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Floyd Norman

With over 60 years in the industry, Floyd Norman has become an animation legend, working with such giants as Walt Disney, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Friz Freleng, Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, and the creative teams at Sesame Street and Pixar. He has served in nearly every department of animation, rom cel painter to story director. 

Norman was born in Santa Barbara, California in 1935 and started his career assisting cartoonist Bill Woggon on the Katy Keene comic book while still in high school. After attending the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, CA, he was hired at Walt Disney Studios in 1956. Though uncredited, Sleeping Beauty (1959) was his first feature title. It also made the first African American animator to work for the Disney. After serving in the Korean War, Norman returned to Disney to work on One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961), The Sword in the Stone (1963), and Mary Poppins (1964). When Walt Disney saw the gag sketches Norman made to entertain his colleagues, he hand-picked the young artist to move to the Story Department. In his new position, Norman helped storyboard and write The Jungle Book (1967).

After Disney’s passing in 1966, Norman left to form his own company, Vignette Films, with fellow animator Leo Sullivan. Vignette was one of the first companies to create live-action and animated films about African American history. These films were screened in high schools and colleges across the United States in the Civil Rights era. The company also worked on fun studio projects. They created the main title animation for the hit television series Soul Train and animated the original pilot for Fat Albert. Finally, Norman created animated segments for Sesame Street.

In the 1970s, Norman joined Hanna Barbera, where he worked alongside the two Saturday morning cartoon pioneers to animate and write some of TV’s most notable shows, including The Smurfs, Scooby-Doo, and The Flintstones. Norman also returned to Disney to animate on Robin Hood (1973). In the 1980s, Norman joined Disney Publishing, where he wrote and illustrated a number of Disney children’s books and the daily “Mickey Mouse Comic Strip.” It was a job that lasted nearly six years. He later returned to Disney Animation to work in the Story Department on The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996) and Mulan (1998). That same decade, Norman began working in Pixar’s Story Department on such movies as Toy Story 2 (1999) and Monsters, Inc. (2001). He helped create numerous classic sequences for both films.

Norman has written about his career in several books, including Faster! Cheaper!: The Flip Side of the Art of Animation, and Animated Life: A Lifetime of Tips, Tricks, Techniques and Stories from an Animation Legend. He also contributes to the website Disney honored Norman in 2007, naming him a “Disney Legend.” This top honor is only bestowed to the best and brightest of the Disney organization. Other honors include his induction into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame in 1979 and the Winsor McCay Award in 2003. He was also presented the Lifetime Achievement in Animation in 2015 from the International Family Film Festival and was honored with the Milton Caniff Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Cartoonists Society in 2019.

In 2016, Norman’s storied career was the focus of the feature documentary Floyd Norman: An Animated Life. The movie premiered on Netflix and won top honors at numerous film festivals including the San Diego Comic Con International Film Festival and the Bentonville Film Festival, created by actress Geena Davis to bring attention to diversity in film and TV production. At 85 years of age, Floyd Norman remains the picture of perseverance. Not one to retire, he continues to have an impact on animation as a filmmaker and mentor, taking on freelance work in and outside of Disney. Recently, Floyd returned to Sesame Street for their 50th Anniversary to direct and write a new animated segment for the classic series. Like the show, Floyd shows no sign of calling it quits.

Friday, April 19
10:00 am - 11:45 am
El Capitan Theatre