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AcademicNearly 70% of America's kids read below grade level. I am Dr. Michael Colvard and I teamed up a producer from The Simpsons to build a game to help. AMA!

Aug 30th 2016 by Pupsquest • 11 Questions • 5033 Points

Floyd Norman is an animator, storyman, and troublemaker. But more importantly he is an official Disney Legend, honored by the company in 2007 with this title. Norman is the first Black artist at Disney, and has had a storied career working on Disney classics, as well as famed Saturday-morning cartoons, Pixar feature films, and more. At 81 years old, Norman is the focus of a new feature documentary out in theaters starting this Friday August 26th. "Floyd Norman: An Animated Life", reveals how Norman continues to impact animation and stir up "trouble" after the company forced him to retire at age 65. It's a tale of perseverance, and a love letter to the history of animation, as seen through the life of a one-of-a-kind man. Check out the trailer at www.FloydNormanMovie.com, and connect with us on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/FloydNormanDocumentary.

Filmmaker Michael Fiore owns and operates Michael Fiore Films; a boutique production company that develops, finances, and creates high-concept filmed content for the best-of-the-best in the Film, TV, and Ad worlds. Fiore has worked as a writer/director and producer/editor for industry notables like Joel Silver (Prod. "The Matrix"), Jonathan Liebesman (Dir. "TNMT"), and Tom DiCillo (Dir. "Living in Oblivion") among others. Fiore has another movie coming out later this year, in December, titled "Keep Watching" from Sony Screen Gems. That film stars Bella Thorne and "Walking Dead" star Chandler Riggs.

Filmmaker Erik Sharkey is no stranger to the world of documentary. Sharkey's last feature documentary "Drew: The Man Behind the Poster" follows the creative endeavors of the legendary movie poster artist Drew Struzan. Prior to that documentary, Sharkey had directed a fun comedy titled "Sexina" starring the original Batman, Adam West. Sharkey is a born-and-bred New Yorker, with the accent to prove it!

https://www.facebook.com/FloydNormanDocumentary/photos/a.508279402712027.1073741828.508254702714497/580983308774969/?type=3&theater

Q:

Educator here, and I was just curious as to what kind of data you've been able to collect about how successful this approach has been for those students using your system? Have you seen a large jump in their lexile scores using this system vs the "traditional" method?

As someone in the classroom, I can tell you the gamification of course work makes learning a lot more fun for our students, so I'd like to say thanks for spicing up the classroom!

A:

Wow, Atlantis: The Lost Empire* is one of my most favorite movies of all time!

Is anything about the movie that most people don't know about?


Q:

[deleted]

A:

Thank you so much for the time you take to teach our children. We have been using our product in 40 schools. Our approach to phonics has been successful both in schools where the majority of the children come from non-English speaking homes, as well as, from more affluent backgrounds. Our data shows that children who enter the class in the lower 50 percentile of age-matched readers, are in the top 50 percentile after using Phoneme farms for 1 year. Additionally, children who are already in the upper 50 percentile, are in the top 25% after using phoneme farms for the year. Thank you again for your work.


Q:

It was a high concept film starting with the single image of the glowing Kida floating above the water

A:

I was the first black artist to work at Disney simply because I applied for the job and was able to qualify. Nobody was being kept out. If you were talented and ready to work, that was what mattered. Not the color of your skin. Keep in mind, Walt Disney Productions had minorities working at the studio as far back as the thirties. I know. I met a number of those artists during my career.


Q:

Our data shows that children who enter the class in the lower 50 percentile of age-matched readers, are in the top 50 percentile after using Phoneme farms for 1 year. Additionally, children who are already in the upper 50 percentile, are in the top 25% after using phoneme farms for the year.

All of them?

A:

This image obsessed me when I was like 9 years old. Good job.


Q:

What kind of storytelling advice did you learn from Walt Disney when you worked for him? I always got the impression that when it came to gags, Walt always stressed motivation and context--is that true?

A:

Thank you for asking for clarification. Overall, 65% of children were in the lower 50th percentile upon entering the class. After the completion of 35 lessons only 22% were left in the bottom 50th percentile, while 78% were in the upper 50th percentile. Additionally, 3% of readers entered the class at or above the 90th percentile, upon completion of the lessons that number grew to 40%.


A:

Walt Disney was a great gag man. He loved gags. His daughter, Diane Disney Miller told me that. To the best of my knowledge, Walt never analyzed gags. Not in front of me anyway. He knew I was a gagster. He knew I did funny stuff. I never analyze why stuff is funny...it just is. Sure, I guess motivation and context are important. I'm sure it plays a part in the way I craft a gag.


