Last night, I had the pleasure (Thanks to the website TheWrap) to go to a screening of Floyd Norman: An Animated Life, a new documentary following the life of Disney Legend, animator, story man, and all around creative Floyd Norman.
For those who don't know (but not to spoil much), Mr. Norman worked for Disney starting with Sleeping Beauty. In his long career, he's worked in different division with the company, Pixar, with Bill Cosby, and Hanna-Barbera, as well as independently. A self-described troublemaker, his career is essentially a history of animation itself.
It's hard to really sum up the movie without spoiling it, but Norman was, kind of accidentally, the first African American artist at the Disney Company. His history with the company is varied and unbiased, even to the present day.
I found it similar to the documentary on Big Bird performer Carroll Spinney (I Am Big Bird), in various ways. Both films chronicle the life of an artist whose legacy is tied to a larger figure/company, both express their creative in more ways than the medium they're known for, and both films augment the wonderful stories told with animation. In Norman's case, this is achieved with gags he wrote himself, and much of his delightful, subversive artwork is displayed in the film.
I can't say enough good things about this film. Again, it doesn't put the rose-colored glasses on the Disney Company, and just allows Floyd to tell the story of his life. Race is almost a non-issue in the film, Norman himself admitting it in the first few minutes. The film does pose questions The Disney Company left unanswered, which I will allow you all to decide for yourselves once you see it.
Viewers unaware of Norman's reach in the animation industry will be astonished to find his hand in many of their childhood favorites, and I think that's one of the highest goals of a documentary like this, allowing the adult to discover the hands and hearts behind the works we loved as a child.
I'm so utterly loathe to give away any more information, I just want people to see this movie. Really, you NEED to. It's interesting, funny, informative, and heartwarming, but not a puff piece at all.
A couple of years ago, I had the distinct honor of meeting Floyd at the Disney Studios, after a D23 screening of Mary Poppins. He was responsible for all the pearls on the Pearly Band in the Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious segment of the movie. Just sit back and think about that a little....ALL those pearls. Imagineer Rolly Crump's first job at Disney was doing the spots on the Dalmatians in 101 Dalmatians....he didn't last long in Animation....so that Norman's career lasted beyond that bear of a job makes him a gosh darn HERO in my eyes!
After the screening, filmmakers Michael Fiore, Erik Sharkey, and composer Ryan Shore. They were gracious enough to track the decision to make a movie about Floyd, which was understandably very quick. I was sorry to hear how Disney, as a company, supported, or rather didn't support the production, because the filmmakers would like to do a series of these films on Disney Legends. A fantastic idea.
So, in this entry, I'm including links to the website and to Floyd's wonderful blog filled with interesting stories from his vast career. He's got stories about Walt, Michael Jackson and so many more in between, along with his lovely sketches and gags.
And here is the link to the documentary's website: http://floydnormanmovie.com
And, finally, here is the trailer. PLEASE go see this movie! Get it on iTunes, it's on Netflix...go. Run, don't walk.
P.S. Mr. Norman, should you happen to read this...my mother and I saw you at the last D23 Expo, eating your lunch. We didn't want to bother you, but if you saw two women staring, that was us. Hi!
Have a good week, everybody!