photo of Frank Thomas

Animator and Disney Legend Frank Thomas is Born

On this day in 1912, Disney Legend Frank Thomas, an animator, author, and pianist, was born in Santa Monica, California. One of Walt’s famed Nine Old Men, Frank began his Disney career in 1934 along with Stanford University classmate and lifelong friend Ollie Johnston. Starting with Disney’s first full-length animated feature, Frank went on to work on many unforgettable characters in Disney classics, such as the wicked Stepmother in Cinderella, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, and Captain Hook in Peter Pan. Frank is responsible for animating some of the most iconic scenes in Disney films, including the dancing penguins sequence in Mary Poppins, Thumper teaching Bambi how to ice skate, the Dwarfs grieving at Snow White’s grave and two dogs nibbling on a single strand of spaghetti in Lady and the Tramp.

photo of Frank Thomas sketching with a dog perched up near him looking him in the face

I was very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time and to be able to live this kind of life . . .

group photo of Firehouse Five Plus Two Dixieland band

Frank lent his musical talents to the Dixieland jazz group Firehouse Five Plus Two, formed by fellow animator and Disney Legend Ward Kimball. The group recorded albums and performed around the country, including at Disneyland, where a recording of their song “Milenberg Joys” is still heard aboard the Mark Twain Riverboat. Both Frank and Ollie retired from Disney in 1978 and went on to write several influential books on animation, including the acclaimed Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life. A few years after retiring, Frank said, “I’m not sure that I would have been satisfied just as a musician, or just as an actor or just as something else. The fascinating thing about animation was it gave me a chance to use all of these interests, working together, and they all helped each other. But I was very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time and to be able to live this kind of life.”