Q:

Wow those are really good numbers! Out of curiosity, are these schools located? Nationwide? East coast? West coast?

Also are there plans to try and develop higher level material? I work with 9-12th grade and I know we have some low lexile students that could benefit from something like this.

A:

What is the most difficult to animate? Human body? Animals? Weather event?


Q:

Also how does Disney come up with the elaborate ideas for their movies ?

A:

Currently, these are all Los Angeles based schools. However, we are attempting to move forward on a national level.


Q:

I find both human and animals difficult because we all know how they should move, making it easy to recognize when it's wrong.

A:

Well, there's a wealth of stories out there. existing material and room for new ideas. Looking for stories is fairly easy. There's just so much stuff out there.


Q:

Any plan for Android? Thank you for your work.

A:

Considering animals and humans are so difficult to animate what would some advice (asides the 12 principles) be when animating such characters?


Q:

Hi Mr. Floyd, what is the best thing a director can do for you?

:~)

A:

Good morning! I am so glad you asked that question. We are currently working on it for Android systems as well. It will be ready in the near future.


Q:

It's all about observations. Shooting a lot of video reference

A:

A good director must have a point of view. I hate working for directors who can't tell me what they want. If they don't know the story they're telling... how the heck can I know? I can't read their mind. A good director must have a vision and the skills to articulate that vision.


Q:

Please release it on the Amazon App Store and mark it as a "FreeTime" educational app!

A:

What day to day software do you use now? Animate? Toon Boom? Other?


Q:

What are you opinions on industry progression? Computer based animation?

A:

That is a fantastic idea! I will speak to our IT team.


Q:

Maya is all I use now

A:

The industry will continue to evolve. It always has... and probably always will. The art will improve and the technology will continue to improve. The the past few years we've made impressive strides in technology. A bit too much, in my opinion. I'd like more of a focus on art and hand drawn animation. I'm afraid we've become a little to focused on technology today. I love technology, but it's not an end all be all. I'd like to see animated films created. Today, too many animated films are manufactured.


Q:

If your goal is to impact as many children as possible make it platform agnostic. Convert it to the web and then any developer can make a wrapper (app) for any device from phones and tablets to computers. It will also cost far less than creating apps for each platform.

A:

You only do 3d or you use maya for 2d animation?


Q:

In another reply in the thread, Erik mentioned that you helped put the story together for the original Jungle Book. How often did you have a hand in the story as well as the animation?

Michael, are you the guy in the reverse cotton candy eating gif?

Really looking forward to the film guys!

A:

I completely agree and that is our plan! Thanks for the tip.


Q:

It's all for 3d

A:

I was lucky to have been a part of the story team on The Jungle Book. Oddly enough it was a job I didn't want. I wanted to be an animator. However, once I got a taste of story I never wanted to give it up. Making an animated film is a team effort. I was lucky to have been part of Walt's guys. I don't regard my contribution as anything more special than the rest of our team.


Q:

Good morning, have you read the research behind 30 Million Words? How could/did this impact your game and do you see yourself folding this extremely important research into your methods?

Edit: Honestly it seems to me that we have an epidemic of parents not interacting and communicating enough with their children starting at birth, which is driving your statistics here about childhood reading levels.

A:

Is there much difference between Maya and Max for animation?


Q:

What is your favourite part of The Jungle Book?

A:

This is a terrific question and should be addressed! As you suggest, studies demonstrate the critical importance of early language acquisition are abundant. Children from impoverished backgrounds can enter kindergarten having heard as many as 32 million fewer words than children from middle or upper class environments. Furthermore, children from underprivileged backgrounds tend to know and use half as many words as more advantaged children by the age of 3. These chilling observations expose the unsettling reality of what has been described as word poverty. This underscores the importance of reaching children from impoverished backgrounds as early in life as possible. This is a very strong argument for preschool programs which emphasize the acquisition of language skills. We created phoneme farm to help children improve language skills by teaching them how to identify individual sounds within words. This is the best possible preparation for a young reader. As Maryanne Wolf, director of center for reading and language research at Tufts University, has stated "the sheer evidence showing the efficacy of phoneme awareness and explicit instruction in decoding for early reading skills could fill a library wall."


Q:

Just different controls mostly. But I haven't used max in a long time so I'm sure there's more to it

A:

Probably the stuff with Mowgli and Kaa. I guess because Vance Gerry and I came up with all the funny business. I also liked the scenes we did with Kaa and Sher Kahn. Really cool stuff.


