New to theatres and VOD today, Friday, August 26: FLOYD NORMAN: AN ANIMATED LIFE
Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey’s portrait of an unsung animator made its debut at Santa Barbara earlier this year. It also screened at Bentonville and Comic-Con.
While not a household name, Floyd Norman was deemed worthy of his own documentary for several notable reasons: He is Disney’s first African-American animator, hired in 1956; he has been part of the creative team of classics like SLEEPING BEAUTY, 101 DALMATIONS, and MARY POPPINS; and, now in his 80s, he makes for an affable, at times wry, subject. Fiore and Sharkey’s film is largely an affectionate tribute to Norman, only occasionally delving into deeper topics of racism and ageism. While his pioneering role at Disney is noted by several individuals here, Norman apparently only had minor issues with some racist co-workers early on, and he resists the label of “black animator” in favor of, simply, “animator.” In contrast, there’s clearly more of a lingering resentment with his forced dismissal from Disney when he reached 65. Not interested in retirement, Norman just kept coming to the Disney offices, serving as an elder statesman of sorts, giving advice, until finally, the powers that be saw the light and rehired him. Covering 60 years and countless films and TV shows, the documentary sometimes feels a bit like a greatest hits survey, but succeeds in clearly capturing its subject and his love of storytelling, illustrated here by original, playful animated sequences as well as quick sketches created off the cuff by Norman.