, the Nine Old Men refined the 12 basic principles of animation:

  1. Squash and stretch
  2. Anticipation
  3. Staging
  4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose
  5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action
  6. Slow In and Slow Out
  7. Arcs
  8. Secondary Action
  9. Timing
  10. Exaggeration
  11. Solid Drawing
  12. Appeal

Another important component of the Nine Old Men's legacy are the many animators in the contemporary animation industry who can directly or indirectly trace their training to someone who was either their apprentice at Disney Animation or their student at CalArts. For example, Wayne Unten, the supervising animator for Elsa in Disney's Frozen, has noted that he apprenticed with John Ripa, who in turn apprenticed with Glen Keane, who in turn apprenticed with Johnston.[2]


  1. ^ Walt Disney was jokingly referring to the then-famous 1936 bestselling book The Nine Old Men written by Robert S. Allen and Drew Pearson about the nine justices of the Supreme Court of the United States, most of whom were over the age of 70 at the time; meanwhile, the Disney nine were all in their twenties. (In turn, the U.S. Supreme Court was targeted as dominated by very old men by the proposed Judicial Procedures Reform Bill of 1937, whose enactment was allegedly averted by the switch in time that saved nine.)


  1. ^ Canemaker, John (2001). Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation. New York, New York: Disney Editions. ISBN 0-7868-6496-6. 
  2. ^ Reyes, Robert (16 October 2013). "CSUF alum turned Disney animation artist sneak peaks [sic] latest film". The Daily Titan. CSU Fullerton. Retrieved 2 May 2015. 

Further readingEdit

  • Canemaker, John (2001). Walt Disney's Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation. New York, New York: Disney Editions. ISBN 0-7868-6496-6.
  • Deja, Andreas (2015). The Nine Old Men: Lessons, Techniques, and Inspiration from Disney's Great Animators. CRC Press. ISBN 1-1350-1585-6.
  • Larson, Eric et al. (2014). 50 Years in the Mouse House: The Lost Memoir of One of Disney's Nine Old Men. Theme Park Press. ISBN 1-9415-0047-1.
  • Mason, Fergus (2014). Disney’s Nine Old Men: A History of the Animators Who Defined Disney Animation. BookCaps Study Guides. ISBN 1-6291-7259-6.
  • Peri, Don (2008). Working with Walt: Interviews with Disney Artists. Univ. Press of Mississippi. ISBN 1-9341-1067-1.