Hudlin Entertainment

A Great Day in Animation

I’ve done a lot of animated projects over the years – BEBE’S KIDS, the first African American animated feature film, BOONDOCKS, the BLACK PANTHER animated series, PAWS OF FURY (coming out this summer)….so it was nice to be included in this historic photo.

Nickelodeon Recreates Iconic ‘Great Day in Harlem’ Photograph With 54 Black Animation Professionals (EXCLUSIVE)

Selome Hailu | Variety
Randy Shropshire/Nickelodeon Animation/Paramount Animation

In 1958, Esquire published “A Great Day in Harlem,” a photo taken by Art Kane of 57 jazz musicians ranging from Thelonious Monk to Coleman Hawkins gathered together on a New York City stoop. In an homage to that historic picture, on June 5, 2022, Nickelodeon Animation and Paramount Pictures organized “A Great Day in Animation,” which features 54 Black professionals working in animation today. Taken by Randy Shropshire with Jeff Vespa as production lead and obtained exclusively by Variety, the photo is above.

Though Nickelodeon and Paramount put the event together and hosted it on the Paramount backlot, “A Great Day in Animation” includes artists from all across the industry. The idea for the photo came from Marlon West, a visual effects supervisor for Disney whose credits include “The Lion King,” “Encanto” and the upcoming Disney+ series “Iwájú.” 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.”

Left to right: Floyd Norman, Leo D. Sullivan

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.

After scouting around Los Angeles for different locations to take the photo, West was drawn to the New York-style buildings of the Paramount lot. (“And on a personal level, I was sleeping on floors of my friends’ apartments five blocks away from Paramount when I first moved to L.A.,” he adds.) He then reached out to the studio’s animation head Ramsey Naito, who sought the help of Camille Eden, Nickelodeon’s vice president of recruitment, talent development and outreach.

Eden had long been a fan of “A Great Day in Harlem.” “It has been long enough that I can admit this, but when the documentary came out about the photo, I actually skipped work to watch it in the theater,” she tells Variety over email. “When Ramsey Naito called to tell me about the project, I didn’t have to think twice. I immediately called my event manager, Robbie Siron, and let him know about the project. Robbie was on board, and we went for it. From the time Ramsey called, it took about five weeks to pull it all together.”

The day of the photo was emotional for many. For two and a half hours, 54 Black animation professionals (and one director’s child) met for the first time, had long-awaited reunions and shared their stories.

“The first person to show up was Leo Sullivan. He came with his family. He is such a legend, so to see him walking in was big,” Eden recalls. “Little by little, more people showed up, and I remember thinking, ‘This is really happening.’ I wish I could put into words what that felt like to see all this amazing Black talent gathering. Many hadn’t seen each other for years. Many met their idols and heroes in person for the first time.”

“Carole Holliday was there, and for the longest time she was the only Black woman I knew doing animation. I wanted to introduce her to some of these younger sisters, and it was beautiful to be able to do that,” West says. “To see her surrounded by folks who knew of her, or maybe even didn’t know they were standing on her shoulders. I was fighting back my knees knocking, my voice cracking and my eyes welling up.”

Like “A Great Day in Harlem,” “A Great Day in Animation” will stand to remind the industry that there is a wide wealth of Black artists excelling at their craft.

“I think people are going to look at this photo of 60 Black people and go, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that was that many,’ — and that’s a fraction of us,” West says. “In most of my career, I’m either the only brother in the room, or one of the few, and that was the experience of everybody there that day. So I think people are going to be surprised. It was almost [enough artists to staff] a studio standing there.”

“I hope that people interested in animation will see this photo and see several generations of people who look like them being successful and paving the way in animation,” Eden adds. “I hope that studios and executives will see this photo and think of all of the films and projects that each person in the photo had a part of and realize the impact and reach of Black talent in our industry.”

And for the people pictured, West hopes that “A Great Day in Animation” will be a worthy commemoration of a once-in-a-lifetime moment and the special nature of what they do.

“We’re in the business of making things out of thin air,” he says. “What we do does not exist [in advance]. We draw it. We build it. We sculpt it. We paint it.”

Floyd Norman during the “A Great Day in Animation” photo shoot.


