As part of its 100th anniversary, the Wren’s Nest House Museum is hosting legendary Disney animator and storyteller Floyd Norman for two Atlanta events in October.
The Wren’s Nest, the former home of Joel Chandler Harris, was established as Atlanta’s first house museum a century ago funded with contributions from Teddy Roosevelt, Andrew Carnegie and children from Atlanta Public Schools. Harris, a journalist and author, is most famous for recording the African American stories of Brer Rabbit and the other “critters,” as told by his character Uncle Remus. The Wren’s Nest continues to celebrate these tales today, as well as contemporary storytelling, both oral and written.
The Wren’s Nest is hosting Norman, the first African-American animator to work at Disney, with events open to the public Oct. 23 and Oct. 24. Norman’s work is seen in Sleeping Beauty, The Jungle Book and many other animated pieces. Named as a Disney Legend in 2007, Norman more recently published his book, “My Animated Life: A Lifetime of Tips, Tricks, Techniques and Stories from an Animation Legend.”
Norman shares with the Wren’s Nest a love of storytelling and the Brer Rabbit tales. In the 1980s, Norman created a story “A Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Christmas” using, as he put it, “the funny, clever, and outrageous characters from Song of the South.”
“Despite the fact that Song of the South remains a controversial topic, it is my sincere hope that a new generation will enjoy delightful characters including Brer Rabbit, Brer Fox and Brer Bear,” Norman said. “They are wonderful stories and an important part of African-American folklore.”
Clips of the animated stories from Song of the South will be shown and discussed at both events. Norman describes these scenes as “some of the finest cartoon animation to ever come out of the Disney Studios.” In his appearance at the Auburn Avenue Research Library Oct. 23 at 7 p.m. Norman will participate in a conversation with the audience led by Stephane Dunn, co-director of cinema, television and emerging media studies at Morehouse College. At the event co-hosted by the Department of Film and Media Studies at Emory University in 205 White Hall on Oct. 24 at 7:30 p.m., the discussion will be moderated by Eddy Von Mueller. Norman will talk about his almost 50 years as an animation artist and storyteller beginning at a time when African Americans were rare in the field. He will also talk about the future of animation. Norman has said that this is the most exciting time this art form has ever seen.
“We hope that our 100th anniversary and the events featuring Mr. Norman will promote discussion about the timeless appeal of the Brer Rabbit stories and the possibility of Disney revisiting some of the stories compiled by Joel Chandler Harris,” said Sue Gilman, executive director of the Wren’s Nest. “The Wren’s Nest is committed to fostering and advancing storytelling in its many forms and we’re delighted to be able to present Mr. Norman, who is a consummate storyteller, to Atlanta. We’re also most fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Emory and Morehouse and the folks at the Auburn Avenue Research Library on this program.”