Disney’s First Black Animator Is The Star Of New Documentary

Elijah C. Watson Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When…
Disney's First Black Animator Is The Star Of New Documentary

Disney's First Black Animator Is The Star Of New Documentary

“People have often asked me ‘How did I feel being the first African-American in Disney?’ Well, I wasn’t even aware that I was an African-American.” The joke kicks off the trailer for Floyd Norman: An Animated Life, a documentary that details the life of Disney’s first black animator.

Now a 81-year-old Floyd Norman‘s career spans decades with the animator, artist and writer having contributed to multiple projects that are known throughout the world. The Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood — these films were an integral part to people’s childhood, and Norman was a part of them all.

But his first time meeting with Disney wasn’t an immediate victory. After showing them his portfolio Norman was advised to get more training. He attended the Art Center College of Design and two years later the call finally came to work with the iconic company.

An Animated Life captures the highs and lows of Norman’s career — from working with Disney and Pixar and creating his own projects, to being forced to retire from Disney at the age of 65. “Floyd made it possible for other to say ‘Well if he can do it I can do it,'” says one person during the trailer, while another describes him as “The Forrest Gump” of animation.

The documentary also captures the beauty of seeing a person work for something that they really want. Against doubts from people that felt Disney wouldn’t hire Norman because the color of his skin, he proved them wrong and went on to become an important figure in American animation. And although ageism ultimately became the next big problem in his career when he had to retire, Norman continues to work for Disney as a freelancer and said that he plans to die at the drawing board.

The film will hit theaters and VOD platforms on August 26, but if you happen to be at Comic-Con you can check out a screening of the movie this Friday (which will be followed by a Q&A with Norman and filmmakers Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkley).

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