Floyd Norman is an animator, storyman, and troublemaker. But more importantly he is an official Disney Legend, honored by the company in 2007 with this title. Norman is the first Black artist at Disney, and has had a storied career working on Disney classics, as well as famed Saturday-morning cartoons, Pixar feature films, and more. At 81 years old, Norman is the focus of a new feature documentary out in theaters starting this Friday August 26th. "Floyd Norman: An Animated Life", reveals how Norman continues to impact animation and stir up "trouble" after the company forced him to retire at age 65. It's a tale of perseverance, and a love letter to the history of animation, as seen through the life of a one-of-a-kind man. Check out the trailer at www.FloydNormanMovie.com, and connect with us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FloydNormanDocumentary.

Filmmaker Michael Fiore owns and operates Michael Fiore Films; a boutique production company that develops, finances, and creates high-concept filmed content for the best-of-the-best in the Film, TV, and Ad worlds. Fiore has worked as a writer/director and producer/editor for industry notables like Joel Silver (Prod. "The Matrix"), Jonathan Liebesman (Dir. "TNMT"), and Tom DiCillo (Dir. "Living in Oblivion") among others. Fiore has another movie coming out later this year, in December, titled "Keep Watching" from Sony Screen Gems. That film stars Bella Thorne and "Walking Dead" star Chandler Riggs.

Filmmaker Erik Sharkey is no stranger to the world of documentary. Sharkey's last feature documentary "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster" follows the creative endeavors of the legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan. Prior to that documentary, Sharkey had directed a fun comedy titled "Sexina" starring the original Batman, Adam West. Sharkey is a born-and-bred New Yorker, with the accent to prove it!


Comments: 154 • Responses: 29  • Date: 

GoodnightElizabeth20 karma

When did you become the first African-American to work there and how many are there now? Was it due to biases in the industry at the time or a result of a lack of animation interest in that community?

FloydMovie66 karma

I was the first black artist to work at Disney simply because I applied for the job and was able to qualify. Nobody was being kept out. If you were talented and ready to work, that was what mattered. Not the color of your skin. Keep in mind, Walt Disney Productions had minorities working at the studio as far back as the thirties. I know. I met a number of those artists during my career.

translationlostin11 karma

Who is your favorite artist?

Either by talent or by personality.

FloydMovie18 karma

Probably Disney animator, Ward Kimball.

Prinzenick9 karma

What kind of storytelling advice did you learn from Walt Disney when you worked for him? I always got the impression that when it came to gags, Walt always stressed motivation and context--is that true?

FloydMovie34 karma

Walt Disney taught me how important it is to connect with your audience. He taught me the importance of having characters you can like. Characters you fall in love with. If you don't connect with the character...the story doesn't matter. Walt often said, not to become overly focused on story. I know that sounds odd because today we hear that story is everything. Well, honestly story isn't everything. It's important, of course. But, as entertainers we should be focused on our storytelling. HOW you tell the story is what's important. The story could be very simple...however, you must tell that story in a compelling way.

FloydMovie22 karma

Walt Disney was a great gag man. He loved gags. His daughter, Diane Disney Miller told me that. To the best of my knowledge, Walt never analyzed gags. Not in front of me anyway. He knew I was a gagster. He knew I did funny stuff. I never analyze why stuff is funny...it just is. Sure, I guess motivation and context are important. I'm sure it plays a part in the way I craft a gag.

ChrisCinema8 karma

Why was Floyd Norman never given screen credit on the Disney animated films he worked during the 1960s?

FloydMovie14 karma

Don't make it personal. Back in the old days not everybody got screen credit. That's just the way it was. I never expected to receive screen credit on The Jungle Book. Keep in mind, my story colleagues, Al Wilson, Dick Lucas and Eric Cleworth never got a story credit either.

anywherebutarizona7 karma

What one piece of advice would you give an aspiring Disney animator or artist?

FloydMovie22 karma

Go to school if you can. It can be expensive these days. However, you can educate yourself. There's a good deal of information available these days. When I was young it was difficult to get information about the animation business. Today, with the Internet it's a lot easier.

genericusername12167 karma

What is the best story you have about your job ?

