Born on July 22nd, 1910, Ruthie Tompson is 18 years older than the character Mickey Mouse (1928) developed by Walt Disney. Born in Portland, ME and raised in Boston, MA, Tompson relocated to Los Angeles in 1924 to the same block where Walt Disney and Roy Disney’s uncle Robert Disney was living. Walt and Roy both lived with Robert Disney when they eventually moved to Los Angeles.
Ruthie Tompson had a lot of interactions with the Disney brothers throughout her childhood including visiting their Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio (near her grammar school) often and even appearing in ‘Alice Comedies’, an early development by Walt Disney. At the age of 18, Tompson began working at Dubrock’s Riding Academy where Walt and Roy often played polo. Walt remembered Ruthie from when she was young and ended up offering her a role as an inker.
After training as an inker, Tompson was transferred to the paint department where she helped on Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. After working on several other Disney films, Tompson was promoted to Final Checker position where she reviewed animation cels before they were photographed onto film. She became one of the first three women admitted into the International Photographers Union, Local 659 of the IATSE.
Ruthie Tompson’s Filmography
- 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)
- Popeye the Sailor (1960–62)
- 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)
- The Lord of the Rings (1978)
- Metamorphoses (1978)
- The Hand Behind the Mouse: The Ub Iwerks Story (Documentary) (special thanks – as Ruthie Tompson) (1999)
- American Experience (TV Series documentary) (self) (2015)
- Walt Disney – Part 1 (self; as Ruthie Thompson) (2015)
- 110-Year-Old Ruthie Tompson Tells Us About Making Snow White | NOT-SO SMALL WORLD (Web episode) (self; as Ruthie Tompson) (2020)
She retired in 1975 after working for nearly 40 years with Disney and remained active including working for an in-house television channel with Motion Pictures & Television Fund. She is the oldest member of Women in Animation, a non-profit organization with the purpose of furthering, promoting, and supporting female animators in the art, science and business of animation and has received many awards for her longevity and accomplishments in animation.
Ruthie joins a very small section of the world’s population, the super-centenarians (have reached 110), where there is only an estimated 300-450 living at 110 or older. So happy 110th (WOW!) birthday to a Disney Animation legend and hope for many more birthday’s to come for Ruthie Tompson! Check out Ruthie’s conversation about the making of Snow White: