Black History Essay
Floyd Norman: An Animated Life Born June 22, 1935 in Santa Barbara, California, Floyd Norman was introduced to Disney by his mother. As a child, he was taken to see movies such a
Snow White, Bambi, and
Seeing films like these, Floyd knew as an adult he wanted to work for Disney. During his high school years, he would draw and create animated films. Through a friend, he was able to get an interview with Disney.
Although not hired during his first interview, Floyd became the first African American to work at Walt
When Floyd Norman graduated high school, a friend gave him a chance for an interview to work at Walt Disney Studios. Bringing a portfolio of sketches, Floyd walked into the studio. He was rejected the first time, being told to “go to school” (
). Floyd took the advice, entering the
Art Center College of Design, taking an Illustration major. During this time he worked with Bill
Woggon on the
Katy Keene comic book series. Two years into his four year course, Floyd got accepted to work for Disney. He dropped school then and there and started work the following Monday.
Floyd began his career at Disney as an intern. He was trained before being hired as an animator. Floyd first worked on the animated segments for the
Mickey Mouse Club.
After a year of animating the television segments, Floyd was hired to work for
. He worked as an inbetweener, which to put simply is the process of placing and cleaning up frames between keyframes to let the animation run smoother. His job was to work on the three good fairies Flora, Fauna, and
Merryweather. Although he was animating, Floyd didn’t earn the title of Disney animator. In the 1960s,
Walt Disney hired him to work for the story department as a story sketcher. He worked on the last film
The Jungle Book. Floyd became not only the first African American to work at Disney on a long term basis, he also was the first African American animator to work there.
After the death of Walt Disney, Floyd Norman left the studio. However, that didn’t mean he stopped working for Disney Studios. In the 1970s, Floyd came back to work on the film
Floyd also worked on the
Mickey Mouse comic strips. He returned to animation on the films,
Hunchback of Notre Dame and
When Pixar was in need of staff, Floyd was hired to work on films like
Toy Story 2 and
Monsters Inc. He continued working at Walt Disney Studios in the directtovideo department until his “retirement” at the age of 65.
Of course, Disney Studios wasn’t the only place Floyd worked. After leaving Disney the first time, Floyd Norman, along with animator Leo Sullivan, formed the first animation studio owned and operated by African Americans, Vignette Films. The company produced animated segments about black history. During the seventies, Floyd worked on animated segments for educational shows such as
Sesame Street and
. After being fired from working on
, Floyd was hired by
HannaBarbera Productions. He worked on storyboards for television shows such as
The Flintstones and
Scooby Doo. Later on in his career, Floyd worked for Cartoon Network as a scriptwriter for their show
Cow and Chicken.
Despite popular belief, according to Floyd Norman, Walt Disney wasn’t racist. It was understandable during the time. The possibility could be so, as most of the hired staff was white.