Franklin Rosborough Thomas
September 5, 1912
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Died||September 8, 2004 (aged 92)|
|Alma mater||Stanford University|
|Known for||One of Disney's Nine Old Men|
|Spouse(s)||Jeanette A. Thomas|
|Children||4, including Theodore Thomas|
Franklin Rosborough 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.
Thomas was born in Santa Monica, California to Frank Thomas, a teacher, and Ina Gregg. He had two older brothers, Lawrence and Welburne. He grew up in Fresno. 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, 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.
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 Army Air Forces). During World War II he was assigned to the First Motion Picture Unit where he made training films.
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.
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.
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."
|1935||The Cookie Carnival (Short)||Animator||uncredited|
|Music Land (short)||Animator||uncredited|
|1936||Orphans' Picnic (Short)||Animator||uncredited|
|Mickey's Circus (short)||Animator||uncredited|
|Mickey's Elephant (short)||Animator||uncredited|
|More Kittens (short)||Animator||uncredited|
|1937||Snow White and the Seven Dwarves||Animator||The Seven Dwarfs|
|Little Hiawatha (short)||Animator||uncredited|
|1938||Brave Little Tailor (short)||Animator||uncredited|
|1939||The Practical Pig (short)||Animator||uncredited|
|The Pointer (short)||Animator: "Mickey looking for Bear"||uncredited|
|1940||Pinocchio||Animation Director||Pinocchio||Credited as Franklin Thomas|
|1942||Bambi||Supervising Animator||Bambi, Thumper, Faline||Credited as Franklin Thomas|
|All Together (short)||Animator||uncredited|
|1943||The Grain That Built a Hemisphere (Documentary)||Animator|
|Victory Vehicles (Short)||Animator||uncredited|
|The Winged Scourge (Documentary short)||Animator||uncredited|
|Education for Death: The Making of the Nazi (short)||Animator||uncredited|
|1945||The Three Caballeros||Animator||"The Flying Gauchito"||Credited as Franklin Thomas|
|1946||In Dutch (Short)||Animator|
|1949||The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad||Directing Animator||Mr. Toad, Water Rat, Mole, Cyril Proudbottom, Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones, Katrina|
|Pueblo Pluto (Short)||Animator||uncredited|
|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|
|Donald in Mathmagic Land (Short)||Animator||uncredited|
|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, Miss Bianca, The Chairman, Orville, Brutus, Nero, Ellie Mae, Luke, The Swamp Folk|
|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 / Animator|
|2004||The Incredibles||Additional Voices / Special Thanks|
|1961–82||Disneyland||Animator (3 episodes, 1961–1970), directing animator (1 episode, 1982)||4 episodes|