In the Entertainment world, real-life people and events constantly inspire art. As a result, real-life people from different walks of life appear in TV shows. In this article, we’ll look at the character of Thomas Ronald Washington and his rise to fame in pop culture.
Who is Thomas Ronald Washington?
Despite what you might have read on Reddit forums, Thomas Washington is a fictional character. The writers of the Atlanta series, Francesca Sloan and Joseph Adcock, created this character. According to the documentary-style episode where he first appeared, Thomas became The Walt Disney Company’s first black CEO after the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
The character graduated from the Savannah College of Art and Design. He aimed to fulfill his childhood dream of working for Disney as an animator. After attending a seminar organized by Art Babbitt, the creator of Goofy, Disney hired him. He worked as an assistant animator on DuckTales the Movie: Treasure of the Lost Lamp as his first project.
When Disney’s interim CEO died in the 1992 riots, the board hired a white man, Tom Washington. This is where things got interesting. As a result of a first name mixup, Thomas Ronald Washington filled the position instead. The board had no choice but to appoint him despite their displeasure.
As the new CEO, Thomas made key organizational changes. First, he questioned why the company’s famous character, Mickey Mouse, would keep Pluto as a pet and Goofy as a friend. He made “the blackest movie of all time to fix the situation.” The goal of this movie was to address every aspect of American culture. He used the project A Goofy Movie and his son Maxwell as inspiration for the character Max Goof.
Unfortunately, after seeing Disney’s hierarchy change his intended film’s conclusion, Thomas disappeared from the entertainment scene. However, his wife claimed that Thomas’ brief employment left a lasting impression on the company.
Who is Thomas Ronald Washington Based on?
Despite Disney’s image as a “woke” company with an inclusive culture, the company has never had a black man as CEO. The character of Thomas Washington is possibly based on the first black Disney employee. According to different sources, Floyd Norman, the first African-American animator at Disney, was most likely the inspiration for the Atlanta writers. According to Norman, growing up in Santa Barbara, California, protected him from racism. In 1956, he joined the Disney studio and began work as an inbetweener on Sleeping Beauty. As an inbetweener, he helped Frank Thomas work on the fairies Fauna, Flora, and Merryweather.
What Projects Did Floyd Norman Work On?
He was also an assistant animator on the Mary Poppins project, where he worked on The Pearly Band. He also worked on The Jungle Book and was responsible for most of the gags in the “Trust in Me” sequence with Kaa and Mowgli.
After Walt Disney died in 1966, the legendary animator left Disney Studios and co-founded the Afrokids animation studio. This venture with business partner animator/director Leo Sullivan led to the creation of key shows like the original Hey! Hey! Hey! It’s Fat Albert television special.
1970s and 1980s
In the early 1970s, Norman returned to Disney to work on the animated feature Robin Hood and multiple animated television programs at Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears. During the 1980s, he worked as a writer in the comic strip department. Interestingly, he was the last scripter for the Mickey Mouse comic strip before its discontinuation.
Floyd Norman has also worked on hit motion pictures for Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios. His contributions as a story artist to films include Mulan, Dinosaur, and the Hunchback of Notre Dame for Walt Disney Animation. With Pixar, he worked on Toy Story 2 and Monsters, Inc.
What Awards Did Floyd Norman Get?
Norman got the Winsor McCay Award for Recognition of a Lifetime for his contribution to animation at the 2002 Annie Awards. He was named a Disney Legend in 2007 and appeared as a Guest of Honor at Anthrocon 2008 and Comic-Con International, where he received the Inkpot Award.
In 2013, Norman was given the “Sergio Award” by The Comic Art Professional Society (CAPS). After this award, he got the Friz Freleng Award for Lifetime Achievement for Excellence in Animation from the International Family Film Festival in 2015. In 2016, he joined the committee on education and outreach of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. Norman was awarded an honorary Doctorate degree of Philosophy from Cogswell Polytechnical College in June 2018.
In celebration of his extraordinary life, Walt Disney released a feature-length documentary in 2016. The work titled Floyd Norman: An Animated Life covers his life and career and what drove him to excel as an animator for the oldest animation studio in the world.
Who Are the Other Black Animators That Have Worked for Disney?
The works of Floyd Norman didn’t just influence how companies made animations or a stellar fictional character like Thomas Ronald Washington. Thanks to his success with Walt Disney Corporation, the company became more confident in hiring more black animators. These are some black cartoonists and animators who have worked for the company over the years:
Leo D. Sullivan
Sullivan, a member of the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and an Emmy award winner, has worked on animations since the 1950s. Some of his works include Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids and Tiny Toon Adventures.
If you’ve enjoyed streaming Looney Tunes on HBO Max, Brenda is one name you can’t forget. She began her career in the 70s with the animated special B.C.:The First Thanksgiving. As Banks’ career progressed, her work spanned various movies and TV shows, including The Simpsons, The Pagemaster, and The Smurfs.
Bruce W. Smith
Even though you might not recognize the name immediately, Bruce’s work is hard to miss. He has held many titles over his nearly 40-year career, including animator, writer, character designer, and director. Bruce also has an amazing resume featuring classics like Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Space Jam, A Goofy Movie, and The Princess and the Frog.
LeSean Thomas began his animation journey with shows like Kim Possible, Batman: The Brave and the Bold, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He has also received critical acclaim for his work as a designer on The Boondocks.
Now based in Tokyo, Thomas has a soft spot for anime. This led to him c-producing his original movie, Children of the Ether, with Crunchyroll. In 2021, he also produced the successful Netflix anime, Yasuke.
Peter Ramsey has a body of work craved by many creators. He started his career as a storyboard artist for movies such as Predator 2, Fight Club, and Independence Day. Eventually, he went to Dreamworks Animation, where he worked on Shark Tale, Shrek the Third, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Flushed Away. Ramsey also made his directorial debut with the phenomenal Rise of the Guardians.
You might think this is the pinnacle of animators’ achievements, and you would be very wrong. The crown jewel of his career is the visual masterpiece Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. As a result of his work as Co-director of the superhero adaptation, he was awarded the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Currently, Ramsey is an executive producer on both upcoming Spider-Verse sequels.
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