What do Soul Train, Sleeping Beauty, Fat Albert, Sesame Street, Pixar and Disney Animation have in common? Classic and Ground-Breaking Animator – Floyd Norman. There isn’t a cartoon or animation project you have seen within the last twenty years that has not had the touch of Floyd Norman added to it.
Growing up in Santa Barbara, California, Norman was prepped for a life with no boundaries. Luckily for him, his teachers saw that his imagination and gift for drawing were clearly unique when he was set up with an assistant job on the Katy Keene comic book with legendary artist Bill Woggon.
However, it was grabbing a gig as an in-betweener, an animation artist who creates drawings between key poses to complete a character’s action and movement sequence on Sleeping Beauty, which was released in 1959 that carved out Norman’s career as the first person of color to be an animator at the Walt Disney Company.
For years, it has been rumored that Disney was a racist and for having some possible anti-Semitic views. Norman has defended Disney in various interviews throughout his career, saying that his race was never an issue.
“I remind people all the time that when we young artists came into Disney, we were a mix,” he told Yahoo! Movies in August 2016. “There were young women, which was unusual at that time. We had an Asian artist, a Latino artist, and one from Lithuania. So my being African-American didn’t make me different from anybody else. We were from everywhere, but we were all one thing: artists. And that’s all that really mattered to Disney.”
At 81 years old, Norman continues to “Floyder” by freelancing for Disney as a consultant and storyboard artist. He also regularly writes about his experiences in the animation industry on his blog, Mr. Fun’s Journal, as well as for JimHillMedia.com, a popular animation site, and AfroKids.com, a multicultural site he and Sullivan founded in 1999.
Norman has also written several books on the animation industry, including “Faster! Cheaper! The Flip Side to the Art of Animation”; “Son of Faster, Cheaper!: A Sharp Look Inside the Animation Business”; “How the Grinch Stole Disney”; “Disk Drive: Animated Humor in the Digital Age”; “Suspended Animation: The Art Form That Refuses to Die”; and “Animated Life: A Lifetime of Tips, Tricks, Techniques, and Stories from a Disney Legend.”
During the height of the Oscar madness, Norman was honored by AAFCA (African-American Film Critics Association) with the organization’s Legacy Award
“All of our honorees are serious players who are helping to move the industry forward in terms of creating images that are diverse and inclusive,” says AAFCA President Gil Robertson. “They are all cultural visionaries who deserve to be recognized for their roles in advancing projects that have paid off critically and financially and we look forward to celebrating their careers.”
This documentary is an educational, eye-opening look at a man who has entertained the masses with the stroke of a pen fused with the innocence and enthusiasm of a child. It is that child-like wonder and energy at 81 years old that continues to inspire and aspire his colleagues, friends and future animators. I highly recommend this film if for no other reason to now know that people of color are making history in other lanes of entertainment not just in front of the screen…but, behind the scenes and doing it for centuries very effectively.
Flory Norman – An Animated Life had its initial release last year. Don’t worry though, you can now stream it via iTunes, Amazon Video, Vudu and Google Play and on Blu-Ray.
If you want a chance to hang out this legendary animator, enter the “Floyder with Floyd” contest….
In addition, you can also meet Floyd in select cities this summer/fall…
Trust me, this is one story you really want to know and share. For more info and updates regarding Floyd Norman, please visit Floyd Norman Website.