Disney Legend, Floyd Norman talks about his work on “The Jungle Book”

Animator, Floyd Norman was named a Disney Legend in 2007. His first feature for Disney’s “Sleeping Beauty”. He worked under Walt’s personal supervision on story sequences for “The Jungle Book”. In 1997, Norman moved to Pixar Animation Studios where he joined the story crew for “Toy Story 2” and “Monsters, Inc.”. He continues to work for The Walt Disney Co. as a freelance consultant on various projects. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Floyd about “The Jungle Book” and working personally with Walt Disney.

Mike Gencarelli: Tell us what it is like to see a film like “The Jungle Book” restored and presented on high definition Blu-ray?
Floyd Norman: It is delightful to know that people still appreciate this film. It continues to amaze us that worked on it nearly 50 years ago that it is still loved by audiences. It seems to have a life of its own and I love that.

MG: Have you seen it yet and if so how do you feel it looks having worked on it?
FN: I do not really see that much of a difference. I know that the film looks clean and pristine. The guys who did the restoration have done a terrific job, so no complaints there.

MG: You worked under Walt Disney’s personal supervision on story sequences including the song “Trust in Me”, tell us about that process?
FN: It was very simple [laughs]. In a way it was simple, yet also very complex. When I began working on this particular sequence, I was handed some rough notes from Larry Clemmons, who was credited on the film for the story. I called him our writer because he has an actual typewriter and that made him a real writer [laughs]. So he wrote me notes about the sequence and for this one it was going to be Mowgli’s meeting with Kaa the Snake. So that is pretty much all I got. We were told that Kaa was going to try and hypnotize him and then funny stuff would happen. So that is what I had to go with “funny stuff was going to happen”. I had to come up with that “funny stuff”. So like I said in one sense it was a very simple job as well as being very complex because we had to figure out what was that funny stuff and how was it going to happen. They just kind of turned you loose and let you do your job.

MG: How long did a scene like that take to complete?
FN: It is difficult to remember. I would say a few weeks, maybe three weeks to completely storyboard that sequence. That was considered normal during that time. I had no real rush because Walt Disney was either in Europe or working on other matters and wasn’t able to review it right away. So I definitely had amble time to work on it.

MG: Did you find that working directly with Walt Disney did you have any creative freedom or did you follow a set path?
FN: Oh no, I found that I had a good deal of creative freedom. Surprisingly more than I ever realized. I initially came in expecting to be told exactly want to do and that was not the case at all. I came in and they said “Here is the sequence and just go do it” [laughs]. So given very little guidance or direction, I just went off and did what I had to do. The good news was that whatever I did, they seemed to like it [laughs]. The main thing, and the most critical, was that Walt liked it. So as long as Walt likes it you are safe [laughs].

MG: Can you compare your work on “The Jungle Book” to some of your other earlier films including “Sleeping Beauty”, “The Sword in the Stone” and “Robin Hood”?
FN: It was actually totally different because on those films, I was actually working on the animation. For “Robin Hood”, I was an animator and didn’t do any storyboard work at all. It was just animation. Having said that, I feel that the story in “Robin Hood” was pretty terrible [laughs]. I can afford to say that because I didn’t story work on “Robin Hood” [laughs]. But I did have a lot to fun animating it. I worked on animation also with “The Sword in the Stone”. The cool thing about that project was that I got to work personally with Milt Kahl, who was acknowledged as being one of the finest Disney animators of all-time. Milt is a giant in the world of animation, so that was a big deal for me. I was still a kid when I worked with Milt; I was only in my 20’s. Milt was a tough guy but it was such a great experience.

MG: Unlike some animators you embraced the digital age by working at Pixar and definitely software for animation; tell how you feel animation has changed?
FN: Oh, there is no doubt that animation has changed. Once again, following in Walt’s philosophy, “You have to embrace change, not run from it”. When I saw what Pixar was doing, I thought that I had to work for these guys. So when the opportunity came for me to go to Pixar in 1997, I was ready to pack up and go. Not everybody was, mind you, Pixar was at that time not a well-known studio. They only had made one film, which was “Toy Story”. I think that you have to move forward as Walt believed “Don’t fight technology. Embrace it and learn how to use it”. That is what Pixar did and they are continuing to do that. Certainly that would have been what Walt would have done as well.

MG: Do you still do any animation for Disney today?
FN: No animation. But I have worked on Disney storybooks from time to time. As I have time I work on Disney projects. Generally, I wait for them to call me. I don’t go looking but every now and then someone will call me. I had the opportunity to work on an electronic device that they were developing. I asked one of the Vice President’s how did they get my name and they said “John Lasseter recommended you”. I do not think that you can do any better than that getting a recommendation from John Lasseter [laughs].

