Disney online recently kicked off their “Lunch with a Legend” series with a man whom I had the honor of meeting: Floyd Norman, Walt Disney Studios’ first African-American animator.
Although he likes to call himself a cartoonist, Mr. Norman has worked on everything from “Sleeping Beauty” to Disney·Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”
Born in Santa Barbara, California, the 75-year-old cartoonist/animator/writer studied illustration at Art Center College of Art and Design. Mr. Norman began his Disney career fresh out of art school, as an animator and in-betweener (an artist who creates intermediate frames for smooth transitions between two images).
“I walked through the Buena Vista main gate back in 1956 … I was still in my twenties. This was Walt’s ‘magic factory’ and the place to be if you wanted to meet smart, talented, brilliant people. You could learn everything here – it was like a master class in animation, filmmaking, engineering, and design. And that’s exactly how many people learned their craft … they came here and just started doing it.”
Mr. Norman has worked on Disney animated classics like “Sleeping Beauty,” “101 Dalmatians,” and “The Sword in the Stone,” but had no interaction with Walt for almost 10 years. Out of the blue, he was told to work on “The Jungle Book” – as a writer!
“It was weird working here and seeing Walt walk by. But when I was drafted into the story department, I got a chance to work with the boss. Being in meetings and story conferences with Walt was amazing … what better boss could you work for than Walt Disney? He could be scary and demanding, but that’s because he wanted the best. And that was the standard we had to meet. What better standard than the highest one possible?”
Read the rest of Mr. Norman’s amazing and exciting journey at Disney Studios here.