The Disneyana Fan Club has once again honored Disney Legends and celebrities at their renown Celebrity Luncheon. Scarlett Stahl brings us a report from the festivities. ~~Rick
The Disneyana Fan Club Disney Legend Luncheon
by Scarlett Stahl
The Disneyana Fan Club (formerly known as the NFFC or National Fantasy Fan Club) is a club for Disney fan enthusiasts and each year hosts a convention in Anaheim, California, around Disneyland’s birthday of July 17. Part of the festivities is a celebrity luncheon, begun in 1993, to honor those special individuals who helped make the magic, and have made a significant contribution to the Disney legacy. The honorees have included animators, Imagineers, voice talent, songwriters, actors, executives, a photographer and even a research economist. And their contributions span more than 80 years, from the early silent films produced by Walt Disney in Kansas City, Missouri, to the most recent films and theme park attractions.
On Friday, July 18, 2014, previous Legends and club guests gathered at the Wyndham Anaheim Garden Grove Hotel (formerly the Crowne Plaza) to honor this year’s Disneyana Fan Club Disney Legend Award recipients Floyd Norman and Lonnie Burr. Some of the celebrity guests present were: Dave Smith (Historian and Author), Glen Durflinger Jr (Imagineer), and Doreen Tracey (Mouseketeer). Guests enjoyed a delicious luncheon and were entertained by skillful moderator, Allan Halcrow, who led the honorees one at a time onto the stage to talk about their careers.
Floyd Norman prefers to be called a cartoonist but is a legendary animator, writer, as well as a comic book artist. After seeing Bambi as a child, he knew he wanted to be an animator and make films like Bambi. In high school he worked as an assistant to Bill Woogan on the Katy Keene series for Archie Comics. At Art Center of Design he was an illustration major. In 1956 he began working for Disney as in-betweener and animator on Sleeping Beauty. He liked to draw gag sketches for friends, which they copied and circulated around the Studio and of course Walt eventually saw them and ordered him transferred to story development. There was no following of protocol, no filling out forms, no applying for the transfer…he just moved there because Walt ordered it. He worked on story sketches for Jungle Book.
When asked how it felt to be the first African American at the Studio, Floyd explained that it never occurred to him as he was always treated merely as one of the artists. He said that is how Walt viewed him and all the others as well.
He shared that he had a fondness for bran muffins, which were delivered by the Commissary daily to Walt’s secretaries office. They had said if Walt didn’t eat them, he was free to take them. However one day he took them a little too early but NEVER did that again!
After Walt’s death, Floyd and his associates launched their own production company, Vignette Films Inc., which was one of the first to produce films on the subject of African-American history. Over the course of his career, Norman has worked for a number of animation companies, among them Walt Disney Animation Studios, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Ruby-Spears, Film Roman, and Pixar.
In the early 1980’s Floyd returned to Disney in the Disney Publishing Group. He wrote the syndicated Mickey Mouse comic strip and as project supervisor in Creative Development Publishing, he created, wrote and designed children’s books. He did story development on The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Mulan and Toy Story 2, to mention a few.
Floyd expanded his diverse career by venturing into the digital world and even helped develop computer software for painting and animimation. He has worked closely with the Walt Disney Family Museum and in April 2013, Diane Disney Miller commented that Floyd and his wife, Adrienne had been a great help to the WDFM and she considered them good friends.
Floyd has been honored with many awards. To name just a few, at the Annie Awards, which are the highest honors that can be given by the animation industry, he won the Winsor McKay Lifetime Achievement in 2003. Floyd was named a Disney Legend in 2007 by the Walt Disney Company, and had his handprints and signature cast in bronze to grace the Legend Plaza at the Walt Disney Studios. He is still acting as a consultant at both Disney and Pixar and doesn’t plan on retiring anytime soon.
His two most recently published books are as follows:
Animated Life: A Lifetime of tips, tricks, techniques and stories from an animation Legend (Animation Masters)… by Floyd Norman (Apr 11, 2013)
Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South? And Other Forbidden Disney Stories by Jim Korkis, Floyd Norman and Bob McLain (Dec 12, 2012)
For more information and fun with Floyd, go to: floydnormancom.squarespace.com
The previous day several of the original Mousekeers had appeared at the DFC Convention and had been honored with Disneyana Fan Club Legend Awards. However due to scheduling, Mouseketeer Lonnie Burr was unable to attend and instead was honored at the luncheon, along with Floyd Norman.
Beginning dance lessons at age four, Lonnie began making live appearance on TV shows and acting on radio. At age six he began working on national TV and appearing in commercials. He appeared in numerous films such as: A Yank in Korea, A Queen for a Day, Hans Christian Anderson, The Greatest Show on Earth and Apache. Television shows included: The Ruggles, The Range Rider, The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Roy Rogers Show, The Alan Young Show, The Donald O’Connor Show and Father Knows Best.
In 1955 he was signed to a contract by Walt Disney Studios as one of twenty-four original Mouseketeers and worked as an original Mousketeer between 1955- 1958. He was made a member of the show’s first string unit, the Red Team, and appeared in the show’s Roll Call and Alma Mater segments daily for the first two seasons. While on the show Lonnie performed in skits and musical variety numbers, both as a soloist and with others. He was generally acknowledged to be one of the show’s three top dancers and his slightly husky singing voice caused other Mouseketeers to nickname him “The Velvet Smog” for at twelve he also resembled “The Velvet Fog”, singer Mel Tormé.
After the Mickey Mouse Club stopped filming, Lonnie chose to finish his education, receiving his high school diploma at fifteen, and received a B.A. and an M.A. in Theatre Arts from U.C.L.A. by age twenty. He resumed performing and some of his films are: Sweet Charity, The Hospital, The Prisoner of Second Avenue, Newsies, Mr. Saturday Night, Police Academy and Mission to Moscow. As an adult he had 60 TV credits which include The Beverly Hillbillies, Hill Street Blues, Hunter, a recurring role on Falcon Crest, Murder She Wrote, Chicago Hope, L.A. Heat and Homicide: Life on the Streets. Burr also has a total of over 100 radio performances. He has over 100 radio performances and 49 stage roles, which range from Mack and Mabel on Broadway, the first National Company with Joel Grey and the Las Vegas production on his own of George M!, the Los Angeles company of 42nd Street and Tamara.
He directed for radio, TV, and theater and choreographed plays, musicals, commercials, industrial films, and live performances – one that he also wrote and appeared in at Disneyland. He has written two books of poetry, the non-fiction book TWO FOR THE SHOW: Great 20th Century Comedy Teams (2000), five plays (Icons Are Not in Vogue, Occam’s Razor, Over the Hill, Children Are Strangers and Exeunt All), and the book and lyrics for the musical Fantasies, which have been staged in Los Angeles and New York City. In February 2009, his autobiography, Confessions of an Accidental Mouseketeer, was published. His autobiography was re-released – and updated – on February 24, 2014 under a new title, “The Accidental Mouseketeer”.
As an adult, Lonnie had relegated his Mousketeer years to his youth and concentrated mainly on his adult roles. However as he mentioned to Allan, he had been at an event when a tattooed man with piercings and heavy metal approached him. He anticipated the worst, and instead when the man spoke, he told Lonnie that the Mousketeers and Lonnie had saved his life as a youth.
This encounter opened Lonnie’s eyes to the true importance of the Mickey Mouse Club and the role the Mouseketeers had played for the youth of America.
Both Floyd and Lonnie were presented with lovely Disneyana Fan Club Legend Awards and graciously stayed behind to talk with their many fans and sign autographs.