Ollie Johnston to Receive Medal of Arts

Legendary Disney animator Ollie Johnston was among the names announced yesterday as President George W. Bush unveiled the recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Art. The first animator to ever receive the honor, Johnston is traveling to Washington D.C. with his family and Roy Disney to attend Thursday’s ceremony at the White House.

The National Medal of Arts is the nation’s highest honor for artistic excellence. A total of ten medals will be presented by the President and First Lady Laura Bush in the Oval Office on November 10. The other recipients are actor Robert Duvall, singer/songwriter Dolly Parton, musician/composer/artistic director Wynton Marsalis, author Louis Auchincloss, symphony orchestra conductor James DePreist, arts patron/advocate Leonard Garment, dance company artistic director/choreographer Tina Ramirez and Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.

“These individuals and organization have all made significant and enduring contributions to the artistic life of our nation,’ comments National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia. ‘Whether through pioneering film animation, writing memorable novels, championing jazz, or creating new dance styles, their work has transformed the ways we experience and appreciate the world.”

The National Medal of Arts was established by Congress in 1984. Each year, the Endowment seeks nominations from individuals and organizations across the country. Nominations are reviewed by The National Council on the Arts, the Endowment’s Presidentially-appointed and Senate-confirmed advisory body, which then provides recommendations for the President’s selections.

One of Disney’s elite “Nine Old Men,” Johnston and long-time collaborator Frank Thomas were creative driving forces behind such enduring Disney classics as Bambi, Pinocchio, Lady and the Tramp and The Jungle Book. For more information on the achievements of Johnston and the late Thomas, visit www.FrankAnOllie.com. You can also pick up the Frank and Ollie Special Edition DVD released in 2003 by Walt Disney Home Ent.