Disney's "Paperman," a romantic short film


Disney's posted the short feature "Paperman" to YouTube. It's an utterly charming and stylishly drawn animated film about love at first sight, and the perverse uncooperativeness of inanimate objects. We saw this as the short before "Wreck It Ralph" (another great one), and loved it.

Paperman - Full Animated Short Film


    1. Definitely the best combo of 2D/3D techniques I’ve seen to date. I’ve been watching The Little Mermaid a lot lately (toddlers in the house), which I believe is the first Disney film to use CGI for some of the really-hard-to-do-by-hand stuff like an opening shot of a sailing ship passing by and a scene where the camera follows a character down a flight of stairs. It was cutting edge for the time but it looks light years behind this stuff.

      1.  The people who made this called themselves “Pixar” not long ago. It seems they have now been completely absorbed by Disney, as far as I understand it.
        The movie is entirely 3D but with this hand-drawn cartoon-ish look. Pixar uses their short films to explore different techniques and present them. “Gary’s Game” was about cloth simulation for example (and the guy made a great return in Toy Story 2). The idea here was to make something that looks hand-drawn but is completely 3D-animated. This one was about finding a more sketch-y style. I thing it worked brilliantly.
        … but … no little lamp :(

        1. Pixar still exists and will be releasing more movies. This was made by Disney Animation. Pixar and Disney Animation both exist under the Disney umbrella. John Lasseter (former Pixar head) leads both divisions.

        2. “The people who made this used to call themselves pixar”? What are you talking about? Not all 3D animation is Pixar. This short is not Pixar, neither is Wreck it Ralph, which this short was first shown with. Pixar is still called Pixar, and it is a division of Disney, owned and operated by Disney, but does still differentiate itself. 

          Chicken Little, Tangled, Bolt and I think a couple of other 3D animated films were also done by Disney, that had NOTHING to do with Pixar.

    2. It’s 2D/3D. The color is extracted from 3D CG. Then an animator draws the outline for a frame and a complex in-house software distorts (tracks) the outline to follow the movement. It was a painfull process and I really doubt they will do it again.

      1. That isn’t how tech works. What you create it painfully to show how well it works/good it looks. At this point, does the public like it? If yes, then you use the same tech but make it easier to create. Cloth used to be very difficult to do, and over the years is now easy compared to where it was.

        If digital media worked that way we would have never done 3D cg. It was hard, and is still hard. In the next ten years the quality will increase so much and we’ll be asking ourselves “How did we animated with such unintuitive methods?”

        Think about 3D modeling organic things before ZBrush and Mudbox?

  1. Look for the “making of ” clips around.  There is an elaborate CG process behind this “toon” look.  So elaborate that i wonder if it really saved any time.

    On “first CG” I believe “The Great Mouse Detective” was the first Disney feature to use some 3D CG, for the scene where they race through the gears of the clock.

    1. It almost certainly didn’t save time, compared to either pure CG or pure 2d. It did, however, allow for camera movements and complex lighting that wouldn’t be feasible with pure 2d.

  2. Something must be wrong. I’ve tried watching it through twice, and it cuts off before the end. I can guess how it ends, but…

    1. The main character realizes THAT HE IS MERELY A DRAWING ON A PIECE OF PAPER. Pretty dark for Disney, actually.

    2. Yeah, I found I had to skip backwards a few times to fix things after the playback got confused.

      1. Perhaps. It didn’t really do it for me, either, personally.. It’s kind of like…it was meant to be saccharine, but instead it was aspartame. Lacking in substance and being slightly off in some indescribable way, I think I’m also, on some level, kind of burned out on stories where the girl doesn’t have any personality beyond being “the girl”.  

        1. Yeah, when you put it that way — I see your point. At the same time, he didn’t have much of a personality, either…  On further thought, yeah: silly, empty sap.


          1.  Eh, kind of, but as the point of view character, the audience is supposed to identify with him, empathize with him, which gives the character a lot more humanity, even if we don’t find out all about his backstory or whatever. No one is supposed to identify with the Girl. She’s just the goal.  And I mean, it so didn’t have to be that way. It is possible to do a short romantic story where the female character is imbued with just as much agency and involvement as the male character.

  3. I’m probably in the minority, but I liked it a lot more before the (spoiler) paper airplanes became some sort of sentient hive mind.  

    1. Sentient paper for the win!

      My questions is? What were those papers of? How could they be replaced? Did they have important client information on them? 

    2. You think Big Noses are conventionally “beautiful”?

      Besides, if hours of frustration, implicitly loosing your job, and being abducted by zombie paper ariplanes is easy, I’d hate to see what you consider difficult.

      Besides, get your head out of the gutter. No one ever gets laid in a Disney animation.

      Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and that includes your own beauty to yourself. Looking for external validation through sex is unhealthy.

