Watch Paperman, A CGI Short from Disney that Looks and Feels Like Classic Handmade Animation

I missed Dis­ney’s Wreck-It Ralph in its main the­atri­cal run. I now con­sid­er that a shame, as friends have since since informed me that the movie press­es all the right cul­tur­al but­tons for a twen­tysome­thing Amer­i­can male who, like me, grew up play­ing and lov­ing video games. I feel dou­bly sor­ry not to have seen it now that Paper­man has come avail­able on the net. Push­ing anoth­er, more dis­tant cul­tur­al but­ton by pre­ced­ing a fea­ture with a short, Wreck-It Ralph’s screen­ings opened with this six-minute tale by Dis­ney Ani­ma­tion of a seem­ing­ly frus­trat­ed romance con­duct­ed by paper air­plane between two office tow­ers. The place looks to be a major city rum­bling with Amer­i­can com­mer­cial ener­gy, and the time looks to be the black-and-white mid­dle of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry — a cul­tur­al moment, in oth­er words, that pro­duced some ani­ma­tion enthu­si­asts’ very favorite work. Look at almost any of Paper­man’s indi­vid­ual frames, in fact, and you could mis­take it for a pro­duc­tion of that gold­en era.

But in motion, some­thing feels very dif­fer­ent indeed. We’ve grown used to Pixar-style com­put­er gen­er­at­ed imagery mak­ing up our ani­mat­ed movies, and while Paper­man looks much more like a clas­sic hand-drawn Dis­ney pic­ture, it actu­al­ly comes as a prod­uct of the sort of tech­nol­o­gy that dri­ves the likes of Wreck-It Ralph. But it ben­e­fits from inno­va­tion that enables the kind of weight, smooth­ness, and phys­i­cal­i­ty of which the hand ani­ma­tors of yore could only dream. Wired’s Graeme McMil­lan reports that “Paper­man‘s seem­ing­ly seam­less way of blend­ing the per­son­al­i­ty of hand-drawn ani­ma­tion with CGI in the phys­i­cal space of the sto­ry is the result of new in-house soft­ware called Mean­der, a vec­tor-based draw­ing pro­gram that allows for manip­u­la­tion of the line after the fact — some­thing that [direc­tor John] Kahrs described as ‘just like paint­ing on the sur­face of the CG.’ ” Does that way lay the future of ani­ma­tion? Per­haps it depends on how well Paper­man per­forms at this year’s Acad­e­my Awards. Keep your eye on the Best Ani­mat­ed Short Film cat­e­go­ry, car­toon buffs — even more than you usu­al­ly do.

You will find Paper­man in the Ani­ma­tion sec­tion of our col­lec­tion 500 Free Movies Online.

Relat­ed con­tent:

How Walt Dis­ney Car­toons Are Made

Des­ti­no: The Sal­vador Dalí – Dis­ney Col­lab­o­ra­tion 57 Years in the Mak­ing

Walt Dis­ney Presents the Super Car­toon Cam­era


Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­les, A Los Ange­les Primer. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.



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Comments (4)
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  • Emmanuel Harris says:

    Over­all, well designed, but the film­mak­ing and sto­ry­telling itself is hard­ly exem­plary or excit­ing when com­pared to oth­er short films of inde­pen­dent film­mak­ers and ani­ma­tors.

  • QUINTIX says:

    Will elab­o­rate lat­ter, but I do not believe draw­ing on twos and threes is the future.
    in fact, 72fps can be done while still mak­ing it clear to the audi­ence the human hands have phys­i­cal­ly touched the images they see.

  • amy says:

    So charm­ing and excel­lent retro graph­ics with a mod­ern twist! Tru­ely enjoyed this ani­ma­tion!

  • QUINTIX says:

    >final­ly saw the whole thing off a WiFi con­nec­tion
    I’ll eat my words, beau­ti­ful­ly done.
    On the low qual­i­ty ver­sion I saw with a bad mobile con­nec­tion it looked like they cut the fram­er­ate in half or a third.

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