Q:

Are you aware you accidentally a word in the post title? How does that reflect on literacy in general?

A:

Hi! Happy Saturday. I've always assumed the voice actors record their part first then the animators sync the animation to the voice. Is that correct?


Q:

How was Walt Disney's management style? Was he a "boss" or a leader?

Was he approachable to even the lower level employees?

A:

Thank you for catching that lol! A friend of mine is helping with this and he left that out. I need to get him on phoneme farms!!! thanks! :)


Q:

Yes, we always animate to audio

A:

I would say, think of Walt Disney in much you'd think of Steve Jobs at Apple. Steve was the face of Apple. He was the visionary, the boss and the leader. Walt Disney was much the same. I would also add that unlike many bosses today, Walt was always approachable. And, I mean to anyone. It didn't matter how "high" or "low" you were. Disney treated everyone with respect. I think that's why the man was so admired by those who knew him. It would appear Walt Disney's toughest critics happen to be those who never even met him.


Q:

Serious question, even though it sounds silly:

If "nearly 70% of kids read below grade level", then wouldn't that suggest that "grade level" is incorrectly assessed? There is no objective level at which a fourth grader should be able to read, is there? Surely what defines a "fourth grade level" is simply a measure of relative ability against one's peers.

To me, this sounds a bit like saying "70% of people are above the median height."

A:

But the storyboards come first so that the voice actors know the general direction and flow of the scene, right?


Q:

Growing up, did you always want to be an artist/animator or did you have other aspirations?

A:

It doesn't sound silly at all, it is a very good question. The national assessment of reading progress is conducted by the US department of education, the statistics we have quoted regarding reading levels comes from data generated by these studies. Levels of reading proficiency are established by US department of education. Many states in the US have attempted to improve their low reading stats by simply lowering the bar of what is expected.


Q:

Exactly

A:

Yeah, I guess it's kinda crazy but I've always wanted to be an artist. I knew this even when I was a little kid. I wanted to be a musician but I knew I wasn't good enough. Anyway, I had other aspirations, but I settled on art. Not a bad choice.


Q:

Did you do any research into the "Reading Recovery" program when building the game? My mother's a reading teacher and it's apparently a pretty effective way to get first graders back on track (although it requires special teacher training and one-on-one attention).

A:

What did you do/use to practice animating, especially since the bio from your link stated that you had no formal training and you were able to meet someone who led you to this?


Q:

Hello Floyd, you worked for two global pioneers: Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. In what ways were they alike and in what ways were they different?

A:

Yes. I am very familiar with this program and I laud this effort. Children who are falling behind in reading education, I believe, should be treated as a child with special needs and all focus should be on fostering their reading skills.


Q:

I was given copied key poses to inbetween on a homemade desk. This was the entry level 2d position that got my foot in the door. always watch motion. How people walk, run etc. Whether live or on film. Sketches help as well to capture poses

A:

Well, they were two men from different generations so they were different in that way. However, they were the same in many other aspects. Both were highly confident and both knew exactly what they wanted. They were often called difficult but that's because they demanded perfection. In my book, there's nothing wrong with that.


Q:

What would be your recommendation to best help my future child to succeed at reading? Using the Phoneme Farm method seems like an improvement over the whole word method, but should I 'force' them to read more when they are younger.

Also, does it matter the type of book they read? Or just make sure it is at an appropriate level for their current reading ability.

A:

How different is animating for games vs films (if at all)?


Q:

Hey Mr. Norman. What are your thoughts regarding Disney for waiting so many years to finally decided to give their audiences an African American female cartoon character: Tiana?

A:

You are completely right that the poorest way to teach a child to read is to begin by teaching them to memorize words. Teaching children the sounds of English language called phonemes will allow them to recognize sounds and words, to blend sounds and to segment the sounds to make words. The best thing to do as a parent is to spend a great deal of time reading to them and sit with them as they work on reading. It does not matter at all what type of books you start with you simply want to create a literate environment. Thank you for your question.


Q:

Game animation needs no anticipation for attacks or running. This allows it to be more responsive

A:

Well, there's been much talk about this subject. I'm just glad that Disney finally got around to having a black princess. It's much the way we felt about a Chinese Princess when I was working on the film, "Mulan." Yes, sometimes it takes a while before Hollywood catches up with the rest of society. The good news is, it eventually happens. I'm delighted that Disney decided to give us, Tiana. I'm just sorry it took so long to become a reality.


Q:

Have you ever worked with blender? If so, how does it fare with maya and how often do you use it?