  4. That was cute and I absolutely love the 2D/3D effect. It’s like it has the best of both: The ‘weight’ of 3D and the brisk, surreal motion of 2D. I hope this technique will be further exploited.

    1. I love the concept of drawing the faces on and having the 3D deform to the shape of the drawing. I know a number of studios would love this. Particularly, I think Pixar and Sony would benefit. (Sony just signed up for two more gigs with Genndy Tartakovsky after Hotel Transylvania looked so amazing thanks to his push for a much more exaggerated approach to animation. With this tech he could personally go in and draw some of the expressions for the characters he’s looking for.)

  5. ‘You know, there hasn’t been a white Disney princess since ’91.’ 
    [insert uneasy joke about the word ‘colored’]
    I’ll miss you, Jenna.  

  6. The story’s kind of thin, if pleasant. The artwork, and the technology behind it, are beyond amazing. There are shots in here that not only make traditional computer animation look about as subtle as a 90’s video game, but are also more technically challenging than anything ever done with hand-drawn cells. And it was all harnessed brilliantly to sell the story.

    This is what I dreamed of when people first mentioned “cell-shaded rendering” Beyond expressive. I hope there are directors lined up around the block to use these new tools to tell their stories. It’s not simple, it’s probably not labor-saving, but boy, is it magical. Just LOOK at all the potential in this:


  7. I’m British and when I read excellent US-based blogs like this one the thing that’s always the biggest cultural difference is the attitude to Disney.  I find that quite interesting.

    1. Are you in the “They’re unmitigating evil and I don’t wan’t to have anything to do with ’em” camp or in the “Yes, I know they’re unmitigating evil but look: Shiny!  Sparkly!” camp?

      1. I’m in the “this is so saccharine that I can’t stop grimacing” camp, e.g. it’s an aesthetic more than moral judgement.  But when you read US bloggers you realise that for a lot of really interesting people Disney is a cool thing of their heritage.  Maybe it’s because in the UK Disney has always come from outside, taking good things like Winnie the Pooh and “Disney-fying” them, instead of being ours.

  8. I’d have liked it more if they had kept it naturalistic, instead of bringing in magic paper airplanes. I was expecting a paper airplane to serendipitously hit her as she left the building. The sudden shift to magic was jarring and ruined the tone.

    1. Yeah, that’s my problem with it too.  A story where a person uses ingenuity and maybe a little luck to accomplish his goals can be a great story, no matter how big or small those goals.  A story where he tries his best but ultimately fails can be a great story.  A story where magic/God/fate thrusts its hand in for no particular reason and makes the ending happen, almost always feels shallow and pointless to me.

      And I don’t want to watch a movie where all the laws of nature have to bend to the breaking point just to get a guy a date.  I watch movies to escape my life.

  9. Part of what I dislike about this kind of narrative is that if some guy told me that he folded 500 airplanes and threw them at my office trying to get my attention, I think I’d be severely creeped out. I’m not against whimsical gestures, but if a guy is extraordinarily persistent and aggressive at trying to meet me, I consider that a serious red flag about his sense of boundaries, rationality and judgment.

      1. Sure. I have a low tolerance for alcohol so I get drunk quickly. I laugh at everyone’s jokes. Sometimes I laugh at the wallpaper or decorative soaps in the bathroom. I become possessed with the urge to bake chocolate chip cookies. I serve them on little flowery plates. I suddenly think a lot of things warrant a high five. I lose motor control, which inspires creative documentation and videography in others, and an impulse to go night-jogging. I do not perform karaoke but I support the spontaneous musical ambitions of others. I become unexpectedly and alarmingly good at the boardgame Taboo. I make little sculptures out of lemon peels. So overall, yeah, I am told I am fun at parties. And I do all of this despite thinking a lot of “persistent male suitor” storylines would be creepy as all get-out in real life, and despite having experienced – both personally and second-hand through friends – real-life persistent male suitors who spiral into “romantic” behavior that’s downright obsessive and threatening. By some miracle, and only god knows how, I can manage to find something creepy that you find romantic and still be a fun person.

    1. I suppose in a short story I never take any part of it literally. The persistence of a person to impress someone else of interest is natural and normal, even in a friendship and especially in a relationship. However, to fit that kind of narrative in a short time frame usually has to be done one of two ways. One, where it’s more magical  the efforts to bring them together are desperate and quick, and then solved because of magic. The other way (which is way more effective, but would be over-used if everyone did it) is the beginning of UP, (which I would argue is possibly the some of the best story telling in movie history. I as a grown man cried my eyes out, and so did everyone else in the theater). where you show scenes of the relationship growing through time. This isn’t creepy, but it does take a bit more time to show the story, so once again is less ideal for a short time frame.

      Same applies to even full-length films, as they are sometimes trying to express years of devotion in at most three hours.

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