Norman "Fergy" Ferguson was a near-legendary figure in the world of animated cartoons. Starting with Paul Terry's Aesop Fables unit in the 1920s, Ferguson hired on as an animator with the up-and-coming Walt Disney in 1929. He hit his stride in 1931, when he singled out a minor character--a woebegone bloodhound--in the cartoon short Mickey's Chain Gang (1931). That bloodhound developed into Pluto, one of Disney's most enduring and endearing screen characters. It was generally agreed that no one had a better "handle" on Pluto than Ferguson, and films like Playful Pluto (1934)--in which the hapless pooch spends several minutes struggling with a piece of flypaper--certainly bear this out. As a reward for his skill with movement and expression, Ferguson was assigned to supervise the animation of the Big Bad Wolf in Disney's 1932 classic The Three Little Pigs. His strength lay in his preliminary pencil sketches, which seemed to jump off the paper and take life even before they were committed to the screen. According to cartoon historian Leonard Maltin, Ferguson was regarded as a valuable Disney commodity not only because of his talent but because he worked quickly and economically.
When Disney moved into cartoon features, Ferguson moved along with him; he was one of the supervising animators for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), handled the "Fox and Cat" sequences in Pinocchio (1941), collaborated with T. Hee on the hilarious "Dance of the Hours" sequence in Fantasia (1940), and contributed mightily to the "Pink Elephants on Parade" segment in Dumbo (1941). He went on to function as production supervisor/principal director for Disney's brace of "good neighbor" features, Saludos Amigos (1943) and Three Caballeros (1945). He also made a rare on-camera appearance in The Reluctant Dragon (1941). After completing his supervising-animator duties on Peter Pan (1953), Ferguson left Disney for another studio; within two years, he died of complications stemming from diabetes. In 1987, Norman Ferguson was posthumously honored by his fellow animators with the much-coveted Winsor McKay Award.