"When I was a kid, my dream was to work for Walt Disney," Floyd Norman tells Curiosity. "Maybe it was a crazy dream, but it was a dream nonetheless and I believed in it." Clearly it wasn't too lofty a goal. After just a couple of years in art school and a few applications, 21-year-old Norman landed a job in the animation department at Disney, the job he dreamed of since seeing Dumbo in the theater as a child. How's that for determination?
Norman got a job at Disney in 1956, and became the first African-American animator at the company. But he doesn't see himself as a trailblazer. "I didn't come in as a person of color, I came in as an artist," Norman says. "I didn't come in to break down barriers, I came in to get a job. I was just another ambitious kid."
Though Norman's professional career began at Disney, he has spent plenty of years at other studios working on different projects: animating for the TV shows "Fat Albert" and "Scooby-Doo," animating educational videos about African-American history, and even documenting riots from the Civil Rights Movement. But he kept coming back to Disney—despite technically having been let go several times. "This is the entertainment business—they come and go, they're off and on, movies start and movies stop," Norman said. "It's not a personal thing, it's the business of entertainment."
And while you may not have heard of Norman himself, you're probably a fan of his work. During his Disney days, Norman worked on some of the classics. He worked alongside boss man Walt as a story artist on "Sleeping Beauty," "Mary Poppins," and "The Jungle Book."