Legendary longtime Disney animation supervisor, Ruthie Tompson, has passed away at the age of 111. Disney Executive Chairman, Robert Iger, shared the news, via Twitter. Loved ones, friends and fans shared their admiration for Ruthie and her masterful work.
“RIP Ruthie Thompson…a true animation legend. Her contributions to Disney-from Snow White to The Rescuers-remain beloved classics to this day. While we will miss her smile & wonderful sense of humor, her exceptional work & pioneering spirit will forever inspire us.”
Ruthie was born in Portland, Maine, on July 22, 1910 and was raised in Boston, MA until her family moved to California in 1918. They arrived first in Oakland on November 11, Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I. She would later recall, during the end-of-the-war celebrations she and others wore masks over their faces to guard against influenza, which was epidemic at the time.
Ruthie and her family lived in Hollywood in the 1920’s, just a short distance from the then upstart Disney Bros. Studio on Kingswell Avenue.
“I used to walk by the Disney Bros. storefront,” she once recalled. “I was curious and snooped around, and, finally, they invited me in for a look. After that, I’d visit quite often. I remember sitting on the bench and watching Roy shoot the animated cels onto film.”
“Once Roy asked us neighborhood kids to play tag in the street, while he photographed us with a movie camera,” she continued. “I suppose it was for the Alice Comedies; he paid each of us a quarter, which I was glad for because I could buy licorice.”
After graduating from Hollywood High School, at age 18, she was hired at Dubrock’s Riding Academy where Walt and Roy Disney could regularly be found playing polo. She was soon offered a job by Walt himself, as a painter in the Ink and Paint department, where she helped put finishing touches on the Studio’s first feature length animated film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which hit the silver screen in 1937. She would go on to have an unmatched career working on nearly every Disney animated film up through The Rescuers before retiring in 1975.
Ruthie was asked, at her 110th birthday celebration. the secret to her longevity, she responded, “It’s because I’m a vampire!”; “How can I tell you my secret, because then it won’t be a secret!”; “I’m a dummy for living this long!” Then she turns serious. “I don’t know why I am still here, but I know that I don’t want to be revered for how old I am, I want to be known for who I am.”
Her credits include films that have delighted generations for nearly a century.
Lonesome Ghosts (1937) (ink and paint – uncredited) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs(ink and paint – uncredited) (1937) Pinocchio (1940) Fantasia (1940) Dumbo (1941) Donald in Mathmagic Land (scene planner – uncredited) (1959) Sleeping Beauty (checker and scene planner – uncredited) (1959) Mary Poppins (scene planner – uncredited) (1964) The Aristocats (scene planner – uncredited) (1970) Robin Hood (scene planning supervisor – uncredited) (1973) Winnie the Pooh and Tigger Too (short; 1974) The Rescuers (1977)&Wisdom for a life well-led? She answers, “Have fun. Try to do as much as you can for yourself. Remember all the good things in life.”