Disney Legend Ruthie Tompson has sadly passed at the age of 111, The Walt Disney Company confirmed.
Thompson’s illustrious career began when she was 18 years old, where she started working on Ink & Paint for Walt Disney shorts such as Lonesome Ghosts, and would then move to film where she helped with Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. After working on several other Disney films including Pinocchio, Dumbo, and Fantasia, Tompson was promoted to final checker position where she reviewed animation cels before they were photographed onto film.
Tompson continued working for Disney and was promoted to animation checker during WWII, where she worked on training and education films, for the U.S Armed Forces, starring Disney characters such as Mickey, Donald Duck, and Goofy. By 1948, Tompson was working in the camera department, developing camera moves and mechanics to shoot animation. She became one of the first three women admitted into the International Photographers Union, Local 659 of the IATSE. Tompson continued to work through the studio ranks, eventually becoming the supervisor of the screen planning department.
After dedicating nearly 40 years to The Walt Disney Company, and working on virtually every Disney animated feature up through The Rescuers, Tompson retired from the Company in 1975. In 2000, Tompson was honored by the Disney Legends program and received the Disney Legends Award for her work at the Walt Disney Studios.
“Ruthie was a true Disney Legend,” added filmmaker Leslie Iwerks (The Imagineering Story). “As a young girl who began as an ‘extra’ in the 1920s Alice Comedies—she was directed by Walt Disney himself and watched over the shoulders of Roy O. Disney and [Disney Legend] Ub Iwerks, working the silent cameras—and living to 111 years old, she was the one person still alive who had known Walt Disney since his earliest Hollywood years.”
“Ruthie and I had great times together; she was fun, wacky, sharp as a whip, talented, and a dear friend to our Iwerks family,” Iwerks continued. “I’ll never forget the road trip with Ruthie in my convertible driving up to the Grand Opening of the Walt Disney Family Museum, Thelma and Louise-style, two happy girls on a fun adventure with a happy ending. She will be greatly missed.”
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of Ruthie Thompson. We plan to honor her at this year’s DisInsider Awards later this year.