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African-American Animators

Updated on December 25, 2014
African-American animators that helped paved the way for African-American animators all over the country.
African-American animators that helped paved the way for African-American animators all over the country. | Source
Prehistoric "animation" drawings
Prehistoric "animation" drawings | Source

Did you think Walt Disney was the "founder" of animation?

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Disney's 9 Old Men: Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Frank Thomas
Disney's 9 Old Men: Les Clark, Marc Davis, Ollie Johnston, Milt Kahl, Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, John Lounsbery, Wolfgang Reitherman, and Frank Thomas | Source

African Americans in Animation

The most well known animator of all time is the creator of Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney. Most people uneducated about animation actually believe that Disney was the creator of animation, but he is not. The creator of animation is unknown, the exact process that created the first animation is unknown.

Even though it isn't traditional animation, scientists have found cave drawings dating back to prehistoric times that resemble animation. Each cave drawing side by side depicted a picture similar to the one next to it, with only a minor alteration which created a sort of prehistoric animation.

Animation has yet to hit it's true peak, but we are seeing more and more animation students every year. I've personally noticed the increase of animation students has more than doubled since Toy Story (1995) came out in theaters. I believe that subconsciously the shock and awe of Toy Story made more and more people want to create their own animations as well.

I have loved animation from an early age, I am a self-proclaimed animation enthusiast, and aspiring animator. Yet though I am familiar with the heavy hitters of animation, such as Tex Avery, Walt Disney, Don Bluth, and Chuck Jones - to name a few -, I do not know not one African American animator.

I know that there are African American animators, but they aren't well known, nor are they promoted as much as their Caucasian counterparts. I figure I'd do some research on African American animators and share it with you. If you're anything like me, an animation freak, you'll want to learn about all things animation. So, let's explore!

Floyd Norman, the first black animator at Disney Studios
Floyd Norman, the first black animator at Disney Studios | Source

Interview with Floyd Norman

Floyd Norman

I'm starting this hub with the first African American animator, Floyd Norman, at the biggest animation studios in the world, Walt Disney Studios.

Floyd Norman began working at Disney Studios in 1956. worked on such animations as The Jungle Book, Sleeping Beauty, and The Sword in the Stone along with other various Disney shorts. In 1997 he joined Pixar Animation Studios and worked on Toy Story 2 and Monsters Inc.

He's also credited as story artist on such animated films as Dinosaur, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and Mulan. Floyd left Disney in 1968, two years after Walt Disney's death.

Floyd still continues to be a freelance animation and cartoon consultant for Disney Studios and teaches animation classes. He also is a writer and graphic novel artist. Floyd has written a type of memoir called Animated Life that is considered a must read by lead animators.

Animated Life depicts Floyd Norman's life in animation, specifically at Disney Studios. He is also an avid blog writer. You can find Floyd Norman's blog here. His love for animation is


Bruce W. Smith draws Dr. Facilier

Bruce W. Smith

Although Bruce Smith is credited as the first African-American supervising animator for Disney Studios - supervising such characters as Dr. Facillier in The Princess and the Frog, Kerchak in Tarzan, Pearl in Home on the Range, and Pacha in The Emporer's New Groove - he is known as the creator of the popular Disney cartoon, The Proud Family.

Smith was born in Los Angeles, California, USA 1961. He broke into the animation business by being an assistant animator for the Garfield television special, Garfield in the Rough. Smith also worked on Who Framed Roger Rabbit and worked on his first feature in 1992, Bébé's Kids.

Smith also was a supervising animator for The Pagemaster and as director and Character designer for Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child. He designed characters for Disney's A Goofy Movie and co-directed the animation in Space Jam.

After his fourth grade teacher noticed his artistic skills and helped arrange for classes, Smith began attending animation classes at age ten. Though he is very accomplished as a supervising animator, co-director of animation, character designing and have worked on great animated films, Smith's animated creation, The Proud Family will be - in my opinion - his legacy.


Marshall Lee Toomey

Marshall Toomey is credited with several job titles on animated feature films such as Assistant Animator for The Secret of Nimh, Happily Ever After, Beauty and the Beast, and The Rescuers Down Under. Toomey was also Key Assistant to Aladdin in Disney's Aladdin.

Marshall Toomey attended Baker University for Animation and Illustration in 1973. He's worked on 22 feature films, and he has also worked on commercials and television shows.

