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OBITUARY ANIMATOR FRANK THOMAS, DREW 'TRAMP,' 'PINOCCHIO'.

Byline: Staff and Wire Services

BURBANK - Frank Thomas, one of Disney Studios' pioneering animators and a frequent speaker at CalArts in Valencia, died Wednesday. He was 92.

Thomas, whose credits include such classics as ``Pinocchio,'' ``Bambi,'' ``Peter Pan'' and ``101 Dalmatians,'' was a member of Walt Disney's elite ``Nine Old Men'' and in later years mentored graduates from California Institute of the Arts' animation program.

He died in his La Canada Flintridge home at age 92, said Howard E. Green of Disney's Buena Vista Pictures Marketing.

Thomas had been in declining health following a cerebral hemorrhage earlier this year, according to the studio.

In a career filled with milestones, Thomas' animation included such classic moments as the first date and spaghetti dinner in ``Lady and the Tramp,'' Thumper teaching Bambi how to ice-skate, Pinocchio trapped in the bird cage by the evil puppeteer Stromboli, Captain Hook playing the piano in ``Peter Pan,'' and the dancing penguins in ``Mary Poppins,'' among others.

Thomas had a fondness for CalArts, founded by Walt Disney, and spoke there often, particularly to the students in the character-animation program, Green said. In fact, his family asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Thomas' name to the program.

``So many of the young animators at Disney came from there, and he came to mentor them over the years,'' Green said.

Born in Santa Monica, Thomas attended Fresno State College and Stanford, where he met Johnston. The two formed an instant friendship that would last for more than 70 years.

He began working at Disney in 1934, becoming a key member of the animation team on ``Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,'' Hollywood's first full-length animated feature. He was one of eight animators who concentrated on the dwarfs in three sections of the film.

This was followed by a top spot animating the title character in ``Pinocchio.'' Thomas struck a romantic note with the classic scene of a cocker spaniel named Lady and a rover named Tramp sharing spaghetti and meatballs on a ``Bella Notte'' in the 1955 feature, ``Lady and the Tramp.''

No funeral is planned, but details regarding a ``life celebration'' are pending.

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(1 -- 2) Frank Thomas, above, taking a nibble off Mickey with Disney colleague Ollie Johnston in this 1999 photo, died Wednesday in his La Canada Flintridge home. At right, the younger Thomas, who worked on ``Peter Pan'' and Bambi,'' works on the later Disney classic ``Robin Hood.''

Chris Pizzello/Associated Press

Disney
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Obituary
Date:Sep 11, 2004
Words:417
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