We stand with you and support diversity, inclusion, love, and positivity. For this month of Disney history, we focused on black history in Disney: voice, film and television actors, characters, and the Disney company of cast members and staff. Take a look at the many trailblazers that are making a difference in the world.
June 22, 1935 – Award-winning animator, Floyd Norman, was born. In 1956, he was the first African American hired by Walt Disney. A documentary showcasing his career, “Floyd Norman: An Animated Life,” was released in 2016 and delves into his first love – animation/illustrating, and how it shaped his more than 50 years in the business.
June 22, 1974 – Donald Faison is born. Donald has voiced and portrayed several roles in Disney productions, most notably Petey Jones in Remember the Titans and Hype Fazon in Star Wars Resistance. Additional Disney roles of Donald’s included voicing Ricky Rotiffle in an episode of Kim Possible, and Bartik in Disney XD show, Tron: Uprising.
June 17, 1987 – Kendrick Lamar, well-known rapper, songwriter, and music producer, is born. Among his many accomplishments, he produced Black Panther‘s curated soundtrack, along with Anthony Tiffith, Sounwave, and collaborating with composer Ludwig Göransson. The partnership grew to produce two albums, as Lamar wanted to honor the raw emotion and important themes of the film, and that just a few songs wouldn’t do it justice. The result was the release of Black Panther: The Album created by Lamar, in addition to Göransson’s Black Panther (Original Score) album. Yes please!
June 15, 1994 – The Lion King (animated) is released, featuring an all-star voice cast including: James Earl Jones, Madge Sinclair, Nikita Calame-Harris, Robert Guillaume, and Whoopi Goldberg. As of December 2019, it was the only Disney film to be dubbed in Zulu (the language of the Nguni Branch spoken in South Africa). The opening words of the song, “Circle of Life” are also in Zulu. The film is still the highest-grossing traditionally-animated (with each frame drawn by hand) film of all time!
June 13, 2000 – Samuel L. Jackson, who played the likes of Mace Windu in Star Wars Episodes I, II, and III, the voice of Frozone in The Incredibles 1 and 2, and many other roles, is honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Find his star at 7018 Hollywood Boulevard and put your hands in his. Samuel holds the title as the highest-grossing actor of all time (with cameo appearances excluded), with the films he’s appeared in collectively grossing $27 billion!
June 3, 2001 – Atlantis: The Lost Empire premiers at the El Capitan Theatre. The film the actors Cree Summer (as Kidagakash Nedakh – Princess of Atlantis), and Phil Morris as Dr. Joshua Strongbear Sweet – a medic of African American and Native American descent. Cree Summer has voiced a staggering more than 101 animated characters between 1983 and 2006, including more notable roles like Penny in the first season of Inspector Gadget, Princess Kida, and Susie Carmichael in Nickelodeon’s Rugrats and later its spinoff, All Grown Up!
June 21, 2002 – Lilo & Stitch is released. The feature-length animated film stars Ving Rhames, of Mission Impossible fame, as the former CIA agent turned social worker named Cobra Bubbles. He also reprises the character for the subsequent Lilo & Stitch TV series. Rhames won a Golden Globe Award, and was nominated for an Emmy Award and a Screen Actors Guild Award.
June 4, 2006 – Actress Naomie Harris plays the eerie Tia Dalma, also known as the sea goddess Calypso, in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. Naomi speaks in Jamaican Patois, and her mother, a Jamaican immigrant, was her accent coach for the role.
June 9, 2006 – The first Cars film is released in the U.S. Voicing the character of Flo is actress, singer, and activist Jenifer Lewis. She appears in several Disney films, including: Sister Act and Sister Act 2, Beaches, and provided the voice for Mama Odie in The Princess and the Frog. Currently Jenifer is known for portraying Ruby Johnson on TV series Black-ish.
June 10, 2016 – Disney announced that China Anne McClain was cast to play the role of Uma for Descendants 2. She reprised the role in Descendants 3. Her single, “What’s My Name” was certified gold, selling
500,000 units in 2017. China also stars in The CW’s superhero series, Black Lightning, as Jennifer Pierce, but originally began her career as a singer along with her two sisters, Sierra and Lauryn.
June 2016 – This is the first time guests at Walt Disney World could meet Princess Tiana from The Princess and the Frog – the first African American Disney Princess. Tiana was inspired partly by famed restaurateur, Leah Chase, who was a waitress that worked to fulfill her dreams of owning her own place and now does so with her husband. Writers Jon Musker and Ron Clements met Leah on their research trip to New Orleans and subsequently started writing the story.
June 2018 – The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce announces that Lupita Nyong’o will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of film. She will receive the star the following year. In 2015, Lupita starred in Star Wars: The Force Awakens as Maz Kanata, a character made with motion capture technology. She was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 42nd Saturn Awards, and Best Virtual Performance by the 2016 MTV Movie Awards for her performance as Maz. Lupita would later go on to reappear as the same character for Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and animated series, Star Wars Forces of Destiny.
June 15, 2018 – The Incredibles 2 is released. This animated feature film gave us so much more of the beloved FROZONE, aka: Lucius Best, voiced by none other than Samuel L. Jackson. Although Frozone began as more of a sidekick to Mr. Incredible, fans made it clear that he was a favorite and in the sequel got his own theme song (thank you Michael Giacchino)!
June 20, 2019 – On this day, a special sneak peek aired of the upcoming film, The Lion King, the photo realistic computer-animated remake. The segment featured Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Donald Glover as Nala and Simba, singing “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and James Earl Jones voicing Mufasa again. The film was released July 19, 2019, and Beyoncé won two awards for her role, including Favorite Female Voice from an Animated Movie (Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards), and the People’s Choice Award for best Animated Movie Star of 2019.
Come back again for July’s month in Disney history, and let us know what some of your favorite moments were from June too!