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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Floyd Norman: An Animated Life is a documentary about animator Floyd Norman’s successful career at Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Pixar, and his own company, Vignette Films. Language includes "crap," "stupid," and "damn it"; stronger words ("f--k" and "s--t") are bleeped out. Minimal violence includes clips of Norman's time in the military and footage of the Watts riots. Several interviewees discuss the animation industry's early days, when animators would drink and smoke at work. Although Disney HR forced Norman to retire on his 65th birthday, his perseverance and genuine love for animation illustrate the powerful impact he continues to have as an artist and mentor.
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What's the story?
FLOYD NORMAN: AN ANIMATED LIFE takes an intimate look at a legendary animator's life and career. Hired as Disney's first African-American artist in 1956, Norman worked on classic movies such as Sleeping Beauty and 101 Dalmatians before Walt Disney hand-picked him to help write the story for The Jungle Book. Norman formed Vignette Films after Walt Disney’s death, where he created educational films about black history, the original Fat Albert TV special, and the animated intro for Soul Train. Afterward, Norman animated several Hanna-Barbera cartoons, including Scooby-Doo and The Smurfs, and he later took his talents to Pixar before returning to Disney. On his 65th birthday, Disney HR forced Norman to retire, but that hasn't stopped him from having a tremendous impact on the animation industry as an artist, mentor, and friend.
Is it any good?
Fans of Disney history and animation will surely enjoy this sweet tribute to Floyd Norman's impressive career. Thanks to stories about what it was like to work directly with Walt Disney and the movie's behind-the-scenes look at the filmmaking process, it’s easy to see why Norman has always been so drawn to this industry. The movie cleverly includes animated cartoons from up-and-coming artists, but the must-see moments occur when Norman is showcasing his own skills. The interviews tend to ramble, but it’s clear that Norman is both loved and respected.
At times, Floyd Norman: An Animated Life feels rushed trying to cover all of Norman's accomplishments, while lingering too long on other aspects of his career. He insists that race was never an issue, but the topic still comes up several times before the film turns to his frustration with ageism. Still, like the classic Disney movies Norman animated at the start of his career, Floyd Norman: An Animated Life ends on a heartwarming note that will delight viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Floyd Norman: An Animated Life addresses racism and ageism. How does this film compare to others that tackle those topics? What can we learn from them?
How familiar were you with the animation process before watching the movie? Did watching it make you interested in becoming an artist or an animator? How do you think the process has changed since Norman started out?
- In theaters: August 26, 2016
- On DVD or streaming: August 26, 2016
- Cast: Dean Deblois, Whoopi Goldberg, Don Hahn, Floyd Norman
- Directors: Michael Fiore, Erik Sharkey
- Studio: FilmBuff
- Genre: Documentary
- Character strengths: Perseverance
- Run time: 94 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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