If you’ve seen Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book or the Toy Story movies, you’ve seen the work of animator Floyd Norman; for decades, he has helped bring Disney and Pixar classics to life.
Now 81, Norman still works for Disney, where he has plied his trade, on and off, since he became the studio’s first African-American animator in the 1950s.
The future animator loved drawing and cartoons from an early age, first falling in love with Disney’s animated classic Dumbo at the age of five. He immediately knew what it was he wanted to do for a living. He landed a job at Disney’s studios in 1956 fresh out of art school. The humble Norman insists he did not break any barriers:
I didn’t break barriers — I was just an artist. Being a woman was a lot tougher. There wasn’t a single female animator there!
After Walt Disney died, Norman found himself in hot water with the company’s accountants who wanted to fire older workers and replace them with newer ones who would work for less money. He migrated to Hanna-Barbera, working on The Flintstones and Josie and the Pussycats. After the accountants lost much of their influence at Disney, Norman returned to the company. He worked steadily over the years and was present for Disney’s merge with Pixar, doing work on films such as Toy Story 2. Retirement age arrived before he knew it, and Human Resources asked him to retire. He returned to the company afterwards as a contractor but did not leave when his contract expired.
I decided I didn’t want to work at home. I missed the camaraderie of the big studio. I missed talking to people. I miss being around the action. And so … I found an empty office and I moved in. I was probably in violation of some rule or law or whatever, but there I was.
He continued to work in the office, and his colleagues affectionately coined the term “Floydering” — it rhymes with loitering — in his honor.
GREAT MOMENTS IN AMERICAN HISTORY!
So many hidden figures in so many fields. Another we didn’t know about.
Imagine loving what you do so much that you still want to do it at age 81! Floyd Norman, I salute you.