Disney Animator comments on the Wren's Nest and "Song of the South"
The Wren’s Nest had the honor of bringing Mr. Floyd Norman and his wife Adrienne to Atlanta this past week. Mr. Norman was the first African American animator at Disney and worked alongside Walt Disney himself. During his time in Atlanta this week, Mr. Norman gave talks at Auburn Avenue Research Library and Emory University, and was interviewed on CNN Morning Express with Natasha Curry. He and his wife also spent a great deal of time exploring the Wren’s Nest and listening to our storytellers. Many thoughtful and engaging conversations were shared between Mr. and Mrs. Norman and the Wren’s Nest staff and Board members. The film “Song of the South” was among the hot topics discussed. Since his return to his home in California, Floyd Norman has written a couple of blog posts inspired by his experience in Atlanta with the Wren’s Nest, which he called “enlightening”.
“I’ve just returned from a wonderful trip to Atlanta Georgia. It has easily been fifty years since last visiting the city and boy, how things have changed. Yet, Atlanta remains a beautiful city with a marvelous blending of the old and the new. The historic and the contemporary. It’s a city I never really knew, and yet it feels so much like home.
Adrienne and I were the guests of the good folks at The Wren’s Nest. The Wren’s Nest is the historic home of author, Joel Chandler Harris. And, Harris is a name I know well after having seen “Song of the South” and written a few Uncle Remus, Brer Rabbit stories myself. Of course, in recent years the stories of Joel Chandler Harris and the Walt Disney film, “Song of the South” in particular have become the stuff of controversy. I wanted to do my part in hopefully shedding some much needed light on a subject that has sadly become a racially motivated hot button topic. I’ll be writing more about this in future posts, but for now I can only say my visit to Atlanta and the home of Joel Chandler Harris was most enlightening.
Walt Disney’s Song of the South has been sitting on the shelf since the early seventies when the wonderful movie was given it’s last limited release. Since that time, it’s been a hand’s off property because the Walt Disney Company, like most corporations, being risk averse, wanted little to do with it. Why take the chance of stirring up controversy when you can simply avoid it. Sadly, “avoiding controversy” has denied generations of Disney fans access to this famous Disney classic. It’s actually encouraged “bootleg” editions or the seeking of foreign language copies where apparently the rest of the world can deal with the South and the subject of slavery.
Having no corporate agenda, I’m able to speak freely on the subject. I’ve written Uncle Remus stories myself and worked side by side with Walt Disney in years past. Back in the forties as the Disney studio struggled to survive, The Old Maestro had no intention of doing anything other than creating great entertainment. Some may call it corny or simple minded as Walt reflected on his childhood in other films as well. “So Dear to my Heart” was another motion picture that tells the story of an America long forgotten. Walt may have been somewhat naive when dealing with the post Civil War American South. However, Disney was a storyteller, not a historian.
I’ll be dealing with this “controversial issue” in future posts. In the meantime, I’m still reeling from my Atlanta visit last week. I’m still smiling from the generous hospitality along with the energy and vitality of a South I really didn’t know until this visit.
Thank you, one and all. And, thank you for the best biscuits and grits I’ve ever eaten.”
Thank you, Mr. Norman, for gracing the Wren’s Nest with your presence and for sharing your thoughts. We are also very pleased that you liked our biscuits and grits, which are, in fact, the best.
Read more by Mr. Floyd Norman on his blog: http://floydnormancom.squarespace.com/