Ruthie Tompson, who began her career at the Walt Disney Studios as a painter in the Ink and Paint Department during the first golden age of Disney animation, died peacefully in her sleep at her home at the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills, Calif. on Sunday. She was 111.
Tompson worked at The Walt Disney Company for nearly 40 years, retiring in 1975 after completing work on “The Rescuers” (1977). Additionally, she was one of the first three women invited to join the International Photographers Union, Local 659 of the IATSE, in 1952. In 2000, as the employee with the longest history with Walt and Roy O. Disney, Tompson was named a Disney Legend, the prestigious honor awarded to individuals in recognition of their extraordinary contributions to The Walt Disney Company.
Born in Portland, Maine, on July 22, 1910, Tompson was raised in Boston, Mass. Her family moved to California in 1918, arriving first in Oakland on Nov. 11, Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I. Tompson’s association with Disney began before she was a studio employee, having grown up in Hollywood, a short distance away from the Disney Bros. Cartoon Studio. At age 18, she took a job at Dubrock’s Riding Academy in the San Fernando Valley, where Walt and Roy frequently played polo. Walt offered Tompson a job as a painter in the Ink and Paint Department, where she helped put finishing touches on the studio’s first full-length animated feature, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937). Tompson was soon promoted to final checker and scene planning as she was skilled in reviewing animation cels and guiding camera movement and also worked on Disney features “Pinocchio” (1940), “Fantasia” (1940), “Dumbo” (1941), “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), “Mary Poppins” (1964), “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Robin Hood” (1973).
A lifelong fan of two things – Disney and the Los Angeles Dodgers – Tompson last year shared some words with D23 to mark her 110th birthday. “Have fun,” she said. “Try to do as much as you can for yourself. Remember all the good things in life.”
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