Floyd Norman Doc Clip: Race Was ‘A Barrier’ For First Black Disney Animator

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

A month ago we first wrote about a forthcoming documentary on Floyd Norman — Disney‘s first black animator — titled Floyd Norman: An Animated Life. With the movie debuting today (August 26) an exclusive clip from the film has dropped (courtesy of Shadow & Act), that briefly focuses on the challenges Norman experienced as a black man.

“Disney wasn’t the most progressive place and people that did get in there got there by tooth and claw,” explains Beauty and the Beast co director Gary Trousdale. “And Floyd got in there at his age at that time by raw talent.”

However, very few people wanted to work with Norman because of the color of his skin. By now he’s already working on a number of projects including: Sleeping BeautyThe Sword in the Stone, and The Jungle Book. Still, the young and talented animator realizes that in achieving one of his biggest dreams he’s also having to endure the realities of racism and inequality in America.

However, Norman does acknowledge one person at Disney that always had his back: Ward Kimball, a fellow animator. “When Ward heard about this he was not happy about it,” Norman says of his former co worker. “And he was quite incensed that there were some hard heads at Disney who let race become a barrier.”

“There’s always rumors of black people at Disney,” Whoopi Goldberg says as the scene transitions from Norman to her. “It’s always like ‘No I think there is one.’ But no one ever saw [Norman].”

Fortunately, Norman’s story is finally being told in this film. From exiting Disney when Walt died in 1966 (resulting in Norman creating AfroKids Animation SStudio, where he made the first Fat Albert television special) to returning to Disney (as well as working with its subsidiary Pixar) and serving as a story artist for Toy Story 2Monsters, Inc. and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, the now 80-year-old Norman has lived quite the life.

Check out the exclusive clip below.

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