Though Toomey actually has a lot of great animation credentials underneath his belt, he is very obscure in the animation world. His name doesn't produce much information when searching, but he is a major part of the animation world.

Ron Husband Spotlight

Ron Husband overseeing an animator.
Ron Husband overseeing an animator. | Source
Jai Husband's portfolio website.
Jai Husband's portfolio website. | Source

Ron Husband and Jai Husband (Animation in the Blood)

Ron Husband started at Disney in 1975. His first 30 years was working in Disney's Feature Film department, working on such titles as Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Fox and the Hound, Aladdin, and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Husband has received the Veteran Black Animators Lifetime Achievement Award.

Ron Husband also has a son that has followed in his footsteps as an animator named Jai Anthony-Lewis Husband. Jai Husband graduated from Morehouse College with a major in art and a minor in drama. He also taught animation in Auckland, New Zealand, and Atlanta.

Jai Husband served as Senior Animation Director for Turner Broadcasting Studios in Atlanta, GA. Currently, he also serves as CEO of Jairation Joint Productions, LLC. His first animated feature film, Kasha and the Zulu King, was aired on the BET television network in 2012.He is also a Christian graphic novel artist.

Novels by Jai Anthony-Lewis Husband

Backyardigan Creator

Janice Burgess, creator of the hit Nickelodeon preschool show, the Backyardigans.
Janice Burgess, creator of the hit Nickelodeon preschool show, the Backyardigans. | Source

Janice Burgess

Janice Burgees grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She was the executive producer and creator of Nickelodeon's Nick Jr. series, The Backyardigans - an animation about five friends that go on pretend musical adventures in their backyards. She joined Nickleodeon in 1995 as executive-in-charge of production at Nick Jr. and became Vice President later on.

I remember waking up every morning to watch cartoons with my children and one of our favorite pre-school television shows that came on was The Backyardigans. I was a grown woman singing with my children to catchy songs like "The Flying Rock", "The Yeti Stomp", and "Huka Pele".

Elmore Collins
Elmore Collins | Source
First black animated princess - Songhai Princess
First black animated princess - Songhai Princess | Source

Tee Collins

Elmore Theodore "Tee" Collins was the first African-American animator to establish his own studio in New York. He created and animated several shorts for the famous preschool show, Sesame Street. His shorts includes "Wanda the Witch", "X is for Xylophone", and "Nancy the Nannygoat".

Collins used a stick to draw pictures in the dirt when he was a child in front of his New York City apartment. Tee Collins' animation career took him to Sesame Street, but he started out animating commercials for Piel's Beer.

Tee Collins continued to make animation history and is credited as creating the first black animated princess - Princess Nzinga from The Songhai Princess. The Songhai Princess sold over 20,000 copies and won four national animation awards.

Nancy the Nannygoat - Animated by Tee Collins

Other Worthy Mentioned African-American Animators

Eventually I expect I will add more African-American animators to be featured in this hub, but until then, I'll just mention others that should be mentioned but aren't described in more detail above.

  • Dan Haskett
  • Carole Holliday
  • Ricardo Curtis
  • Jackie Banks
  • Pilar Newton
  • Serge Michaels
  • Shavonne Cherry
  • Peter Ramsey
  • Vanessa Morrison Murchison


Submit a Comment
  • trusouldj profile image

    LaZeric Freeman 

    6 years ago from Hammond

    Very interesting hub.

  • Anaydena profile imageAUTHOR

    Shermia Trueheart 

    6 years ago from Texas, USA

    I'm very glad to be able to help you on your educational journey. Black animators actually were very few, and you rarely hear anything about them when people speak of the great animators of all time, I wanted to try to help change that.

  • RonElFran profile image

    Ronald E Franklin 

    6 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

    Informative hub, Anaydena. Until today the thought of African American animators at Disney had never crossed my mind. But I ran across the story of Floyd Norman, and have been searching out more info on the experiences of blacks with Disney. That's how I found your hub. So, you've contributed to my education. Thanks!

  • Anaydena profile imageAUTHOR

    Shermia Trueheart 

    6 years ago from Texas, USA

    @Ray Pointer I'm glad you caught that, simple typo, but I'm glad you brought it to my attention. Thanks!

  • Ray Pointer profile image

    Ray Pointer 

    6 years ago

    There is also Phil Mendez. By the way, it's Dan Haskett, not "David."


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