(Pictured above center, Norman “Stormy” Palmer)
One of The Walt Disney Studio’s most celebrated film editors was Norman “Stormy” Palmer, who left indelible marks on many Disney feature films. These included The Living Desert in 1952, The Incredible Journey in 1963, and The Gnome-Mobile in 1967. He is probably best known, however, for his contributions to Disney nature films, including Water Birds and the innovative CinemaScope short Grand Canyon. This pictorial interpretation of composer Ferde Grofé’s famed suite featured no narration or dialogue.
His onetime assistant, former company vice chairman Roy E. Disney, once recalled, “I particularly remember Stormy’s work on the film ‘Water Birds.’ For one sequence, he cut images of birds flying to Liszt’s Second Hungarian Rhapsody. This was the Studio’s Fantasia of the nature films, and not only did it create a whole new genre, but it won an Academy Award®. After that, virtually every one of our True-Life Adventures had a sequence like this until, ultimately, Stormy edited the film Grand Canyon Suite, which was cut to the Grand Canyon Suite, winning yet another Oscar®.”
Born on October 7, 1918, in Santa Ana, California, Norman Palmer was nicknamed by his father. Stormy recalled, “He hung the name on me when I was one or two years old—I’m not sure if I deserved it or not, but it stuck.”
In 1937, he graduated from Hollywood High School and submitted an application to the nearby Walt Disney Studios. He then headed north to work on a ranch in Oregon and, while there, received a phone call from his father saying the Studio wanted to hire him.
He joined Disney as a projectionist in 1938, but soon transferred to the Editorial department where he worked on such films as Pinocchio and Fantasia. When World War II interrupted his career, he joined director John Ford at the Field Photographic Branch of the Office of Strategic Services. There, he edited films for the Joint Chiefs of Staff in Washington, D.C. Stormy later transferred overseas, where he worked as an aerial photographer taking surveillance photos of European countries, including England, France, and Italy.
He returned to Disney after the war, editing films including Make Mine Music and Melody Time. When Walt began producing the True-Life Adventure series, Stormy edited such Oscar winners as The Living Desert, Beaver Valley, and White Wilderness. Other films he contributed to included The African Lion and Nature’s Half Acre.
Stormy also contributed to more than 20 Disney television shows including Atta Girl Kelly, The Best Doggone Dog in the World, and One Day at Teton Marsh. He retired from The Walt Disney Studios in 1983, after 45 years of service.
Norman “Stormy” Palmer passed away on March 23, 2013, in Northridge, California.