He created some of Disney’s most iconic animated movies, like “The Jungle Book.” It’s one of the many movies created by an animator, artist, and writer from Santa Barbara who’s considered to be a living legend in the field. Floyd Norman was also the first African-American animator to become a permanent part of the Disney team.
On Friday, he spoken to hundreds of students in Santa Barbara as a apart of African-American History Month. The now 84 year artist says as a child in Santa Barbara, he became entranced by animated films. Norman says he began drawing at a young age. He got a job while still in high school working for a cartoonist who lived in Santa Barbara.
In 1956, the Santa Barbara High School graduate got his first job with Disney, an entry level animation job in which he basically filled in the blanks between drawings created by the big name animators. But, even though it was a grunt job, it allowed him to be a part of one of Walt Disney’s most famous movies, Sleeping Beauty.
Norman knew that he had to pay his dues, and work his way up in the company which was filled with talented animators. But, it was something Norman did around the studios for fun that put him on Walt Disney’s radar. He did funny little cartoons for people in the office, which Disney loved, leading to him being promoted to a story editor.
After Disney died, Normal left the studios for a while for a company he co-founded with another animator, Leo Sullivan. One of the most famous shows they help produced was the original “Fat Albert” television special. Norman returned to Disney in the 1970’s, where he worked on books for more than a decade, and returned to animation for projects like “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters, Inc.”
In 2007, he received what of the Walt Disney Company’s highest honors, and was named a “Disney Legend.” He’s a modest man, but says it makes him happy to see the joy that the stories he’s helped tell have made so many people happy.
Norman has written several books on animation, and he’s also the subject of a documentary: Floyd Norman: An Animated Life. He donated his papers, and work from his projects to UC Santa Barbara Library’s Special Research Collections.