Reggie flanked by Bruce Smith, who directed Reggie’s film BEBE’S KIDS and co-created THE PROUD FAMILY; and Floyd Norman, the first Black animator at Disney – watch the documentary on his life!
Reggie and Ralph Farquhar, co-creator of THE PROUD FAMILY

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Every year I make a list of the ten best things I did that year.  I think everyone should do it.  It’s a great way to count your blessings.  I do it with my whole family and we all share our favorite moments with each other.  It’s fun and can surprise you…sometimes you realize a bad year wasn’t as bad as you thought.  And recounting your favorite moments makes focus more on making sure you have more of those in the year to come.

Here’s my list:


Back in 2008 I attended Obama’s inauguration.  It was awesome, and it was freezing!  I was happy to see him re-elected but didn’t feel compelled to freeze again in 2012.  But this year was a whole other thing!  Neither cold weather or threats of domestic terrorists could keep me away from the Biden-Harris administration taking their rightful place and saving our nation. And we had good seats. 

A picture containing text, chair, seat

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Producing the Oscars was awesome.  But producing the Emmys is fun.  It was so much fun last year working with Jimmy Kimmel, and it was so much fun this year working with Cedric The Entertainer.  Here are some clips from the show:


I’m so proud of all the amazing things we have in the works at Milestone Media!  Three comic book series – Static, Icon and Rocket, and Hardware!  

We will double that number to six series next year!

We have two movies in the works – an animated feature and a live action Static feature film!

A giant omnibus reprinting of the classic Milestone books.  

A Black History month special issue like none other!  

Murals featuring our characters on walls across the country!

And more to come!  


I got a phone call from the perfect person to collaborate with on a dream project.  Oprah Winfrey wanted to do a Father’s Day special celebrating every kind of Black Dad.  As a Black Dad, who had an awesome Black Dad, with so many friends who are awesome Black Dads, it was a dream come true.  And if that wasn’t enough, my man Sterling K. Brown is the co-host?  Yes! 


I had so much fun working with Tiffany Haddish and Deon Cole on our weekly talk show FRIDAY NIGHT VIBES!  The range of guests we had on the show was incredible!  


I’ve been producing this show for nine years now and it keeps getting better.  It was also one of the most successful awards shows of the year.


These photos are clues, but they haven’t been officially announced yet.  But you’ll probably see one or two of them next year!


Sometimes you announce a project, but it’s actually been the works for several years.  But even though you finally do an announcement, it still could be years before it is seen!  Here’s MUSCLE with Vin Diesel starring and F. Gary Gray directing, and the documentary NUMBER ONE ON THE CALL SHEET with Jamie Foxx and Kevin Hart producing and me directing. 


People ask me to talk.  A lot.  I get invited to appear on podcasts, give commentary on television shows, talk to people in every kind of school.  Here’s some of the places I talked this year:

Paul Scheer gives me a call and says he wants to interview me in a comic bookstore.  That’s an easy yes for me.  Then I do a second interview talking Black Panther.  So, I’m on two Marvel series this year. Little did I know I would end up as the alias of the Black Panther on the main promotion of the show!  

Cornell Brooks and I know each other from when he headed up the NAACP.  He’s now teaching the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, where I’ve lectured before.  Happy to do it again and the students were great! 

Will Haygood, a major writer, says his alma mater, Miami University, where he teaches, wants to give the Freedom Summer of ’64 Award.  I gladly accept and we have a great time talking with each other and with the audience!


This has been a very tough year for our family.  Even with all the career success, that means nothing in the face of health challenges and death among our family and friends. In tough times like these, family is everything.  Fortunately, I’ve got a great one.  My children are back in classrooms and doing well.  My wife continues to be a pillar of strength, always there for both our immediate family and so many people around us who need a helping hand.  Even the isolation of covid had an unexpected benefit.  My daughter told me that because we were all together at home every day, she finally figured out what I do for a living.  

My takeaway from the year is GRATITUDE.  I’m grateful for every bit of good fortune, every positive element in my life.  I have seen people who have it all lose what is most important to them, nothing is promised. Thank you to everyone this year and throughout my life who has sent any good vibes my way.  They are appreciated.

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