Work & Purpose

This 81-Year-Old Animator Can’t Be Stopped

There's a new film on Disney legend Floyd Norman, who defies ageist stereotypes

Part of the Vitality Arts Special Report

Floyd Norman: An Animated Life hit the big screen today in four cities. While some film buffs in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Orlando are heading to theaters this week to see the documentary about “the Forrest Gump of animation,” the rest of us can download it from iTunes to learn more about 81-year-old animator, Floyd Norman.

Norman sounds like my kind of guy, a quiet rabblerouser who loves what he does so much that he keeps going to work at Disney every day. Never mind that he’s more or less been out of a job there since being forced into retirement at 65.

Breaking Down Racial and Age Barriers

Or as The New York Post puts it: “This 81-year old got fired from Disney and refuses to stop working.” I took that clickbait and was rewarded with a compelling story of a guy whose passion for arts led him to break down race as a young man and age barriers today.

Hired out of art school in 1956, Norman was the first black animator at Disney. “I was another artist looking for a job,” he says in a short video about the film. But others credit him for paving the way. “Now there’s enough of us for us to be mad at each other,” jokes one of his colleagues.

In similar fashion, Norman rejects the notion that he’s too old to work. “If you love that and that’s you’re life,” he says, “you’re not going to be stopped.”

By Heidi Raschke
Heidi Raschke is a longtime journalist and editor who previously was the Executive Editor of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine and Living and Learning Editor at Next Avenue. Currently, she runs her own content strategy and development consultancy.@heidiraschke
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