FloydMovie13 karma

For me, the best thing about doing story is... it never gets old. Every new assignment is a challenge.

Brizzel_The_Lizard5 karma

What is your favourite thing you have animated or created in your lifetime?

FloydMovie26 karma

My greatest challenge was working on "The Jungle Book" because I was actually working with Walt Disney. That's a pretty daunting task. My other favorite project was, "Toy Story2." I think that's because we crafted a marvelous story. The film could have been a lackluster sequel. Instead, Pixar made a masterpiece.

anywherebutarizona3 karma

What is the biggest hurdle you had to overcome in the workplace and how did you find the courage to tackle it?

FloydMovie8 karma

Because animation takes so many people to create an animated film, one can get "lost in the crowd." It's difficult to stand out when there are so many great artists around you. You have to continually find ways to distinguish yourself from everyone else. What is it that is unique about you? What are your special skills or talents?

genericusername12163 karma

Also how does Disney come up with the elaborate ideas for their movies ?

FloydMovie9 karma

Well, there's a wealth of stories out there. existing material and room for new ideas. Looking for stories is fairly easy. There's just so much stuff out there.

Prinzenick3 karma

What are your artistic influences outside of animation?

FloydMovie15 karma

I tell my students to study everything. Not just animation. Study music, science, and every discipline you can think of. Never stop learning. This information will inform everything you do in filmmaking.

liamquane2 karma

What are you opinions on industry progression? Computer based animation?

FloydMovie15 karma

The industry will continue to evolve. It always has... and probably always will. The art will improve and the technology will continue to improve. The the past few years we've made impressive strides in technology. A bit too much, in my opinion. I'd like more of a focus on art and hand drawn animation. I'm afraid we've become a little to focused on technology today. I love technology, but it's not an end all be all. I'd like to see animated films created. Today, too many animated films are manufactured.

MattBaster2 karma

What did you think of Jon Favreau's take on The Jungle Book?

FloydMovie8 karma

I'm a huge fan of Jon Favreau and I loved what he did with The Jungle Book. I only hope there is some way I can work with him on the sequel. There's going to be one, I'm sure.

Brizzel_The_Lizard2 karma

What is your favourite part of The Jungle Book?

FloydMovie5 karma

Probably the stuff with Mowgli and Kaa. I guess because Vance Gerry and I came up with all the funny business. I also liked the scenes we did with Kaa and Sher Kahn. Really cool stuff.

ErikSharkeyOfficial2 karma

I totally love the sequences with Mowgli and Kaa! The "Trust in Me" sequence is fantastic!

FloydMovie3 karma

Thanks, Eric. It was fun doing that stuff.

Jackh672 karma

Hey Floyd thanks for making the time to do this AMA!

Ill be honest with you I had not heard of you prior to this and after a quick google I've found you have a hand in a lot of my favorite Disney films. My question is do you think Artists such as yourself get enough credit for what you do?

FloydMovie7 karma

Thanks a lot. I've enjoyed doing this work throughout my career. Honestly, I don't think guys like me come into this business to gain credit or fame. You do this job because we love it. I hear this from all the men and women I've worked with over the years. Doing a great job is our compensation. Sure, we've gotta earn a living and for the most part we're paid well. However, it's never been about the fame or the money. We simply love this line of work.

Corohr2 karma

How was Walt Disney's management style? Was he a "boss" or a leader?

Was he approachable to even the lower level employees?

FloydMovie8 karma

I would say, think of Walt Disney in much you'd think of Steve Jobs at Apple. Steve was the face of Apple. He was the visionary, the boss and the leader. Walt Disney was much the same. I would also add that unlike many bosses today, Walt was always approachable. And, I mean to anyone. It didn't matter how "high" or "low" you were. Disney treated everyone with respect. I think that's why the man was so admired by those who knew him. It would appear Walt Disney's toughest critics happen to be those who never even met him.

Corohr2 karma

Growing up, did you always want to be an artist/animator or did you have other aspirations?

FloydMovie4 karma

Yeah, I guess it's kinda crazy but I've always wanted to be an artist. I knew this even when I was a little kid. I wanted to be a musician but I knew I wasn't good enough. Anyway, I had other aspirations, but I settled on art. Not a bad choice.

