Disney’s First Black Animator

Drew Dixon, Landrum Today Staff

On June 22, 1935, Floyd Norman was born. Little did he know, he would go on to be a famous Disney animator. Norman’s
fascination with animations started in middle school. His mother took him to the theater, where he saw Disney classics such as Dumbo and Bambi on the silver screen. He also explained how hard it was to go and see movies as a kid saying,

“Keep in mind, back in those days the only way to see a Disney movie was to go to a movie theater.” When he saw those movies, he was amazed with how the pictures could move and make the cartoon characters look lifelike. Norman immediately fell in love with animation and knew he wanted to animate. His father, however, insisted that Norman’s career of choice was never going to work and told him to have a plan B. Norman, remaining steadfast in his dreams, told his dad that he was going to make it and that he had no intention of failing. After starting high school, he started taking art class and eventually got to Disney. At Disney Studios, one must take something called the pencil test. The pencil test is
where you must draw either an original character of yours, or a Disney character which is usually your second one. “I absolutely bombed it,” Norman said.

When Norman eventually started his job at Disney Studios, he worked on Sleeping Beauty. He worked his way up from an in-betweener (person who animates in between the lines of a different animators), to working with Walt Disney himself on the Jungle Book movie. The scene he worked on was when Kaa, the snake, hypnotizes Mowgli. The voice of Kaa was Sterling Halloway, who was one of Norman’s favorite voice actors growing up.

“That’s very special because when I was a little kid, and I saw many, many Disney movies and a lot of the movies I watched had Sterling Halloway’s voice in them. It’s crazy to think that he voiced one of my characters.” Norman was also extremely excited to be able to work with Walt Disney. “Not many people were able to work with Walt and I worked with Walt on a daily basis. So, you can probably tell how excited I was when I was picked to work in the story department with Walt Disney on the Jungle Book.”

Throughout his career, he also worked for Hannah Barbera as well as Disney. Eventually, he was able to work on films for
Pixar such as Monsters Inc. and Toy Story 2. He worked as a story artist for both of those films. “Being a story artist was not as stressful as many would think, I just simply drew what I thought would work for the film and revised with the other artists.” Throughout Floyd Normans career, he has worked on many films that many people have seen throughout their childhood. He was able to touch the hearts of many people and in 2007, was officially made a Disney Legend. Floyd Normans career will go down into the Disney history books, and he will continue to entertain children and adults with his timeless tales.