New technologies arrive nearly every day, ultimately replacing the tried and tested methods that have been used for years. And that’s exactly what happened at the Disney Studios – the replacement of drawn stills with computer animation. However, it looks as if they’re trying to revive ‘the good old days’ with their new short, PAPERMAN, which mixes the two methods together.

The short, which is to be played before showings of November’s WRECK-IT RALPH, is a love story depicting a man and woman who communicate across a busy Manhattan street…by sending each other paper airplanes. Although hand-drawn, so much technology is used between the layers. Director John Kahrs explains that what we’re seeing ‘is a very stylized CG layer underneath, but the feel of the image is very flat and lives in between the two’. Before beginning the laborious creation still by still, the backgrounds and characters have to be rendered digitally, followed by any hand-drawn work which is placed over the top.

The short had help from the Meander programme, created by Disney engineer Brian Whited. With this technological revolution, the 2D top layer is ‘glued’ onto the CG layer underneath, giving the image a feeling of depth that you can create with newer methods but not so much with hand-drawn. As for the characters, they were  assisted in creation by long-time Disney collaborator Glen Keane, who helped create Ariel in THE LITTLE MERMAID and ALADDIN. I think this really gives the stills a look of the ‘old school’, somewhat similar to Disney’s creations before the influx of CG.

Kahrs also enthuses about the future of 2D animation: ‘As exciting a time that we live in right now, with so many CG features being done, that kind of stylized photo-realism can’t be the only way that animation can look. And I also think it’s okay to push on 2-D. The time has come to see what the future can be for that, too.’ Here, here!

Just from the look of the stills, I think this short is going to be beautiful – not just in terms of narrative and characters, but also in the time, skill and precision that’s gone into it. I was already looking forward to seeing WRECK-IT RALPH but this has just upped the ante.

PAPERMAN, directed by John Kahrs, is to be shown before WRECK-T RALPH, released from 2nd November 2012.

Source: Entertainment Weekly