WDFMfriend2 karma

Hello Floyd, you worked for two global pioneers: Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. In what ways were they alike and in what ways were they different?

FloydMovie6 karma

Well, they were two men from different generations so they were different in that way. However, they were the same in many other aspects. Both were highly confident and both knew exactly what they wanted. They were often called difficult but that's because they demanded perfection. In my book, there's nothing wrong with that.

FloydMovie5 karma

Hey, everyone! This has been fun. However, I've got to head to the Walt Disney Studio for a film shoot. So sorry, but I've gotta go. Let's do this again sometime, okay? Bye!

liamquane2 karma

Hi Do you have any directorial advice? :~)

FloydMovie4 karma

Do you mean, how does one become a director? First of all, become a good storyteller. Learn how to communicate. Learn how to write. Of course, you must know how to tell a compelling story and that's not easy. In my experience, some people simply have the gift of storytelling while others struggle with it. That's just the way it is, I guess.

liamquane2 karma

Hi Mr. Floyd, what is the best thing a director can do for you?


FloydMovie8 karma

A good director must have a point of view. I hate working for directors who can't tell me what they want. If they don't know the story they're telling... how the heck can I know? I can't read their mind. A good director must have a vision and the skills to articulate that vision.

RancorStew2 karma

In another reply in the thread, Erik mentioned that you helped put the story together for the original Jungle Book. How often did you have a hand in the story as well as the animation?

Michael, are you the guy in the reverse cotton candy eating gif?

Really looking forward to the film guys!

FloydMovie6 karma

I was lucky to have been a part of the story team on The Jungle Book. Oddly enough it was a job I didn't want. I wanted to be an animator. However, once I got a taste of story I never wanted to give it up. Making an animated film is a team effort. I was lucky to have been part of Walt's guys. I don't regard my contribution as anything more special than the rest of our team.

ChrisCinema1 karma

Hey, Floyd, what was it like working for Woolie Reitherman? And why did some of his films have loose, episodic plot structures?

FloydMovie5 karma

I truly liked Woolie Reitherman and I loved his animation. I actually enjoyed working with him and he's a talented guy. Having said that, I don't feel story was his strong point and I'm afraid his films show that. I wish his films had not been so episodic and so lacking in structure. However, I wasn't the one in charge. That was Walt Disney's call.

TaunoPasanen1 karma

When you compare the animation culture now to what it was when you started, what are the three biggest differences?

FloydMovie5 karma

In many ways animation hasn't really changed all that much. The tools continue to evolve but storytelling remains the same. When I began my career, jobs were few because there were so few studios. Now, there are more studios than ever developing more projects than ever.

E_Animated1 karma

Hey Mr. Norman. What are your thoughts regarding Disney for waiting so many years to finally decided to give their audiences an African American female cartoon character: Tiana?

FloydMovie7 karma

Well, there's been much talk about this subject. I'm just glad that Disney finally got around to having a black princess. It's much the way we felt about a Chinese Princess when I was working on the film, "Mulan." Yes, sometimes it takes a while before Hollywood catches up with the rest of society. The good news is, it eventually happens. I'm delighted that Disney decided to give us, Tiana. I'm just sorry it took so long to become a reality.

FloydMovie3 karma

Well, there's been much talk about this subject. I'm just glad that Disney finally got around to having a black princess. It's much the way we felt about a Chinese Princess when I was working on the film, "Mulan." Yes, sometimes it takes a while before Hollywood catches up with the rest of society. The good news is, it eventually happens. I'm delighted that Disney decided to give us, Tiana. I'm just sorry it took so long to become a reality.

Homeyjosey1 karma

Who is your favorite character you've animated?

FloydMovie8 karma

The only Disney character I've ever officially animated was, Robin Hood. I've spent most of my time as a story artist and a writer. I still love animation, however.

jlitwinka1 karma

I know Walt was a lot less 'hands on' during your time with the company, but do you have any good stories about him?

FloydMovie9 karma

That's not exactly correct. Walt Disney was very much hands on during my ten years with the Old Maestro. He was everywhere and he was doing everything. For me, my best memories of him is being a great teacher. I learned so much about storytelling from Walt.