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Frank Thomas Centennial

Frank Thomas, one of Disney’s famed “Nine Old Men” supervising character animators – as well as the piano playing member Ward Kimball’s Fire House Five Plus Two – would have been 100 years old today. Thomas passed away passed away eight years ago on September 8, 2004 at age 92.

Thomas’ remarkable animation included such scenes as the first date and spaghetti dinner in Lady and the Tramp, Thumper teaching Bambi how to ice-skate, Baloo the bear telling the man-cub Mowgli that he can’t stay in the jungle in The Jungle Book, Pinocchio trapped in the birdcage by the evil puppeteer Stromboli, the lovesick squirrel whose heart is broken in The Sword in the Stone, Captain Hook playing the piano in Peter Pan, the dancing penguins in Mary Poppins, among others. He also animated several of Mickey Mouse’s most impressive scenes in such shorts as The Pointer and Brave Little Tailor.

Thomas retired from animation in January 1978, then spent the next five years with his lifelong friend and colleague Ollie Johnston writing the definitive book on their craft, Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, one of the greatest books ever written about animation.

He’s gone now, but will never be forgotten. Let’s take a moment to remember…

Happy Birthday, Frank.

  • Oliver

    Frank Thomas’, Chuck Jones’ and Ollie Johnston’s centenaries all fall within a month of each other, as I recall. Respect is indeed due.

  • If only we could all animate something like Grumpy crying over Snow White’s body when we’re “the new guy”.

  • Nancy Beiman

    Happy birthday, dear Frank. It was an honor and pleasure having you as a mentor and friend.

  • Vixie

    Back in the 1990s I got to attend an event at an art gallery near Chicago where Frank and Ollie were featured. Once the main program and signing were over, and the crowds had thinned, they walked through the gallery and didn’t mind answering questions. I wanted to ask Frank a question, and he asked where I was from. I told him I was from Peoria, and he started singing a song about Peoria. I have always remembered that, and what an honor it was to briefly meet the both of them.

  • He retired in 1978? I’m a little confused, I thought his last film he was a directing animator on Fox and The Hound, which came out in 81. Wouldn’t they have just started production in 1978?

  • Toonio

    Franklin Thomas for the win! Thanks for that great book you left for us to enjoy.

  • A very nice tribute to one of the greatest. Well deserved.

  • Happy Birthday Frank Thomas!

  • Mike ,

    Frank did key animation to establish Tod and Copper (along with Ollie) , but the time it takes to complete an animated feature accounts for the time from Frank’s official retirement from Disney Animation in 1978 to the movie being released in 1981 . If a picture is released in 1981 that doesn’t mean everyone who is credited on the picture was working on it right up until the release date. Most lead animators have long since moved on to new projects by the time a movie is ready for release. (plus during that time a large portion of the animation crew defected , leaving the studio with Don Bluth , so that set back the release date a bit ) .

  • Milt Kahl was loud but Frank Thomas was scary. Still, it was an honor to get your butt chewed out by a real Disney Legend.

    I never wanted Frank to stop animating but the years eventually catch up with all of us. Clearly, he was an animation master. Something I saw up close and personal.

  • Hi David, thanks for the info. When I asked I didn’t know how long Fox and the Hound had been in production, and I figured by the time Frank retired in 78′ they would have only in the development phase of the film, so yeah, that’s why it didn’t make sense to me. But I don’t know that films production history and I don’t know how heavily involved Frank and Ollie were. I can see what you mean if the films release was delayed a year, he might have started with Ollie on key animation, and I’m guessing after he retired he probably still acted as a consultant on the film.

  • He was and is one of the great masters in our young art form. We will forever have his amazing body of animation work and his fantastic book to look at over and over again.

  • Heeyoung

    Ahh I’ve seen this as a kid, and it’s so good to remember this again! Great work really! I appreciate this more that I know how animating works…the penguins are so lively and funny!