What Was It Like to Work at Walt Disney Studios in Its Earliest Days?

Mary Poppins.
Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

Courtesy of Walt Disney Productions

This question originally appeared on Quora.

Answer by Ruthie Tompson, animator, Dumbo:

It was fun around there. We enjoyed it. The girls in ink and paint were called “the nunnery.” This was during and after the Depression. I loved it, and I loved having some money in my pocket. It was great.

When I was growing up, Walt Disney gave us a quarter for just playing. We would play hopscotch, chase each other around, and have fun. This was before I was at the studio. I was in my rompers. Well, it was a little after my rompers, but some kids were in their rompers. This was on Kingswell Avenue, where he lived and had his studio. One of the kids I ended up playing with ended up working on Mary Poppins as a camera operator.

I was just out of high school, and Walt came out to the riding academy, where I was working at the time, to play polo. He recognized me from the neighborhood and spoke to me by name and asked about my brother and sister. They wanted to learn how to play polo. He was paying his bill, and he said, “Why don’t you work for me?” And I said, “I can’t draw a straight line, but I have a friend whose father has a horse here who can draw a straight line.” And he said, “Bring her, and you can both go to night school. If you cut the mustard, I’ll hire you.”

It dawned on me that people hire you because they like you. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.

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