Book Review “The Sun’s Coming Up… Like A Big Bald Head” by Norman Reedus

Photographs by: Norman Reedus
“The Sun’s Coming Up… Like A Big Bald Head”
Hardcover Limited Edition
Release Date: October 31, 2013

Our Score: 4 out of 5 stars

Who doesn’t love Norman Reedus right now? The guy already had a huge cult following from his work on “The Boondock Saints” films, then he went and did a little show called “The Walking Dead”. Now he is a fan favorite on the show and has a much larger worldwide following. What people might not know about Reedus is that besides just being an actor, he is also a director and a photographer.

When I interviewed Reedus (before his “The Walking Dead” fandom) back in 2010 and he went into detail on his work with with photography, paintings and sculptures. Shortly after that I went through his work, some of which is also included now in this book, and really enjoyed it. His work is very impressive and also quite unique but if you know Reedus then you see catch on to his vision throughout it. I have to admit, I am not an art critic. I do not have an artistic eye. But I would like to think that I have a pretty decent appreciation for photography and art.

“The Sun’s Coming Up… Like A Big Bald Head” comes in a very sharp looking limited-edition collector’s volume hardcover book. The photographs by Norman Reedus are very artistic and takes on anhauntingly intimate journey through the dark and sublime.” The journey through this book is definitely dark and quite out there but also very effective. Some of the images left me a little taken back and yet still couldn’t take my eyes of them. Some are very high quality and some are low quality, which is all done on purpose encompass his artistic goal.

This book is going to have a prominent place on our coffee table since I think it will be a great conversation piece for sure. In the back of the book there is a sort of index of all the images with a title for each and where they were taken. After looking through the book once I was immediately compelled to take a second deeper look and reference the back index for each photo. Overall a very strange yet interesting trip and I look forward to spreading the word. Highly recommend for any fan of photography and art…and of course fan of Norman Reedus.


Related Content

Interview with Norman Greenbaum

Norman Greenbaum is a singer/songwriter known for the classic rock staple “Spirit in the Sky”. Media Mikes had a chance to talk with Norman about the longevity of the song and his recent reemergence into the music scene.

Adam Lawton: What do you think keeps people listening to your song “Spirit in the Sky” some 40 years after its initial recording?
Norman Greenbaum: I truly believe it’s the beginning riff. That riff goes through you and stays with you. When you hear it you remember how much you liked the song when you originally heard it. The song hasn’t become tiresome like a lot of other older songs. Not to be too critical of myself but I think a lot of the older records sound a little empty and tinny. We recorded “Spirit in the Sky” on two inch tape with a machine that was bigger than your family. We used ancient microphones which I think had to do a lot with the sound of the song. Erik Jacobsen the producer did a wonderful job. I was there with a few little hints and the song really stands up. It still sends shivers down my spine and I wrote it. I also think that as people have gotten older the song has taken on more significance. I receive a lot of mail through my website where people are telling me about how they want the song played at their funeral no matter what! The song has also appeared in 48 different films. All of this amazes me and it just seems to be getting better.

AL: Are you still contacted when someone requests to use the song?
NG: Yes. Every place where it is used there is a network that has someone contact the publisher. In this particular case the same person who owns the rights to the song also owns the master recording as well.

AL: Can you tell us about the song appearing on the “Rock Band 2” video game?
NG: They approached us and I wouldn’t be surprised if a million other people hadn’t contacted them about including the song. They told us they were going to put the song out on the game and that thing has sold billions. I get a lot of good stories through my email and some of them are about how families are getting together and playing the song on “Rock Band”. The song has just taken on all these different lives and it really is so unexpected.

AL: Have you ever played the video game version of the song?
NG: I have not. I think I may have gone into a Sam’s Club once and tried the original version of the game that was on display. I tried to play along and just felt stupid because of all the kids watching. (Laughs)

AL: Can you tell us about the recent updates to your website?
NG: I have had a website for around 13 years. It was slightly stale and had some ramblings here and there. I had it redone and it looks a lot more modern. The site is a lot easier to navigate now. We also updated the store where we sell all the merchandise and music. There is a lot more to see and do on the site now. You can also play the sort of infamous Norman Goat game. (Laughs) My cat Oliver who people seem to love just as much as me also has a ton of photos on there.

AL: Can you tell us about your upcoming live performance?
NG: I have been getting back into playing lately. For awhile my heart just wasn’t in to performing. Now seems to be the right time to try and do some things. We are having somewhat of a reunion.  The Stovall Sisters who performed the original background vocals on the record will be joining me for three songs. We are part of someone else’s show but it’s a starting point. We had a rehearsal with the girls and it was like time never passed. We had a few more wrinkles and such but we sounded good.

AL: Do you have any other upcoming projects or plans you can tell us about?
NG: This show is going to be a slight gauge to see how well things go over. People really want to hear “Spirit in the Sky” and other songs by me right now! Something has changed but I don’t know what. It seems that it’s a good time to be looking into things. I am taking things one step at a time. In the back of my mind I am going over how I can go about doing everything. This upcoming show is going to be one of the major steps.