:: COLOR • Full
Disney, despite it's very blatant, racist history, is still a powerhouse in the creation of one's dreams "come true." A producer of endless years of happiness, Disney, has proven the test of time. With its various theme parks and endless animated and filmed productions, merchandise, YOU NAME IT, Disney has given the world an excuse to always be joyful. Yet, all this joy wouldn't be possible without the many people behind the scenes making it so. Imagineers, as many call them, are the core from which the happiness is cultivated and then radiated. And in light of Black History Month, I highlight, one of Disney's first BLACK animator: Floyd Norman.
Floyd Norman, like many an animator (Imagineer), started with a pure love for art. Long before his career at Disney began, Norman made any and every empty surface his canvas. It was from that point on in his young life, where Norman began to hone his craft. It is in a new documentary titled, An Animated Life, in which we also learn, that due to Norman's upbringing during the 40's and 50s, he was sheltered from a great deal of the racial tensions and segregation in that era. Because of this sheltering and upbringing, Norman never believed that he could not apply for a job as a Disney animator due the color of his skin. Even though many jobs were denied to many people of color in the film industry, Norman applied in the mid 1950's to become a Disney animator. And the rest was history.
He became Disney's first BLACK animator and remains a loyal employee with the company at the ever so young age of 81. Not realizing his own importance in black history, and the history for various other folks of color, Norman did not view his accomplishments as a great feat. As Norman mentions his self in a recent NPR interview, "We came from different parts of the country. We were all from different backgrounds. ... We were Asian, we were Latino, we were black, we were white. Nobody thought of themselves as being a trailblazer for their race or their group. We were just a bunch of young kids looking for a job." Even despite the backlash Disney has received in more recent years over its overt racist themes present in many films, Norman goes on to say in that same NPR interview, "There just wasn't the same sensitivity there as we have today... A lot of this happened, it's unfortunate, but that was just the times in which we lived. I don't think we should go back and try to erase the past. This was part of our history, this is part of what happened, and so we should be able to deal with that." And in his favor, Norman continued his life's work and followed his dreams even despite the racial tensions, segregation, and blatant hate and bigotry present around him and even present within Disney itself. Creating great works, like Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book, and Toy Story to name a few, Norman continues to leave behind a colorful, animated legacy.