The Daily Variety has been profiling some of Hollywood’s oldest legends. One of those is Ruthie (or Ruthy) Thompson, who worked for Walt Disney for most of her life. Ruthie is actually a friend of the family and, although she’s 97, the spark of life is as strong as ever in her.
As a child she lived right down the street from Disney Bros. Studio on Kingswell Avenue. Walt & Roy used the neighborhood kids as extras whenever he needed children to run around in the background. The pay? $0.25, enough to buy some candy. That’s how Ruthie met Walt. Later…
As a young adult, Johnson was working at the Burbank stables, where Disney and several of his animators came to learn to play polo. "All of a sudden this guy looks me in the eye and says, ‘Ruthie Johnson, what are you doing here?’" Disney suggested that Johnson come work for him, and when she demurred, telling him that she couldn’t draw, he insisted. "’You don’t need to, we’ll teach you,’" she recalls him telling her. "And if you do it, we’ll give you the job, and if you don’t, goodbye."
Ruthie learned to draw, paint, and then moved on to a supervisory role in the animation department. Ruthie’s other work included plotting camera movements for the multi-plane camera. She finally took a forced retirement in 1975. In 2000 Ruthie was made a Disney Legend. I know she has a million stories to tell and I love it when she does. A big thanks to Ruthie Thompson for all the great animation she helped to bring to life.