Ruthie Tompson, a trailblazing Disney animator who worked on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio and countless other animated features during her 40-year tenure with the company, has died at age 111.
Tompson passed away peacefully in her sleep on Sunday at her home at the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills, California, the Walt Disney Company announced in a statement.
Tompson lived not far from the Disney Bros. Cartoon Studio on Kingswell Avenue in Hollywood during the 1920s, and she recalled in a 2010 oral history about watching women working and painting from within a storefront window, becoming so fascinated by them that she eventually was invited by Walt Disney himself to have a look. And their paths eventually crossed again when she was 18, with Disney offering her a job as a painter.
She 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. Tompson worked with the company for four decades, 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.
“Ruthie was a legend among animators, and her creative contributions to Disney – from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to The Rescuers – remain beloved classics to this day,” Walt Disney executive chairman and chairman of the board Bob Iger said in a statement. “While we will miss her smile and wonderful sense of humor, her exceptional work and pioneering spirit will forever be an inspiration to us all.”
Born on 22 July 1910 in Portland, Maine, Tompson grew up in Boston before she relocated in the 1920s with her family to Los Angeles, near Walt and Roy Disney‘s first animation studio. “It is always my Disney experience that is filled with truly unforgettable memories,” she previously said. “Mickey Mouse and I grew up together.”
Some of her most-loved projects include Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), Sleeping Beauty (1959), Mary Poppins(1964), The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973).
Last year Tompson shared some words with D23, the official Disney fan club, 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.”