Disney VFX Supervisor Marlon West Organizes “A Great Day in Animation” Photo of Black Professionals
The iconic “A Great Day in Harlem” photograph of 57 jazz musicians taken by Art Kane in 1958 was the inspiration for the recently recreated “A Great Day in Animation” photo of 54 Black professionals in animation.
The homage was the brainchild of Disney visual effects supervisor Marlon West, and was taken just a few weeks ago by Randy Shropshire with Jeff Vespa as production lead.
To quote variety.com:
For decades, West has been moved by “A Great Day in Harlem,” as well as Jean Bach’s Oscar-nominated film of the same name, which documents how the photo came to be.
“I’ve had a framed copy of that photo in my office or somewhere for 30 years,” West tells Variety. “And I thought it would be cool to do the same thing with Black animators.”
Aided by his friends and colleagues Bruce Smith, Peter Ramsey and Everett Downing Jr., West began putting together a list of animation professionals to include, aiming for legends like Floyd Norman, whose work on 1959’s “Sleeping Beauty” made him Disney’s first-ever Black animator, and his close collaborator Leo D. Sullivan.
In the original photo, Coleman Hawkins is standing front and center. He was one of the elders of those folks,” West explains. “I just envisioned Floyd Norman standing in Coleman Hawkins’ spot, and all of us radiating out from him, and Leo Sullivan and other grandmasters who have upped the game.”
It was also important to West to invite up-and-comers such as Latoya Raveneau, who recently directed “The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder” and Chrystin Garland, a background painter and designer on series like “Solar Opposites.”
“If people look at this photo 10 or 20 years from now, [I hope] they’re like, ‘There’s so-and-so when they were just starting out!” West says.
(2022 photo: Pictured above: Aaron Spurgeon, Abelle Hayford, Ayo Davis, Breana Williams, Brie E Henderson, Bruce W. Smith, Camille Eden, Carole Holliday, Chris Copeland, Chrystin Garland, Constance Allen, Deborah Anderson, Devin Crane, Eric, Ramsey, Everett Downing Jr., Floyd Norman, Frank Abney, Jay Francis, Justin Copeland, Kaela Lash, Kai Akira, Karen Toliver, Kelley Gardner, Kemp Powers, Kenny Thompkins, Kwesi Davis, Latoya Raveneau, Layron DeJarnette, Lennie Graves, Lenord Robinson, Leo D. Sullivan, Leo Sullivan Jr., Lyndon Barrois Jr., Lynne Southerland, Maimuna Venzant, Marcella Brown, Marlon West, Marshall Toomey, Morenike Dosu, Peter Ramsey, Pixote Hunt, Ralph Farquhar, Reginald Hudlin, Robert Tyler, Ron Husband, Ron Myrick, Shabrayia Cleaver, Shari B. Ellis, Shavonne Cherry, Shay Stone, Sidney Clifton, Swinton Scott, Tara Nicole Whitaker, Tyree Dillihay, Umaimah Damakka)