Floyd Norman is a legendary Disney animator who has worked for over 60 years. Born on June 22, 1935, in Santa Barbara, California. Mr Norman always loved to draw but he also liked music, he played the saxophone and clarinet both in junior high. He also performed in the Marjorie Luke Theatre with the school’s orchestra. Mr Norman would play an instrument, act out, sing, or just watch the orchestra but this made him realize that he truly loves entertainment. One day during the period of study hall he went to the Santa Barbara junior high’s library, there he found a book about motion pictures then he came upon a page about animation. There’s when he realized he wanted to become an animator as he not only loved to draw and did it all the time but he never grew tired of it. Soon after he knew he wanted to work at Disney. Mr Norman then attended Santa Barbara high school. There he joined art club, band, PAD film, ROTOC band, and Forge. In the Forge he worked on the school’s newspaper run by soly students. He worked as a cartoonist making small cartoon strips here and there. After graduating Mr Norman wanted to move to Hollywood quoting “The one thing that really got me was this whole thing was magical. I love entertainment. I love lighting and music. It had a magical aspect to it and it made me realize that I wanted to leave Santa Barbara and go to Hollywood.” But there was this perception where there was no room for people of color for jobs like Disney. Mr Norman on the other hand looks past all of that saying “There’s nobody there with an agenda who says i’m gonna keep this kid from making it you know” so he applied. The first time he applied he failed as you have to do something called the pencil test he basically had to make a small animation. After failing Mr Norman was told to go to school and then try to apply again. Mr Norman went to school in Pasadena. In 1956 during Mr Norman’s third year there he got offered a spot as an animator by the Disney World company. Mr Norman was hired as in betweener. Mr Norman’s job when he first got to Disney was basically when you’re seeing two stills of characters that were being drawn, he was the person that went in between two movements and cleaned it up so that you can see one fluent motion. At Disney you have to prove yourself for a while before you are actually hired. Eventually Mr Norman got his own office and he was now a professional in betweener. Mr Norman’s first project was on sleeping beauty “we’re talking about the days when animated films were made by hand literally by hand frame by frame and so the animators rough drawings have to be cleaned up now there were thousands of drawings I was on a clean up crew and I worked on the three good fairies Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather and I was on those sequences for two and a half years doing those 3 characters.” Mr Norman would draw all of his fellow coworkers to poke fun at them with little drawings around the studio. Mr Norman used to poke fun at Walt Disney the most. “I loved doing these sketches of Walt Disney.” Mr Walt Disney got back at him by promoting him to work on the storyboard of the jungle book as the first drafts were not funny enough. Mr Norman however wanted to be an animator and Mr Disney knew that. This gave Mr Norman a chance to work personally with Mr Disney. Mr Norman worked on a sequence we’re Mowgli is being hypnotized by Kaa the snake. The jungle book would be the last film Mr Disney would actually have a hand in creating before he passed away. In 1956 Walt Disney passed away. Mr Norman decided he was going to step away from the Disney World Company and instead teamed up with a few other black animators to create 6 films based on black history. This would be the first animation studio to create films based on black history. Mr Norman and his colleagues ended up being kicked out of their office because they owed the IRS $700. So they started working out of a coffee shop, they didn’t have a phone so when asked what their phone number was they’d give the number of the coffee shop they were in. Unfortunately that company ended up failing as they didn’t have much money. Mr Norman however ended up working with one of those colleagues named Leo Sullivan. Together Mr Norman and Mr Sullivan would end up working on several projects, one of those being a website called Afrokids.com created in 1999. Afrokids.com was a moultrie cultural website showing a variety of American American images to children. In 1970 Mr Norman went back to Disney first working on bedknobs and broomsticks then on Robin Hood which he started. Around this time Mr Norman would be 37-38 years old. When Mr Walt Disney passed away a lot of the accountants made new rules specifically the latest age someone could work at Disney as an animator it being 37-38. So Mr Norman was fired from the Walt Disney company. Mr Norman went to work with Hanna Barbera working on the Flynn stones, Scooby-Doo, The Smurfs. While working for Hanna Barbera the Disney company is asking Mr Norman to come back to animate for them. After three calls Mr Norman decided he was going to speak to Disney. Disney offered Mr Norman an ultimate dream for an animator, to do whatever he wanted. Pixar was looking for animators to help them out but this meant moving away from his wife. “I said who the heck is doing this film this, this is not being done here. Who is it? Well that film was Toy Story. John Lasseter up at Pixar was doing the first competently digital animated film. No one had done this before, no one had attempted this before and the reels were so great I said holy cow I got to go work with these guys.” Mr Norman went and helped with Toy Story 2. They finished Toy Story 2 a year before it was said to go to theaters. Disney gave Toy Story 2 the ok and John Lasseter said it was good but he thinks it could be better. So they ended up going back to the drawing board and recreating the whole film. Once there was a deadline for when a movie was supposed to drop you can’t really push that so they had to finish in the time before the deadline. After Toy Story 2 Mr Norman moved on the Monsters, Inc. Mr Norman’s wife was an animator at Disney and he came home so he left Pixar and went back to Disney. Mr Norman started working on the Hunchback of Norcher dorm, then on mulan. Mr Norman ended up doing a lot of the Mickey Mouse comic strips. Mr Norman got Disney sued with a few of his comic strips. “That guys a bad guy, he’s a troublemaker, don’t hire him,” said Mr Norman. By now Mr Norman is 65 years old and Disney is once again telling him he’s too old to animate and fire him again. Mr Norman however missed animating as it was his pride and joy. Mr Norman didn’t want to go home so he didn’t. Mr Norman’s wife still worked at Disney so he’d drive her to work but would also go inside instead of going home. Mr Norman would find an empty desk and put his stuff there claiming that desk and no one would kick him out. Mr Norman ended up being a freelancer so not technically hired by the company but still working with them. Mr Norman would go into work every day even if he wasn’t working on a project. Mr Norman’s colleagues would start using the term “floydering” as Mr Norman would loiter around. Disney threw Mr Norman a huge surprise party for his 80’s birthday. In 2007 back when Mr Norman was working with Pixar he was awarded the Disney legend award which is the highest award you can get at the Walt Disney company. Mr Norman wrote some books one being Animated life a life time of tips, tricks, techniques and stories from a Disney Legend. The other being a kiss good night which he wrote with Richard Sherman. “well it all started with a fellow named Beret Rigstraw who came up with a story about Walt Disney’s early days when he loved fireworks it fired up his imagination he created a book about it and he called it a kiss good night and I thought it was a beautiful title so I wrote a song about it and when Floyd Norman heard this song he says I got to illustrate this story so that’s how it all started”says Richers Sherman. Mr Norman also has many other awards but if you ask Mr Norman if he was satisfied with his career the answer is no because he still wanted to be an animator which is why Mr Norman is still working.
Photo Courtesy Of Alumni Assassination