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 Monday in a statement.
She accomplished a lot in her lifetime, becoming one of the first three women invited to join the International Photographers Union, Local 659 of the IATSE, in 1952. Tompson was also recognized as the employee with the longest history with founders Walt and Roy Disney and she was inducted into the Disney Legend Hall of Fame in 2000 for her extraordinary contributions to The Walt Disney Company.
Former Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger called Tompson a “legend among animators.”
“Her creative contributions to Disney – from ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ to ‘The Rescuers’— remain beloved classics to this day,” Iger said in a statement shared on Twitter. “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.”
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Born on July 22, 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.
“I used to walk by the Disney Bros. storefront,” Tompson recalled in a 2010 oral history with Disney’s Animation Research Library. “I did it so often that somebody came out and said, ‘Why don’t’ you go inside and watch them?’ I think it was Walt because he roamed around quite a bit.”
Tompson continued: “As a kid, I was fascinated. I’d sit on the bench beside Roy, he had an apple box for me to sit on, and as it got late, he would say ‘I think you’d better go home. Your mother probably wants you to come home for dinner.'”
She said Walt Disney offered her a job as a painter in the Ink and Paint Department at age 18, where she helped work on the company’s first full-length animated feature, 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”
“We worked into the night, day after day, until we got it exactly right!” she told The Hollywood Reporter in 2020 about the film. Over the years, she said, it became her favorite film to revisit.
Throughout the course of her nearly 40-year career with Disney, Tompson worked on numerous feature films including “Pinocchio” (1940), “Fantasia” (1940), “Dumbo” (1941), “Sleeping Beauty” (1959), “Mary Poppins” (1964), “The Aristocats” (1970) and “Robin Hood” (1973). She retired in 1975 after completing “The Rescuers” (1977).
“It is always my Disney experience that is filled with truly unforgettable memories,” she previously said. “Mickey Mouse and I grew up together.”
According to the statement from Disney, Tompson is survived by two nieces, Judy Weiss and Calista Tonelli, and one nephew, Pierce Butler III.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ruthie Tompson, legendary Disney animator on ‘Snow White,’ dies at 111