Living Legend Floyd Norman: An Animated Life Now Available on the Criterion Channel

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Living Legend Floyd Norman: An Animated Life Now Available On The Criterion Channel


I don’t do all “Fan Girl” for a lot of people, but when I met Floyd Norman, I cracked up. He is truly a living legend.

Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey’s 2016 documentary “Floyd Norman: An Animated Life” explores the extraordinary legacy of its titular subject, the first black animator to be hired by Disney. As of February 7, the film is now available for streaming on the Criterion Channel, along with a selection of short films made by Vignette Films, Inc., one of the first black-owned production companies in Hollywood, created by Norman with Leo. Sullivan, Norman Edelen and Richard Allen.

While employed by Disney in 1956, Norman worked on classics such as ‘Sleeping Beauty’, ‘101 Dalmatians’, ‘Mary Poppins’ and more, before being selected by Walt Disney as his own. -even to be part of the story team of “The Jungle Book”. “ His storied career has taken him from Disney to Hanna-Barbera and Pixar, with many adventures in film and animation in between. In person, he is modest, handsome, a little reserved at first, but ultimately warm and endearing.

“I grew up in Santa Barbara, which is a large, affluent community, rich with artists, writers, musicians, dancers, choreographers and composers,” Norman recalled in his 2015 interview with RogerEbert.com . “I grew up in a community filled with art, so everyone I met there encouraged me, and instead of being deterred from my career and my dreams, I was encouraged to follow my dreams and it’s been a huge part of my life. I never had any discouragement, I always had everyone supporting me, being on my side. So instead of a story about how to overcoming hardship and poverty, my path to Disney was pretty easy, and I’m very grateful for that. But it was ‘It’s as hard a fight as you can imagine. And despite the color of my skin, in the 1950s, even that was not a barrier.

“Floyd Norman: An Animated Life” depicts Norman’s animated narrative through original animations created from Norman’s hand-drawn gag designs. Fiore and Sharkey’s cameras follow Norman through various key locations in his life, including the Disney campus. Testimonials from Norman’s friends and colleagues (including Leonard Maltin and Whoopi Goldberg) tell a warmly loving story, as Norman nears the age of 80 in the documentary. Still as dynamic and young as ever, he reflects on his pioneering career and forced retirement from Disney at age 65 with humility and humor, while continuing to be a force in the world of animation.

“A successful animated film not only has to have fun, it has to have heart,” Norman said. “It must have an emotional resonance when people sit down, and it doesn’t matter if you are 5, 55 or 85, the photo touches you. It speaks to you, it makes you laugh, it makes you cry and it did the old man Walt Disney teach us that you have to connect with the audience. If the audience doesn’t have that connection, then you’re hopeless. And that’s why Walt focused so much about the characters that you’ve come to know, that you’ve come to love. The characters in your movie are everything because if you don’t like those characters, you’re not going to continue your journey with them; you’re not going to not be involved in their story. And because you care about them, anything and everything that happens to them affects you.

“Floyd Norman: An Animated Life” had its first release on Netflix globally (2016-2020), with specials on Turner Classic films following. Filmmaker Michael Fiore is “delighted to honor the legacy of Floyd Norman by partnering with Criterion. Like Floyd himself, Criterion embodies the history of cinema.”

Watch the trailer below to get a taste of what to expect with this wonderful documentary. And it’s good to be a little geek…

Read Sergio Mims’ 2015 interview with Norman here and Jana Monji’s 2016 Comic-Con dispatch on the film here.

Chaz Ebert
Chaz Ebert

Chaz is the CEO of several Ebert businesses, including Chairman of The Ebert Company Ltd and Ebert Digital LLC, Publisher of RogerEbert.com, Chairman of Ebert Productions and Chairman of the Board of the Roger and Chaz Ebert Foundation, and Co-Founder and Producer of Ebertfest, the film festival now in its 22nd year.


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