102-Year-Old Hollywood Vet: Walt Disney Hired Me After I Snooped on His Studio

THR_Ruthie_Thompson - H 2015
Wesley Mann

THR_Ruthie_Thompson - H 2015

"We all worked for Walt Disney without knowing he was a 'great man,' because he was a kid along with us," says Ruthie Tompson, now a resident of beloved industry retirement community the MPTF Country House.

Ruthie Tompson grew up just blocks from Walt and Roy Disney's small animation studio, often peeking her head in on her way to school. Years later, Walt found her tending horses while learning to play polo at a riding academy. He remembered the young snooper and offered her a job. Tompson spent the rest of her career as an inker and scene planner on classic animated films, from Sleeping Beauty and Pinocchio to Dumbo and Fantasia. (Now she keeps busy working with Final Cut Pro at the MPTF Country House's in-house Channel 22.) "We all worked for Walt Disney without knowing he was a 'great man,'" she says, laughing, of the early days, "because he was a kid along with us."

Tompson, now 102, is an advocate of early matriculation at the Country House. "All I can say is, 'Come early, fellas!' There's plenty of time, there's a lot to learn. There are good seminars, lots of people to come entertain us. Don't be bashful!" She notes of aging friends in the business, "Some of them still want to say at home, and I think they're silly. All of a sudden they find themselves alone, and then they pop off. They should think about coming to a place like this before they're sick, when they're feeling well, so that they can enjoy it."