If there’s a more controversial , we’ve yet to find it. The of the has been attacked for portraying people, particularly its “dangerously glorified picture of than 1946’s However, some maintain that the is “of its time” and not intentionally offensive.
One such defender is Floyd Norman, a Black who worked with Walt , who revealed he has pitched for the film’s public release many times. Let’s find out why this to this day.
Who is Floyd Norman?
Norman is a prolific and a member of the Black Filmmaker Hall of Fame. He’s so well-known in that he starred in a documentary about his life, Floyd Norman: An Animated Life.
The revealed that the now 85-year-old Norman started his career as an “in-betweener” on Sleeping Beauty before rising to the team of The Jungle Book, where he worked directly with Walt himself.
Norman left the company after Walt Disney’s death in 1966 and established his house — Vignette Films — alongside fellow Black artist Leo Sullivan. The two then created educational films about Black history and the popular Fat Albert. He later contributed to Disney and Pixar films like The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Toy Story 2.
Floyd Norman and of the
Norman first drew attention when he appeared on the Movies that Made Me podcast, admitting that he has pushed forof the South’s release many times: “I have argued with executives and attorneys about of the . I call them out on it … They’re just wimping out.”
Speaking to Book and , the legendary Globe then revealed his consistent part as an advocate for the release of of the over the years.
“I don’t think I’ve been a real thorn in Disney’s side. It’s just that whenever there was time to speak up for theI became the film’s advocate because I knew enough about it, maybe more so than most,” he said.
He even revealed that book publishers have tried to use his influence to convince to license Br’er animal books. Though Norman isn’t an employee anymore, his status as a who worked with Walt himself still grants him sway at the company.
Norman even defended the controversial dialect used in of the
“We’ve written stories atthat have taken place in the where we’ve given white characters a southern accent because that’s the accent they would have … That’s how they talk. We’re not mocking them. We’re just trying to keep our as authentic as possible.”
When asked about Dumbo’s Jim Crow, Norman replied, “ was taking a good-natured poke at the culture in America’s .”
Floyd Norman and Song of the South’s “
As the interview continued, Norman revealed that he has a framed cell of the infamous ‘ ’ scene, a moment so controversial it has been removed from all television releases of the . (It remains in a quick scene in the 1988 Who Framed , however).
Norman commented that the baby “was not an intentional thing that tar represents Bbut once again, here’s a storytelling device that people read way too much into.”
Floyd then reflects on why his experience as an growing up in the may differ from other .
He said he “can understand why some African Americans would feel offended by that motion picture, and so I’ve tried to come over to their side.”
He continued, “My wife often says that I live in a bubble … Keep in mind I’m not a kid who had a rough and tragic life. I was not the victim of racism. I had almost an idyllic life growing up in Santa Barbara, California. I must be reminded that my perspective is probably not that of most Black Americans.”
Norman’s wife, Adrienne Brown-Norman, says that his childhood in 1930s Santa Barbara was far-removed from what otherwere experiencing in the . When he did visit the segregated “it was so far from what he knew that he didn’t see it affecting him.”
Floyd Norman discusses , racism, and representation at
When asked about the lack of diversity in Disney’sdepartment at the time, Norman only responded, “Because they didn’t show up, no B got hired.”
However, Norman isn’t unaware of the systemic racism endured by the Black community and even commented that his father, a man from Mississippi, “had a darn good reason to be terrified of policemen.”
Alongside hispartner Leo Sullivan, Norman even filmed the 1965 Watts riots, witnessing rocks thrown at the police force. “By the time I got older, I understood the social issues we were dealing with here in America. It’s just that I didn’t have to deal with those issues when I was growing up.”
The history of of the
of the is a 1946 part animated from Walt Studios, based on Joel Chandler Harris’s .
Even before the tragic death of George Floyd and the global Black Lives Matter movement, of the was seen as a controversial .
Despite winning an (and an for lead actor James Baskett), the based on the was thought too divisive for a home release.
The fact that it presents formerly enslaved people living happily on a CEO Bob Iger even confirmed that it would not come to the , calling it “not appropriate in today’s world.” Plus streaming service made many uncomfortable, and
2020 saw the final erasure of petition arose to remove the film’s theming from the famous Walt World ride . of the South’s history as a
does not feature Uncle or humans, only starring like Br’er Rabbit.
Despite a counter-petition gaining significant traction, announced that would be rethemed to The Princess and the Frog, removing any trace of the controversial from parks and screens.
Floyd Norman, Walt , and of the
Despite all the petitions and articles, Floyd Norman stands by Walt .
He notes that he started watching movies when he was four years old and knew he wanted to work for the after finishing college.
As for S of the , his answer is the same as most of those who petition for the movie’s release. He wants the to be released publicly, but with added cultural sensitivity warnings. He insists that Walt had only the best intentions in making the .
Norman’s final quote perhaps epitomizes the motivation behind Disney’s creation of “Walt of the at a time when the may have seemed like ancient history to him, mainly as the was released just after the end of . was an overly optimistic man … He looked for the positive in everything, whether it was a European folk tale or an American about the post-Civil . And a lot of people hated that about him.”
Though Norman believes there was no malice behind of the , it remains unlikely that we’ll ever see the rereleased in the United States, whether in theaters, on home video, or via streaming.
What do you think of Floyd Norman’s comments onof the ? Let us know below.