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Before Ron Husband At Disney, There Was Floyd Norman – The 1st Black Disney Animator

Before Ron Husband At Disney, There Was Floyd Norman - The 1st Black Disney Animator

Earlier today, I wrote a piece about a new animation
project that is going to be directed by former Disney animator Ron Husband, and
I called him the first black animator for Walt Disney. Well… OOPS!

I didn’t say that just guessing about it. Everything I’ve
ever read about Husband calls him the first AA animator who ever worked for
Disney, and I’ve been hearing about him for years.

Well it turns out that Husband was the second AA animator who
worked for Disney. The first was Floyd
Norman.

Born in 1935 in Santa Barbara his love of animation first
came when his mother took him to see Disney’s Bambi and Dumbo..

By the time he was a high schooler, Norman knew his goal
was to be an animator at Disney studios.

After graduation, the story goes like this – “with
the help of a friend Norman got an appointment at Disney and he walked into Disney
studios, portfolio in hand, for an interview.

But instead of getting a job he was told to go to school, which
Norman said later was the best advice someone had ever given him.

He entered the Art
Center College of Design
and two years later he got a call to come work for
Disney. He dropped out of school and started working at the studio the following Monday.

He worked on various features, including Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone,
and The Jungle Book and several
short subjects.

He left Disney after Walt died in 1966, and with Ron
Sullivan formed AfroKids Animation Studio, and among the other things they created
were the first Fat Albert television
special, which aired in 1969 on NBC (the later more well known Fat Albert series
was made by Filmation Associates and not AfroKids).

But starting in the early 1970’s, Norman returned to
Disney to work on project such as Robin Hood and more recently, he has worked on motion
pictures for Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios as well, working as a story artist on Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc. Mulan, Dinosaur
and The Hunchback of Notre Dame. 
He continues to work for Disney as a freelance consultant
on various projects.

So there you have it. Sorry to overlook you Mr. Norman.
The error was mine alone and I hope you will forgive me.

And if anyone out there knows anything about other early
African American animation pioneers, let us know.

Here’s a recent video with Norman talking about his
experiences at Disney:

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