Though he prefers to be called a “cartoonist,” few other artists working in animation today can boast a career as varied as that of Floyd Norman. From the 1950s to today, Floyd’s diverse career, insightful viewpoint, and unflinching honesty have truly made him a Disney Legend.
Floyd E. Norman was born on June 22, 1935. He once said, “I first recognized Walt Disney’s signature before I could read. I would see that famous signature on books and comics, and I asked my grandmother, ‘What is that name?’ She said, ‘That’s Walt Disney.’ I never forgot that name. I just felt like I wanted to work at the Disney Studio one day.”
When Floyd was in high school he managed to get a ride to the Disney Studio one Saturday morning. The studio was closed, but the security guard took pity on him. “I’ll never forget entering the gates of the Disney Studio and just walking down to the Animation Building,” Floyd recalled. “I didn’t know any Disney artists, but I knew the names, because I had seen these names in the screen credits.
“I didn’t get a job, by the way, but they were very encouraging—suggested I go to art school. Might be good to learn how to draw, you know?”
Floyd returned a few years later, at a time when Disney was not only expanding, it was exploding.
“The studio was probably the busiest it had been in many years. They were just moving into television. Disneyland was under construction. They were doing feature films, and they were still doing shorts at that time. I don’t think I even saw Walt Disney the first few weeks, because he was so busy. I couldn’t have chosen a better time to start at Disney.”
Floyd worked as an in-betweener and animator on Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, and The Jungle Book, along with various animated short projects at Disney in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. After Walt Disney’s death in 1966, Floyd left Disney to co-found the AfroKids animation studio with animator and director Leo Sullivan. Floyd and Sullivan worked together on various projects, including the original Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s Fat Albert television special, which aired in 1969 on NBC.
Floyd returned to Disney in the early 1970s to work on Robin Hood, was a layout artist on Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch, an animator on Jabberjaw, character designer and key layout artist on The New Fred and Barney Show, and key layout artist on The Kwicky Koala Show.
More recently, he worked on Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc. for Pixar and The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Mulan for Disney, among others. He has continued to work for The Walt Disney Company as a consultant on various projects.
Floyd has also published several books of cartoons inspired by his lifetime of experiences in the animation industry, including Faster! Cheaper!, Son of Faster, Cheaper!, and How The Grinch Stole Disney.
“I’m sort of a Disney… kind of a troublemaker,” Floyd says slyly. “A story artist. Animator—tried to be an animator. But mainly writer, artist, and a guy who’s trying to learn his craft. Been doing it now for about 40 years and, just beginning to get the hang of it.”