Disney artist who worked on beloved classics like Sleeping Beauty and Dumbo dies

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Disney animator Ruthie Tompson has died at the age of 111.

She passed away on Sunday at the Motion Picture and Television Fund in Woodland Hills.

Walt Disney Company Executive Chairman and Chairman of the Board Bob Iger released a statement today that read: “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.

"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,” he concluded.

Ruthie was a part of the Hollywood studio from its earliest days and in the 1920s, she lived near the Disney Bros. Studio on Kingswell Avenue.

“Once Roy asked us neighborhood kids to play tag in the street, while he photographed us with a movie camera,” she said, intimating it was for character studies in movement.

“I suppose it was for the Alice Comedies,” she continued. “He paid each of us a quarter, which I was glad for because I could buy licorice.”

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Ruthie went on to become a painter in the studio’s Ink & Paint Department and was among those who helped create Disney’s first full-length animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937.

She progressed on to final checker, reviewing the animation cels before they were photographed onto film and then in 1948, she moved on to animation checking and scene planning.

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A true trailblazer, in 1952, Ruthie was among the first three women to be admitted into the Hollywood camera union when she was invited to join Local 659 of the IATSE.

As well as Snow White, she also worked on all-time classics like Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941) Sleeping Beauty (1959), Mary Poppins (1964), The Aristocats (1970) and Robin Hood (1973).

In fact, Ruthie worked on virtually every Disney animated feature up through The Rescuers in 1975, before she retired from the company.

She continued to work on a few more projects, including Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 version of The Lord of the Rings.

Ruthie is survived by two nieces, Judy Weiss and Calista Tonelli, and a nephew, Pierce Butler III.

Donations can be made in her name to the Motion Picture & Television Fund.

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