#RespectYourElders: Floyd Norman (born 1935) was the first African-American Walt Disney Productions hired as an animator, and at age 81, he’s still in the studio today.
Norman was raised in Santa Barbara, California and started working at Disney in 1956. The first film he worked on at Disney was “Sleeping Beauty,” which was released in 1959. Later in his career, Norman worked on iconic movies for Disney and Pixar, including “The Jungle Book,” “Mary Poppins” and “Toy Story 2.”A new documentary titled “An Animated Life” features Norman’s life story. But his career didn’t come without setbacks. When he turned 65, Norman was let go from Disney, likely because of ageism. As he later told AARP, “It wasn’t official, perhaps, but at Disney, 65 was certainly looked at as retirement age.”
Norman, who wanted to keep working, kept showing up to the office to assist others until he was rehired as a freelancer. Now, in his 80s, he continues to do what he loves (and get paid for it).
In an interview with NPR, Norman says he didn’t want to work from home at the time, and he still doesn’t. He likes the camaraderie of a big studio setting.
“You see, creative people don’t hang it up,” he says. “We don’t walk away, we don’t want to sit in a lawn chair, we don’t want to go out and play golf, we don’t want to travel the world. We want to continue to work.”
To hear from Norman and see photos of him with his work, check out this NPR story.