Frank Thomas (animator)

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Frank Thomas
FrankThomas1974.jpg
Frank Thomas in 1974
Born
Franklin Rosborough Thomas

(1912-09-05)September 5, 1912
DiedSeptember 8, 2004(2004-09-08) (aged 92)
NationalityAmerican
Alma materStanford University
OccupationAnimator, Actor
Known forOne of Disney's Nine Old Men
Spouse(s)Jeanette A. Thomas (wife)
ChildrenAnn Thomas (daughter)
Gregg Thomas (son)
Theodore Thomas (son)
Douglas Thomas (son)

Franklin Rosborough "Frank" Thomas (September 5, 1912 – September 8, 2004) was an American animator and pianist. He was one of Walt Disney's leading team of animators known as the Nine Old Men.

Biography[edit]

Thomas was born in Santa Monica, California to Frank Thomas, a teacher,[1] and Ina Gregg.[2] He had two older brothers, Lawrence and Welburne.[3] He grew up in Fresno.[4] Frank Thomas attended Stanford University, where he was a member of Theta Delta Chi fraternity and worked on campus humor magazine The Stanford Chaparral with Ollie Johnston. After graduating from Stanford in 1933,[5] he attended Chouinard Art Institute, then joined The Walt Disney Company on September 24, 1934 as employee number 224. There he animated dozens of feature films and shorts, and also was a member of the Dixieland band Firehouse Five Plus Two, playing the piano.

Career[edit]

Camouflage (1944) was a World War II training film

His work in animated cartoon shorts included Brave Little Tailor, in which he animated scenes of Mickey Mouse and the king, Mickey and the bear in The Pointer, and German dialogue scenes in the World War II propaganda short Education for Death (shortly before Thomas enlisted in the Air Force). During World War II he was assigned to the First Motion Picture Unit where he made training films.[6]

In feature films, among the characters and scenes Thomas animated were the dwarfs crying over Snow White's "dead" body, Pinocchio singing at the marionette theatre, Bambi and Thumper on the ice, Lady and the Tramp eating spaghetti, the three fairies in Sleeping Beauty, Merlin and Arthur as squirrels and the "wizard's duel" between Merlin and Madam Mim in The Sword in the Stone (in which he was paired with animator Milt Kahl to great effect), King Louie in The Jungle Book (the song number "I Wan'na Be Like You" featuring King Louie and Baloo the Bear re-teamed him with Kahl), the dancing penguins in Mary Poppins, and Winnie The Pooh and Piglet in Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day and Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too. Thomas was directing animator for several memorable villains, including the evil stepmother Lady Tremaine in Cinderella, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, Captain James Hook in Peter Pan, and story consultant in Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland. He retired from Disney on January 31, 1978. In the 1980s and 1990s, Thomas served on the advisory board of the National Student Film Institute and often was a presenter at the annual film festival's award ceremonies.[7][8]

Thomas co-authored, with fellow Disney legend Ollie Johnston, the comprehensive book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, first published by Abbeville Press in 1981. Regarded as the definitive resource book on traditional hand-drawn character animation (particularly in the Disney style), the book has been republished numerous times, and is widely considered "the bible" among character animators. The book summarized the Disney approach to animation through the so-called 12 basic principles of animation.

Thomas and Johnston were also profiled in the 1995 documentary Frank and Ollie, which screened at the 20th Toronto International Film Festival, directed by Thomas's son Theodore Thomas. The film profiled their careers, private lives, and the personal friendship between the two men. In 2012, Theodore Thomas also directed another short documentary, "Growing up with Nine Old Men", included in the Diamond edition of Disney's Peter Pan DVD.

Thomas's last work in an animated film before his death was for The Incredibles (directed by Brad Bird), although he voiced a character, rather than animating one. Frank and his friend and colleague Ollie Johnston voiced and were caricatured as two old men saying "That's old school ..." "Yeah, no school like the old school." The pair had previously been heard, and caricatured, as the two train engineers in Bird's The Iron Giant. Thomas died in La Cañada Flintridge, California on September 8, 2004, three days after his 92nd birthday. His widow, Jeanette A. Thomas, died on September 29, 2012.[9]

The 2001 biography Walt Disney's Nine Old Men & The Art of Animation by John Canemaker (ISBN 0-7868-6496-6) chronicles Thomas' life.

On the Animation Podcast, Disney director John Musker discussed Frank Thomas, and mentioned that at one time, fellow animation great Chuck Jones had christened Thomas the "Laurence Olivier of animators."

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Credits Characters Notes
1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarves Animator The Seven Dwarfs
1940 Pinocchio Animation Director Pinocchio Credited as Franklin Thomas
1942 Bambi Supervising Animator Bambi, Thumper, Faline Credited as Franklin Thomas
1945 The Three Caballeros Animator "The Flying Gauchito" Credited as Franklin Thomas
1949 The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad Directing Animator Mr. Toad, Water Rat, Mole, Cyril Proudbottom, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, Katrina
1950 Cinderella Directing Animator Lady Tremaine, a few scenes of the Grand Duke
1951 Alice in Wonderland Directing Animator Doorknob, Queen Of Hearts
1953 Peter Pan Directing Animator Captain Hook, a few scenes of Smee
1955 Lady and the Tramp Directing Animator Lady, Tramp, Jock, Trusty
1959 Sleeping Beauty Directing Animator Three Good Fairies
1961 One Hundred and One Dalmatians Directing Animator Pongo, Perdita, Puppies, Roger, Anita, Nanny, Labrador,
1963 The Sword in the Stone Directing Animator Wart, Merlin, Archimedes, Squirrels, Madam Mim
1964 Mary Poppins Animator Dancing Penguins
1967 The Jungle Book Directing Animator Mowgli, Baloo, King Louie, Kaa,
1968 Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (Short) Directing Animator Pooh, Piglet, Owl, Christopher Robin
1970 The Aristocats Story / Directing Animator Duchess, O'Malley, Amelia and Abigail Gabble, Napoleon, Lafayette, Edgar
1973 Robin Hood Directing Animator / Story Sequences Robin Hood in stork disguise, Sheriff of Nottingham, Skippy, Bunnies, Maid Marian, Prince John, Little John
1974 Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (Short) Directing Animator
1977 The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh Animator
The Rescuers Story / Directing Animator Bernard, Bianca, Chairmouse, Orville, Brutus, Nero, Ellie Mae, Luke Swamp folks,
1981 The Fox and the Hound Supervising Animator Tod, Copper
1987 The Chipmunk Adventure Special Thanks
1992 Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland Story Consultant
1995 Frank and Ollie (Documentary) Himself
1999 The Iron Giant Additional Voices / Special Thanks
2004 The Incredibles Additional Voices / Special Thanks

Books (all with Johnston)[edit]

Frank Thomas (center) with his best friend Ollie Johnston and their respective wives in 1985

References[edit]

  1. ^ 1920 United States Federal Census
  2. ^ U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007
  3. ^ 1930 United States Federal Census
  4. ^ U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007
  5. ^ The Stanford University Quad, 1932
  6. ^ "Frank Thomas, 92; One of Disney's 'Nine Old Men'". 2004-09-10.
  7. ^ Editor (June 10, 1994). National Student Film Institute/L.A: The Sixteenth Annual Los Angeles Student Film Festival. The Directors Guild Theatre. pp. 10–11.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Editor (June 7, 1991). Los Angeles Student Film Institute: 13th Annual Student Film Festival. The Directors Guild Theatre. p. 3.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Remembering Jeanette Thomas 1921-2012

External links[edit]