Ruthie Tompson, Disney Animator on ‘Snow White’ and ‘Bambi,’ Dies at 111

Ruthie Tompson, a legendary Disney animator who worked with Walt Disney Studios on classics such as “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” “Bambi” and “Sleeping Beauty,” has died. She was 111.

Disney announced Tompson’s passing Monday and said that she died Sunday at her home at the Motion Picture and Television Fund’s Country House and Hospital in Woodland Hills, California.

“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,” Disney 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.”

Tompson got her start as a painter in the Ink & Paint department at Disney, moving up in the ranks to major roles in final check, scene planning and the camera department. She retired in 1975 after completing work on the 1977 animated film “The Rescuers.”

Tompson was also one of three women who were the first invited to join the International Photographers Union, Local 659 of the IATSE, in 1952.

Ruthie Tompson, Courtesy of Disney

No other living individual had a longer history of knowing both Walt Disney in his earliest days in Hollywood and Roy O. Disney, and the company named her a Disney Legend in 2000 for her contributions to the company.

Ruthie 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 paths again when she was 18, with Disney offering her a job as a painter.

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She would then put finishing touches on “Snow White,” the first animated feature ever released that would go on to be a box office smash.

“We worked into the night, day after day, until we got it exactly right,” Tompson later said, saying it became one of her favorite films to revisit with family.

Some of her other credits included “Pinocchio” (1940), “Fantasia” (1940), “Dumbo” (1941), “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), “Mary Poppins” (1964), “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Robin Hood” (1973). She retired from Disney in 1975 but worked with other studios for the next 10 years, including as an ink and paint supervisor on the 1978 animated “Lord of the Rings” film.

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Tompson was a lifelong Dodgers fan and also appeared at the D23 convention last year for her 110th birthday, telling fans,” “Have fun…Try to do as much as you can for yourself. Remember all the good things in life.”

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