A:

I've never used it. I went straight from 2d to Maya


Q:

how do you feel about big-name movie actors doing voice work and taking voice actors' jobs?

A:

It's a shame when studios only want the big name actors because it looks good on a poster. But they're in it to make money so I understand the business reason


Q:

How would you recommend getting into the gaming industry? I'm more of a coder, but I would love to learn animation.

Also what's your favorite animated movie? Why?

A:

Check some of my answers below if you don't mind. I'm pretty lazy to write it all again! :-)


Q:

You should try out rigging! It's a great in between from coding to animation especially if you know Mel and it'll help you understand how the controls work when you begin animating.

A:

See previous answers


Q:

My child has a degree in Animation - loves 2D best and is proficient on Maya. Great artist blah, blah, blah. Why can't she get a job? Is there a secret? You said you had a friend on the inside. Is that what it will take for the newbies?

A:

Knowing someone will always help, no matter what industry you're getting into. I was fortunate to meet someone. Nowadays you can meet professionals on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn etc to show your work. If it's good someone will take notice, connect with you and help you when you apply. But the bottom line is the work has to be good. You also need to be willing to learn. Being able to toss out pieces from your reel if suggested. 2d jobs are almost non-existent sadly, I'd focus on getting good in Maya


Q:

Thank you for the quick reply. She needs to beef up that Demo reel.

A:

Makes all the difference in the world


Q:

Holy cow, I always thought that The Prince of Egypt was beautifully animated. My sister and I love it. Amazing to think that I could say this to someone that had a hand in bringing the characters to life.

A:

Thanks, that's very cool of you


Q:

Don't really have a question, sorry. I just wanted to say that I love the prince of Egypt. One of my absolute favorites as a kid. Thank you, very much for what you do. Please continue to be awesome c:

A:

Thank you!


Q:

Hm... What are the types of positions aspiring 2D/3D animators should be looking at if they're interested in getting into game art?

A:

Game development has many disciplines. Concept art, modeling, rigging, animation, FX, level design, environments. It's important to pick one and get really good at it. General knowledge of each is only good for small studios. Everywhere else will want you to only do one.


Q:

Thanks for the answer. I'm really only interested in working in a smaller environment and on personal development projects, so I'd better get cracking on those multiple disciplines...! Haha...

A:

Good idea! Good luck!


Q:

Hello :)

I have a few questions, if you don't mind.

  1. What do you prefer to work on: movies or games?
  2. What is one piece of tech (software or hardware) that has made a significant impact on your design/workload?
  3. The Witcher 3 or Dragon Age: Inquisition?

Thank you!

EDIT: Some spelling errors, etc.

A:
  1. I enjoy the creative input of games
  2. Learning Maya saved my career when everything transitioned to CG
  3. I'm not familiar with either but have heard great things about Witcher, I'm looking to get it

Q:

What is your ultimate advice to an aspiring animator?

A:

If I had to do it all over today and just wanted to animate, I'd enroll in an online class. (AnimationMentor, iAnimate, Animschool etc) They're focused on animation alone, taught by professionals, you make great connections.


Q:

Is there rivalry between the character animators, the fx animators, the background animators, etc?

A:

None whatsoever. We all depend on each other to make our own work look good


Q:

you sound like a bit of a character, wanna beer?

A:

It's too early. Maybe cheerios :-)


Q:

Walt would have had a beer.

A:

No doubt


Q:

What do you think of the need of Higher education to get into digital arts related work? More and more people, be it for games or other media, start and learn by themselves, do you think a degree is that helpful for these fields of work?

A:

I can't speak for other disciplines, but for straight character animation, it comes down to what you can do. The degree is secondary. You can learn animation entirely on your own, make an awesome demo reel and land a job. It all depends on how well you animate.


Q:

So, which project was your favourite?

A:

For nostalgic reasons, my first project, The Prince of Egypt.


Q:

Do you do your own rigging, or you get everything ready for animation. Is there a rigging standard? What were your expectations before coming to animation, what were you right, and what we're you wrong about?

A:

Having only worked for large studios I've never had to do my own rigging. Departments are so specialized, they only want you to focus on one discipline.


Q:

Now that maya is a part of Autodesk, do you have a look on others products of the firm? If yes in which way it helps you to do your works?

A:

Not really. It's all maya for the most part


Q:

Animation student here.

1) How is the job market in the animation industry these days? I've heard some pretty grim things.

2) Do I need to go to CalArts or somewhere nearly as prestigious to be able to make a living in character animation?

