Floyd Norman: Once in A Lifetime Experience
The Oxford dictionary defines the phrase “once in a lifetime” as a chance or experience that’s unlikely to occur more than – once in a person’s life. Kinda makes sense, right? This June, Floyd Norman will be our honored guest at motion 2017 in Santa Fe. If you’ve never met Floyd, I invite you to take part in this once in a lifetime opportunity.
What makes Floyd so unique that he warrants such a prestigious introduction?
Sure. Floyd Norman was the first African American animator hired by Disney.
And yes, it’s true. Floyd has over 65 credits to his name including The Jungle Book, Toy Story 2, and Monster’s Inc.
Awards. You betcha. ASIFA Hollywood’s Winsor McCay Award and the International Family Film Festival for Lifetime Achievement in Animation to name a few.
Not only that, Floyd was named a Disney Legend in 2007.
And for many of us, Floyd is fondly referred to as “the ambassador” of the industry.
In fact – filmmaker Michael Fiore found Floyd to be so fascinating, he made a documentary about his life.
For many of us, Floyd is fondly referred to as ‘the ambassador’ of the industry.
While credits like these would distinguish any artist as being in a category of their own, exulting them to “Hall of Fame” status, it’s more than this that puts Floyd Norman in the “once in a lifetime experience” category.
You see…I know this first hand. I was fortunate to meet Floyd in person last year at motion 2016. As emcee for the event, I interviewed the legend as we took a unique look back at his life based on the chronology of some of his books*. Throughout the three-day ‘un-conference‘, I chuckled with delight as audience members shared stories of spending time with Floyd at motion – watching the 81 year old skip in the aisle as if he were a teenager. My favorite part? Watching Floyd mesmerize the audience during our “Armchair Animators” segment.
“Armchair Animators” was designed as a tongue-in-cheek segment depicting the concept that you can do art – just about anywhere. The stage was set. The meeting place? Starbucks. We invited 3 animators to our pseudo Starbucks stage: Greg Gunn, Stanton Cruse and of course…the master of all animation Floyd Norman. The story? As animation buddies, they meet up each week to catch up, chat…and animate.
The only guidelines that they were given was to try to carry on a conversation with one another while they were animating – making it feel like this was nothing out of the ordinary.
While some people have a difficult time walking and chewing gum at the same time, these three did a fantastic job visiting with one another while they drew. Little did we know at the time, Floyd was not only drawing and chatting with his peers – he was writing and storyboarding a short animation – at the same time! Ok. So maybe Floyd Norman really is the ONE person who can truly multitask. At one point during the process, Floyd was sharing with the others that every project he works on brings something new. And that no matter what he’s doing, he’s always learning. Greg Gunn paused to ask, “Floyd, what are you learning right now?” This was Floyd’s reply:
A legend of animation. A creative genius. A master of story. Any of these three could be the reason to deem this a once in a lifetime experience. But what ultimately won me over was Floyd Norman – the person. Charming. Witty. Humble. Generous. Brilliant. An amazing human being anyone would be proud to call a true friend.
If you haven’t had the fortune to meet Floyd in person, don’t miss out on this once in a lifetime opportunity.
And for those of us who will be interacting with Floyd for a second time? Consider yourself doubly-blessed.
*Some of Floyd Norman’s books:
Walt Disney’s Christmas Classics (September 2017 Release Date)
A Kiss Goodnight (August 2017 Release Date)
Animated Life: A Lifetime of tips, tricks, techniques and stories from an animation Legend
Son of Faster Cheaper: A Sharp Look Inside the Animation Business
Faster! Cheaper!: The Flip Side to the Art of Animation
Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories
Tuskegee Redtails Graphic Novel
Boo On The Loose
Disney’s Mickey Mouse in the Barracuda Triangle
Mickey Mouse #3
The Cavity Critter
Illustration by Drew Struzan