Norm Ferguson (animator)

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Norm Ferguson
Born
William Norman Ferguson

(1902-09-02)September 2, 1902
Manhattan, New York, U.S.
DiedNovember 4, 1957(1957-11-04) (aged 55)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
OccupationAnimator
EmployerWalt Disney Animation Studios (1929-1953)
Spouse(s)Gladys F. (m. 1924) (1 child)

William Norman Ferguson (September 2, 1902 – November 4, 1957) was an animator for Walt Disney Studios and a central contributor to the studio's stylistic development in the 1930s. He is most frequently noted for his contribution to the creation of Pluto, one of the studio's best-known and most enduring characters, and is the artist most closely associated with that character. He is also credited for developing Peg-Leg Pete and the Big Bad Wolf.[1] Ferguson, known at the studio as "Norm" or "Fergy", was the primary animator of the witch in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first in a long line of great Disney feature villains. He was also a sequence director on the film.

Career[edit]

After starting at the studio in 1929 as a cameraman, Ferguson switched to the animation department and rose rapidly, despite a lack of formal art training. His early animation of the dog who would become Pluto drew strong response at the studio and on-screen for giving the character a personality and apparent inner life that was considered a great step forward for the young art form of animation. Animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston paid extensive tribute to Ferguson's work in their 1981 book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, calling his famous "flypaper sequence" from the 1934 short Playful Pluto- in which the dog is stuck to a piece of flypaper- a "milestone in personality animation...through it all, his reaction to his predicament and his thoughts of what to try next are shared with the audience. It was the first time a character seemed to be thinking on the screen, and, though it lasted only 65 seconds, it opened the way for animation of real characters with real problems."

He is remembered for having worked "rough" and "loose", in animation terms, with a focus on feeling, action, and the character's personality rather than detail, structure, or formal draftsmanship. Fellow animator Fred Moore is quoted as having said of Ferguson, "He doesn't know that you can't raise the eyebrows above the head circle, so he goes ahead and does it and it gives a great effect." Animator Shamus Culhane remembered Ferguson as having produced a high volume of work- about 18 feet a week as opposed to the more average ten at the Disney Studios at the time. (A "foot" of animation- a measurement based on film footage- is sixteen frames).

Norm Ferguson served as a sequence director or directing animator on many of the classic Walt Disney features films from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937 through the 1950s, including Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland.

Ferguson, who later in life suffered from diabetes, left the Disney Studios with his health and career in decline in about 1953. Immediately after a brief, unsuccessful stint with Shamus Culhane Productions, described by Culhane in his 1986 book Talking Animals And Other People, Ferguson died as a result of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California in 1957.[2]

Ferguson posthumously received the industry's Winsor McCay Award in 1987 and was posthumously inducted as a Disney Legend by the studio in 1999, along with fellow animator Hamilton Luske (also posthumous), among others. The two men are the subjects of chapter five in Thomas and Johnston's Disney Animation: The Illusion Of Life, titled Cartoon Comes Of Age- Norm Ferguson and Ham Luske.

Filmography[edit]

Feature films[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs supervising animator
1940 Pinocchio supervising animator and sequence director "J. Worthington Foulfellow" and "Gideon"
1940 Fantasia supervising animator and director "Dance of the Hours" segment
1941 The Reluctant Dragon Himself
1941 Dumbo directing animator and sequence director
1942 Bambi supervising animator
1942 Saludos Amigos supervising animator and supervising director Pedro, El Gaucho Goofy, Aquarela do Brasil
1944 The Three Caballeros Director and production supervisor
1950 Cinderella directing animator
1953 Alice in Wonderland directing animator
1953 Peter Pan directing animator

Short films[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1926 School Days Animator
1927 Horses, Horses, Horses Animator
1929 Mickey's Choo-Choo Animator
1930 Cannibal Capers Animator
Frolicking Fish Animator
The Gorilla Mystery Animator
Arctic Antics Animator
Midnight in a Toy Shop Animator
Night Animator
The Chain Gang Animator
Pioneer Days Animator
The Fire Fighters Animator
Monkey Melodies Animator
The Picnic Animator
Winter Animator
Playful Pan Animator
1931 Traffic Troubles Animator
The Birthday Party Animator
Mother Goose Melodies Animator
Blue Rhythm Animator
The Castaway Animator
Birds of a Feather Animator
The Moose Hunt Animator
The Delivery Boy Animator
The Beach Party Animator
Mickey Cuts Up Animator
Mickey's Orphans Animator
The Barnyard Broadcast Animator
1932 The Whoopee Party Animator
Trader Mickey Animator
The Duck Hunt Animator
Flowers and Trees Animator
The Mad Dog Animator
Babes in the Woods Animator
Mickey's Nightmare Animator
King Neptune Animator
Bugs in Love Animator
The Klondike Kid Animator
Santa's Workshop Animator
Mickey's Good Deed Animator
1933 Puppy Love Animator
Mickey's Pal Pluto Animator
Birds in the Spring Animator
The Pet Store Animator
Ye Olden Days Animator
Father Noah's Ark Animator
Three Little Pigs Animator
Old King Cole Animator
1934 Shanghaied Animator
The Big Bad Wolf Animator
Playful Pluto Animator
Gulliver Mickey Animator
Orphan's Benefit Animator
Mickey's Steam Roller Animator
1935 Who Killed Cock Robin? Animator
The Golden Touch Animator
Pluto's Judgement Day Animator
On Ice Animator
1936 Mother Pluto Animator
Moving Day Animator
Alpine Climbers Animator
Mickey's Polo Team Animator
Mickey's Grand Opera Animator
Donald and Pluto Animator
Three Little Wolves Animator
Mickey's Elephant Animator
1937 Pluto's Quin-puplets Animator
Moose Hunters Animator
1938 The Fox Hunt Animator
1939 The Practical Pig Animator
The Pointer Animator
Beach Picnic Animator
Society Dog Show Animator
Officer Duck Animator
Aladdin and His Wonderful Lamp Animation director
1940 Bone Trouble Animator
1941 Pluto's Playmate Animator and director
1949 Popeye's Premiere Animator
1951 Plutopia Animator
R'coon Dawg Animator
Cold Turkey Animator
1952 Pluto's Party Animator
1953 The Simple Things Animator
1954 Social Lion Animator
1958 To Itch His Own Animator

TV series[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1956 Disneyland Animator Episode: Where Do the Stories Come From?

References[edit]

  1. ^ Steve Watts, The Magic Kingdom: Walt Disney and the American Way of Life, University of Missouri Press, pg. 132
  2. ^ Michael Barrier interviews Corny Cole Archived 2016-08-24 at the Wayback Machine

External links[edit]