Paperman is an astounding innovation in animation, melding the charms of hand-drawn animation with computer animation, creating the kind of mesmerizing love story Walt Disney would have loved.
At first pass, the cutting edge nature of Paperman may not be apparent. But the technique used to bring this exquisite little romance to life is nothing short of groundbreaking. There’s something magical and expressive about hand-drawn animation that all the wonders of CGI eye candy has never been able to replicate. And yet, CGI gives animators considerably more freedom thanks to things like 3D models. First-time director John Kahrs used a new piece of software — created just for Paperman — called Meander to do something called “final line advection.” All that technobabble is just a complicated way of saying that the final result is 3D CGI imagery with 2D images hand-drawn on top.
Paperman was first shown in theaters before Wreck-It Ralph, but Disney Animation has finally posted it online in its entirety. And if its sumptuous visuals, adorable characters, and joyous story don’t at least make you smile, then you have no soul.
Paperman has recently been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. If you’d like to learn more about the techniques Kahrs used to bring the short film to life, I’ve embedded some behind-the-scenes featurettes below.