I know for some at Salt Lake City Comic Con, Floyd Norman was not as big of a draw as Jenna-Louise Coleman or Anthony Daniels. But this Disney animator’s panel on the 9 Old Men was utterly fascinating for a Disney freak like me!
He did not get the big room. Nor did he have a packed out audience. In fact, once you go any earlier than Tangled, many Disney “fans” are not fans at all. But Floyd Norman is a Disney animator that has done something that very few can say: He worked with Walt Disney!
Norman does not really animate any more. He serves mostly as an ambassador for the Disney company. He helps train the new guys on the lot and tells stories of his days working on films such as The Jungle Book and The Great Mouse Detective.
Norman was hired to Disney is the mid 50s and was trained to animate in the Disney style by the 9 Old Men themselves. He spans the gap between the original Golden era of Disney, being trained by the men that made Snow White, Pinocchio and Bambi, and the second great animation era, which gave us The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and The Lion King. (On a side note, Disney seems to be on a good run again starting with Tangled, Wreck-it Ralph, and Frozen.)
Floyd Norman is still frequently interviewed in documentaries about Disney. The American Experience doc that aired earlier this month on PBS contained several clips of Norman sharing about Walt Disney. Following his panel, I had a chance to shake his hand (eep!) and I learned that he, like me, was not a fan of the PBS documentary either, finding it quite cynical and focusing too much on the strike. Find out more about the 2 part PBS documentary: Part 1 and Part 2.
Read Floyd’s spot-on review of the documentary on his blog: Floyd’s Review of the Walt Disney Documentary
I’m so pleased that I had the chance to meet him and hear about the 9 Old Men. Here they are, in case you are unfamiliar with them:
- Les Clark (Joined Disney in 1927)
- Wolfgang Reitherman (Joined Disney in 1933)
- Eric Larson (Joined Disney in 1933)
- Milt Kahl (Joined Disney in 1934)
- Ward Kimball (Joined Disney in 1934)
- Frank Thomas (Joined Disney in 1934)
- Ollie Johnson (Joined Disney in 1935)
- Marc Davis (Joined Disney in 1935)
- John Lounsbery (Joined Disney in 1935)
The term “9 Old Men” was a phrase Walt picked up from the title of a book on 9 old supreme court justices. In actuality, Disney’s 9 Old Men were quite young when he jokingly gave his top animators that title.
Have you ever heard of Floyd Norman? How about the 9 Old Men? Would you be interested in a Comic Con panel about them? Comment me!