A:

There's a lot of ups and downs. Staff jobs can be difficult to land . It's mostly contract work. But if you're good, you can always find something. No, CalArts is not required, a good demo reel is


Q:

Do you know of any free sites/video series for learning Maya? You know, something comprehensive and effective.

A:

I believe Autodesk offers a free student edition


Q:

I've heard about a number studios closing or moving out of the country over the past five years, which is worrying, but it's hard to tell what the state of things are from the outside. As an insider, what's your opinion of the current state of the industry?

A:

Things are always changing. Studios close, new ones open. I've managed to stay employed for the last 19 years, but there have been plenty of layoffs in between


Q:

Hi, you've done a lot of work that I have admired when I was young, Shark tale and Spyro especially!

I am currently studying animation (game and film) and love using 3DSmax and have been tempted to move over to Maya as I have heard most successful companies use Maya over max. I have been assured that there are jobs for max workers, but am unconvinced. Would learning Maya be beneficial?

Also, what do you think about the current speculation over the animators working conditions for 'Sausage Party'?

I hope you can answer :)

A:

Thanks. I'd say Maya is much more common when looking for work. Long working hours happens a lot unfortunately. It's not until artists speak up that it gets any attention


Q:

Whaaaat?! You animated The Emperor's New Groove? Did you meet David Spade and John Goodman?

A:

I never did. You'd see them around the studio occasionally


Q:

Prince of Egypt is one of my favorite movies. Any helpful tips for an aspiring animator?

A:

Thanks! Check out my previous answers for aspiring animators


Q:

Do you ever read a script or know about the story in advance, or are you animating "blind"? Thank you for your work!

A:

For the sake of context in your work, you usually have the script beforehand


Q:

When you were a kid, what were the things you liked to draw and what were the things you could never get right?

For me: I loved Super Heroes, Battle Scenes, Fantasy Genre.

I could never draw a horse that looked good for some reason. (I'm 40 and this came to my mind instantly.)

A:

I loved drawing Johnny Soko's Giant Robot! Drawing hands are still a challenge for me


Q:

As a potential animator getting through school right now in a location that probably doesn't have the most career options for this line of work. Where would you say globally is a hot spot to go to ease a young paranoid mind?

A:

Los Angeles


Q:

What role does a Script Supervisor play in animated films? And is it during development or post production?

A:

I don't have an educated answer for that one, sorry


Q:

My second cousin animated the Chief in El Dorado and the old Pharaoh in Prince of Egypt so my mom tells me, who did you animate in these films and what do you find most difficult as an animator?

A:

El Dorado I was on the Tulio team POE was Moses. As an assistant animator for both the most difficult thing was maintaining volumes, keeping the characters solid


Q:

Could we see your current demo reel? Also when making a demo reel how big of a role does the soundtrack to a demo reel play?


Q:

What was your favorite project and why is it emperor's new groove?

A:

Groove is still so funny!


Q:

I'm currently watching The Emperor's New Groove so I love that you posted today! I've always thought this movie was so under-appreciated, and actually has some of my favorite character animation.

I know you animate to the voices, so I'm wondering the difference a good voice performance makes. As in, have there been certain performances that have provided you with more "inspiration" or were more rewarding to animate? I hope this question makes sense!

A:

It's all about performance. When you hear a great dialogue your mind starts thinking of all kinds of cool ideas!


Q:

do you think a character animator has to have CG animating skills in order to survive in the industry?

A:

Absolutely. Sadly, There's just not enough 2d to make a living


Q:

You've had some amazing experiences from what I can tell! So far which ones have been your favorites and why? Are there any future projects you're excited about? :D

Also, I'm pretty good at doing voices, any idea where one can look for a job in that department?

A:

I love Prince of Egypt and Emperors New Groove. Nothing coming up that I can discuss yet. I'm not sure about voice acting, sorry


Q:

How useful have you found scripting in your career? I'm am animation student and I'm starting to get into scripting (mainly MEL, but everyone suggests python).

A:

They like to keep me away from scripting! Don't want to break anything. I don't know anything about it, sorry


Q:

Are there any particular trends in animation that you're liking/disliking at the moment?

What's your take on the increase in mocap and how that intersects with work that animators would traditionally do?

A:

The short term contract work gets old. Studios hire 15 or more FX houses to do a film in just a couple months. I understand the need for mocap, especially for realistic humans. Gets stuff done so fast


Q:

I don't know if you worked on it but I always found Eris hair in Sinbad to be beautifully animated. Is it because they put a lot of time and care for this part especially ?

A:

Exactly. As quoted in Toy Story 2, "you can't rush art!"