Two years ago, I wrote a piece about Floyd Norman – the first black animator to work for Walt Disney.
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 brief version of his 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 anyone had ever given him. He entered the Art Center College of Design, and two years later, he got a call to go 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," "The Jungle Book," and several short subjects. He left Disney after Walt died in 1966, and with Ron Sullivan, formed AfroKids Animation SStudio. Among the other things they created was the first Fat Albert television special, which aired in 1969 on NBC (the later more well known Fat Albert TV series was made by Filmation Associates and not AfroKids). But starting in the early 1970s, Norman returned to Disney to work on projects like "Robin Hood."
More recently, he has worked on motion pictures for Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios as well, 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.
For the longer version of Norman’s story, there’s a feature documentary on his life in the works titled "Floyd Norman – An Animated Life," from filmmakers Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey.
Their synopsis: "Animator. Storyman. Troublemaker. Take an intimate journey through the life and career of the ‘Forrest Gump’ of the animation industry – Floyd Norman. At 80 years old, see how this Disney Legend continues to impact animation and stir up his own brand of ‘trouble.’ Michael Fiore Films presents, a feature documentary by filmmakers Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey (USA/94 min)."
The filmmakers have released a new sneak peek at the upcoming film which doesn’t yet have a distributor: