Floyd Norman working on Disney's "Sleeping Beauty." (Click to enlarge.)
Floyd Norman working on Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty.” (Click to enlarge.)

Happy birthday to pioneering animation artist Floyd Norman, who turns 80 years old today. Born on June 22, 1935 in Santa Barbara, California, Floyd Norman’s place is secure as one of the earliest African-American artists to be hired at the Walt Disney animation studio, and the first long-term African-American artist at Disney.

Norman started working at Disney in 1956. Fifty-nine years later, he continues to work in the industry. His career credits include such Disney classics as Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, Mary Poppins, and The Jungle Book, all the way up to contemporary films like Mulan, Toy Story 2, and Monsters Inc. Most recently, he created the story for The Further Adventures of Thunderbolt, which appeared as a bonus on the Blu-ray release of 101 Dalmatians.

But Norman’s career isn’t just Disney. Among his career highlights are contributions to dozens of Hanna-Barbera series such as Josie and the Pussycats, Jabberjaw, Sealab 2020, Snorks, Superfriends, and The Smurfs; working on the pilot/TV special for Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids; co-owning his own animation studio, Vignette Films; working as a book illustrator and comic writer (including a stint as the last scripter for the Mickey Mouse comic strip); publishing multiple books of gag drawings with sharp-eyed observations on the business of animation and Disney politics; and writing the autobiography Animated Life: A Lifetime of Tips, Tricks, and Stories from a Disney Legend. And if all that isn’t enough, Floyd is also a prolific blogger who is well worth reading daily.

Happy Birthday, Floyd!

UPDATE: The Disney studio commissary surprised Floyd Norman today by renaming their grilled cheese sandwich after him. Here’s Floyd displaying his birthday gift: