July 5, 2011


For the most part the limits of visible black Hollywood have been the singers, the actors, the dancers and comedians, the rappers, the sports players and occasionally the directors.

You don't hear about those black artists who are involved in the technical aspects of film-making. There is no black equivalent, in terms of fame on our cultural landscape of a Stan Winston or Mel Blanc.

I think this continues to be the case, not only because black people in these fields are still relatively rare, but also because these fields don't get much shine, period.

So, here's my attempt to shine a light on some of those black folks behind the scenes who are doing the things that you might not have known that we also do.

These are the names I've known and/or have managed to find with a little research and some lucky surfing and googling. :)

matte painting
Industrial Lights & Magic and WETA
credits include: Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, Fantastic Four, Water Horse, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Narnia: Prince Caspian, 30 Days of Night, Eragon, Happy Feet, The Lovely Bones, and Avatar

storyboard and matte painting
credits include: Romeo + Juliet, One Hour Photo, Everything is Illuminated, Waist Deep, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, Stigmata, Next Friday, and A Single Man

visual effects and animation
credits include: The Lion King, Daredevil, Mulan, Snakes on a Plane, The Road to El Dorado, Pocahontas, Tarzan, Spiderman, X2, I Robot, X-Men: Last Stand, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button 

Best known for designing Belle and Ariel...
credits include: Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure, Animalympics, The Fox and The Hound, Ferngully: The Last Rainforest, The Pagemaster, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, and Toy Story 

Best known for puppetry and/or voicework for Splinter, Sam the Eagle, Clifford and of course, Elmo
voice actor and puppeteer
credits include: The Great Space Coaster,  Sesame Street, The Jim Henson Hour, Muppet Treasure Island, Follow That Bird, Labyrinth, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

clips from the documentary about his life, Being Elmo 

actor, singer, voice actor
best known for Penny (Inspector Gadget), Elmyra (Tiny Toons Adventures), Kida (Atlantis: The Lost Empire), and Foxxy Love (Drawn Together) and just about every 80's and 90's cartoon character you can think of.
video interview about working on Drawn Together

best known for being the first black animator to work at Disney
credits include: Sleeping Beauty, The Sword in the Stone, The Jungle Book, Mulan, Monsters Inc, Toy Story, Dinosaur, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame

Here's the link to his organization for children, Afrokids.

costume designer
credits include: Beloved, For Richer of Poorer, Runaway Bride, Hearts in Atlantis, The Replacements, Along Came a Spider, Syriana, Jane Austen Book Club, Cadillac Records, For Colored Girls 

soundtrack composer
best known for Malcolm X, Mo' Better Blues, and The 25th Hour (still my favorite soundtrack)
costume designer
credits include: School Daze, Do The Right Thing, What's Love Got to Do With It?, Crooklyn, Amistad, Shaft, Serenity, Black Dynamite, and Abduction

co-founder of the Diamond in the Raw Foundation for at-risk black girls
creadits include: Showgirls, Seven, Set It Off, Con Air, I Still Know What You Did Last Summer,  Fracture, Angels and Demons, and The Green Lantern
ActionFlickChick has a great interview with her, here.

credits include:  Fright Night, What's Love Got to Do With It?, Die Hard With a Vengence, Hannibal, Along Came a Spider, The Manchurian Candidate, War of the Worlds, The Interpreter, and Live Free or Die Hard

A few years ago, a documentary was made about black stuntwomen called Hollywood at its Best

credits include: Sliding Doors, Elizabeth, Band of Brothers, About a Boy,  Elizabeth: Golden Age, The Haunted Mansion, Match Point,  In Good Company, Amazing Grace, Little Fockers, and Cold Night of Day

actor and stuntman
considered one of the first recognized black stuntmen in Hollywood
credits include:  I Spy, Mission Impossible, Across 110th Street, Blank Check, and New York Minute

He speaks here about the Black Stuntmen's Association.

A few honorable mentions include Leo Sullvian, Kevin Peter Hall, Keith David, April Washington (much nerdy love for this) and Phil LaMarr.

There are many more that weren't mentioned here, so if  you know any others that I missed, please leave a comment. :)

P.S.  If the show comes back, I hope to see some people of color on next season's Face/Off.

P.P.S.  Spike Lee needs to just stop talking.  ...And that financing excuse is some B.S. (hello, Moon and Paranormal Activity).

Humble and challenge yourself, Spike.

Go in some less predictable creative directions (floating dollies, sketchy female characterizations, abstract metaphorical endings, you trying to act) and maybe people will start properly honoring your films, when you make them, again.

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